In her welcome address at OJJDP's fourth annual State Relations and Assistance Division National Training Conference on November 8, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon emphasized OJJDP's investment in community-based programs and their value as alternatives to youth detention. Juvenile justice system reform is one of her top priorities, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General told attendees at the virtual meeting.
"We believe that contact with the juvenile justice system should be rare," she said. "Our goal should be to support most youth in most situations in the community but, when it is necessary, we expect system contact to be fair and helpful to youth and their families."
"The phrase 'rare, fair, and beneficial' governs our work at OJP in the juvenile justice space."
—Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon
The virtual conference took place November 8–10. Intended for members of state advisory groups (SAGs), representatives from designated state agencies, and the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, it offered resources for implementing OJJDP's Title II Formula Grants program and understanding core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended.
The Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General spoke about early exposure to violence and trauma and its "innumerable negative consequences." She referred to the White House Community Violence Intervention Strategy and to OJJDP's Strategies To Support Children Exposed to Violence program; both seek to address the effects of trauma and interrupt cycles of violence. She also praised OJJDP's Juvenile Justice System Reform Initiative for improving outcomes for youth.
OJJDP Acting Administrator Chyrl Jones introduced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon and later described highlights of OJJDP work over the last year. Acting Administrator Jones spoke about prioritizing the use of community violence intervention strategies in two of OJJDP's fiscal year 2021 solicitations: the Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention and Reduction Program and Strategies To Support Children Exposed to Violence. She also cited OJJDP's first-ever Tribal consultation, held virtually in June 2020, and the 2021 Tribal Consultation Response report, which summarizes issues discussed during the webinar.
In October, OJJDP hosted a virtual symposium on youth hate crimes and identity-based bullying, she noted. The event kicked off OJJDP's new initiative to counter hate crimes and bullying through a youth-based perspective focused on prevention and early intervention. The Preventing Youth Hate Crimes and Bullying Initiative will ensure youth have a voice, and will identify best practices and evidence-based strategies to help them resist and disengage from extremist hate groups.
OJJDP Associate Administrator Dr. TeNeane Bradford described accomplishments by the State Relations and Assistance Division, which oversees the distribution of funds under the Formula Grants program. In the past year, the division:
- In partnership with its training and technical assistance providers, launched juvenile justice specialist and compliance monitor certificate training programs.
- Provided technical assistance, including quarterly webinars for state representatives and training for new SAG members.
- Relaunched the community of practice hub to connect practitioners to OJJDP resources and encourage networking.
- Enhanced coordination with OJJDP's Intervention Division to ensure Tribal representation on SAGs and develop new webinars and resources for Tribal partners.
Multiple sessions addressed state compliance with requirements in the 2018 Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which reauthorized and amended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. As in previous years, the 2021 conference emphasized youth engagement, with several sessions focused on cultivating and leveraging youth voices.