Lucia Turck-Gamble has a complicated professional title to match the complex work she performs for OJJDP. So the Deputy Associate Administrator of OJJDP’s State Relations and Assistance Division has created a “standard, scripted response” for questions about what she does for a living.
“I tell people that I oversee the management of federal criminal and juvenile justice funding,” she says. “Their response is usually ‘Wow, that sounds important.’ I typically chuckle and say, ‘It is.’”
Lucia became Deputy Associate Administrator in September 2021. A typical workday now involves “lots and lots of meetings” with other officials from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), reviewing and responding to a host of proposals, decisions, and inquiries—from program guidance for states and technical resources for grantees to queries from Congress. She also advocates for state needs and supports staff overseeing the management of Office awards. Lucia’s extensive management portfolio currently includes the Title II Formula Grants Program and state compliance with core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended and reauthorized by the 2018 Juvenile Justice Reform Act.
Lucia welcomes a challenge. The path that led her to OJJDP began in high school, when she spent three summers in Jamaica working with girls who had survived abuse—sexual, physical, emotional—or been abandoned or neglected. Some 60 girls ages 8 to 18 shared the home where Lucia helped offer educational, health, and economic services. Her time there “sparked a passion,” she says.
“Every story matters. Take the time to listen and learn from those around you.”
—OJJDP Deputy Associate Administrator Lucia Turck-Gamble
A high school teacher fueled that spark. After class one afternoon, he asked Lucia “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she remembers. When she said she didn’t know, he responded, “You could make such a difference in the world. Aim high.” So she did.
The Justice Department “is a great place to be if you want to effect change and make a difference,” Lucia says. She joined OJP as an intern in the summer of 2006, just after graduating from Florida State University’s School of Criminology. She supported OJJDP’s former Missing and Exploited Children’s Division, assisting grant applicants and recipients and helping to plan the Justice Department’s annual National Missing Children’s Day commemoration.
After completing the internship, Lucia worked as a consultant for Fox Valley Technical College, the OJJDP grantee that houses the National Criminal Justice Training
Center. At the same time, she became the first female staff member at a Maryland residential facility for adolescent boys who committed sexual offenses. Lucia assisted with crisis intervention and counseling, and helped the boys set goals and learn boundaries. The job was “quite challenging,” she says, and strengthened her commitment to youth.
Lucia returned to OJP full time in July 2007, spending 3 years as a grant administration specialist in the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). She became a state policy advisor for BJA in 2010. For 11 years she managed a portfolio of federally funded criminal justice programs, focusing particularly on Prison Rape Elimination Act programs. She subsequently served as a business representative in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, where she helped develop JustGrants, the Department’s grants management system that launched in 2020.
Lucia has spent more than one-third of her life at OJP.
“I enjoy what I do,” she says. “I believe in the mission.”