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OJJDP News @ a Glance

This issue highlights the National Missing Children’s Day commemoration, the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the annual symposium for AMBER Alert coordinators, and a Tribal community of practice.
Message From the Administrator: When a Child Goes Missing
Action Plan - Administrator Liz Ryan

News in Brief

Jurisdictions Should Presume Children and Youth Are Indigent and Unable To Pay Fines and Fees 

Department of Justice seal

A “Dear Colleague Letter” issued by the Department of Justice addresses the assessment of court-imposed fines and fees on adults and youth. The letter, released April 20, 2023, also presents relevant statutory and case law, and policy considerations, and outlines circumstances in which the imposition and enforcement of fines and fees could constitute a civil rights violation. It stresses that:

  • Jurisdictions should presume that children and youth are indigent and unable to pay fines and fees.
  • Fundamental principles regarding fines and fees—grounded in the Sixth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution—apply to both adults and youth.
  • Application fees and charges for a court-appointed lawyer seriously risk violating youth's constitutional right to counsel.
  • Many states and localities have eliminated or significantly reduced the use of fines and fees for youth.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division, Office of Justice Programs, and Office for Access to Justice issued the letter, which is addressed to juvenile courts and juvenile justice agencies. It reflects the Department’s ongoing commitment to fairness, economic justice, and combating policies that contribute to the disproportionate involvement of individuals from low-income communities in the justice system.

“Justice in the United States should not depend on one’s income or background,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Justice Department’s updated guidance addresses practices that disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color, can trap individuals and their families in patterns of poverty and punishment, and may violate the civil rights of adults and youth alike.” 

Justice Department Hosts Roundtable Discussion for National 4-H Conference

4-H logo

Fifteen teenagers visited the Department of Justice on April 17 to participate in a roundtable discussion on safe communities. The young people—who were in Washington, DC, for the 2023 National 4-H Conference—discussed their top concerns affecting safety in their schools and communities and offered recommendations for addressing those problems. They also responded to questions from OJJDP and other agency officials.

Representatives from about 20 federal agencies and other organizations—including congressional committees and the Executive Office of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality—attended the conference. The roundtables were a key component, providing delegates an opportunity to think critically about current issues, explore how they can influence government decisionmaking, and learn about a federal agency’s mission. Nearly 300 youth participated in the roundtables. Delegates who visited the Justice Department had researched the Department’s “challenge question” about school and community safety prior to attending the conference; they spent 2 days working with their peers to prepare the presentation.

4-H is the youth development program of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System and the Department of Agriculture. It serves every county and parish in the country through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. 

Trace Historic Cases in Youth Justice on New OJJDP Webpage

Artwork for OJJDP’s Historic Cases in Youth Justice webpage

OJJDP’s new Historic Cases in Youth Justice webpage highlights milestones in youth justice reform. The timeline begins in 1899 with the Illinois Juvenile Court Act and the founding of the nation’s first court for children age 16 and younger. It traces cases through Montgomery v. Louisiana in 2016—when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its 2012 decision abolishing mandatory life-without-parole sentences for youth should be applied retroactively.

The webpage includes an interactive map identifying the year each state established a juvenile court. Today, law enforcement agencies refer approximately 60 percent of arrested youth to courts with juvenile jurisdiction. Juvenile courts adjudicate petitioned cases; their decisions vary. A court may order probation or residential placement for the youth. In some cases, juvenile courts divert youth from the formal justice system to receive services from other agencies. In others, juvenile courts waive jurisdiction and transfer cases to adult criminal court.

OJJDP maintains that youth who break the law must always be processed in the juvenile justice system, not adult criminal court. The Historic Cases webpage refers to OJJDP’s vision statement, which describes a commitment to building “a nation where all children are free from crime and violence" and where youth contact with the justice system is "rare, fair, and beneficial." To be fair and beneficial, the system must treat children as children. Scientific research shows that most young people do not have fully developed brains until they reach their mid-20s, and that youth are prone to impulsive, emotional, and risk-taking behaviors. Research also shows that young, developing brains are capable of change, and that most youth age out of delinquent behavior naturally as they mature

OJJDP To Host Training for Youth Violence Prevention Grantees

OJJDP will hold a training and networking event June 21–23, 2023, in San Francisco for grantees from three programs designed to stem youth violence and respond to youth victimization. Representatives from 33 projects funded under the Strategies To Support Children Exposed to Violence program, Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention and Reduction program, and Youth Violence Prevention program will participate in educational workshops; share successes, challenges, and lessons learned; network with peers; and receive technical assistance tailored to their projects.

The event is intended to help grantees respond to youth violence and victimization more effectively by building family and community capacity, strengthening family engagement, creating opportunities for positive youth development, and bolstering collaboration between community partners, local agencies, and other providers.

Model Programs Guide Adds Programs Addressing Adolescent Trauma, Sexual Violence, and Youth Reentry

Logo for OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide

OJJDP’s online Model Programs Guide is a resource for practitioners and communities about programs and practices that work—and do not work—in youth justice, delinquency prevention, and child protection and safety. It provides systematic, independent reviews and evidence evaluations. Programs are rated effective, promising, or no effects (which means the program is unlikely to result in the intended outcomes and may result in negative effects).

The Model Programs Guide shares a database with CrimeSolutions, a National Institute of Justice resource. Programs recently added to the database include:

  • The exposure-based, integrative Risk Reduction Through Family Therapy for Adolescents program received a promising rating. The program adapts and integrates cognitive behavioral interventions for adolescents who experience trauma. Its goals include reducing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, substance use, high-risk sexual behavior, and sexual revictimization.
  • Reentry Services of Clay County (in Minnesota) received a no-effects rating. The one-to-one mentoring program offers comprehensive services to assist justice-involved youth reentering the community after out-of-home placement. The program aims to prevent future offending by helping youth obtain and maintain long-term employment and a stable residence, address substance use and physical and mental health issues, and establish meaningful roles in the community.
  • The Coaching Boys Into Men (Middle School) program received a no-effects rating. It aims to reduce dating abuse and sexual violence (including sexual harassment and assault) by male athletes in middle school. Athletic coaches are trained to hold guided discussions about respectful language and behaviors, encourage athletes to intervene when they witness harmful behavior by peers, and challenge displays of hypermasculine behavior and homophobia.

Staff in Juvenile Justice Facilities Faced Legal Action in 42 Percent of Sexual Misconduct Incidents

Thumbnail for “Substantiated Incidents of Sexual Victimization Reported by Juvenile Justice Authorities, 2013–2018.”

There were 657 youth victims of staff-perpetrated sexual victimization in youth justice facilities between 2013 and 2018, according to Substantiated Incidents of Sexual Victimization Reported by Juvenile Justice Authorities, 2013–2018, a special report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The March 2023 report also documents 1,263 substantiated incidents of youth-on-youth sexual victimization during the same period.

Report findings come from the annual Survey of Sexual Victimization, which the Bureau administers to all state juvenile systems and to representative samples of local and private facilities. Findings include:

  • In youth-on-youth incidents, approximately 63 percent of victims and 73 percent of perpetrators were male. About 62 percent of these incidents in state-run systems and 51 percent in local and private facilities occurred in areas under video surveillance.
  • Sixty-eight percent of staff-on-youth incidents involved sexual misconduct and 32 percent involved sexual harassment. Nearly half (47 percent) of all staff-on-youth incidents involved staff who had worked at the facility for 1 year or less.
  • Approximately 20 percent of staff-on-youth incidents occurred in the young person’s cell or room; approximately 20 percent occurred in a program area, such as a commissary, cafeteria, or workshop.
  • Staff were reprimanded or disciplined in 40 percent of staff-on-youth incidents of sexual harassment. In 32 percent, they were discharged, terminated, or denied contract renewal.
Date Created: June 13, 2023