Arrested Development: Adolescent Development & Juvenile Justice

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, we often feature TED Talks focused on cities, community issues or local government. This week’s talk is presented by Elizabeth Cauffman, Professor and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine.

A 9th grader charged with assault for a spitball. A 12-year-old sentenced to life in prison. These are the types of cases that Elizabeth Cauffman has focused her career on. She asks the fundamental question: are adolescents different from adults in ways that require different treatment under the law? In her talk, Elizabeth discusses how we can approach this question in a matter that is fair within our society.

Research suggests that city policies using law enforcement to address offenses by youth and young adults may be doing more harm than good. To learn more about how some cities use diversion or deflection to steer young adults who offend into services and hold them accountable for their actions, connect with the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ City Leadership to Reduce the Overuse of Jails for Young Adults initiative.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

Mayors Continue Emphasis on Public Safety, New Approaches Emerging

This year’s National League of Cities analysis of State of the City speeches reaffirms that while mayors across the country continue to see public safety as a top issue, they’re employing new tactics and approaching the entire arena from a different perspective.

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In their 2016 State of the City speeches, several mayors laid out visions for continued progress in community policing, or what some call guardian policing. (Getty Images)

Alongside other core priorities for city government such as infrastructure and economic development, the nation’s mayors consistently emphasized ensuring and improving public safety, as seen in the National League of Cities’ State of the Cities 2016 report. Of note this year, several mayors focused on new or revised approaches getting underway in key areas such as community policing, diversion, reentry, and youth violence prevention.

Such approaches continue to illustrate the contributions that city governments can make to greater effectiveness and fairness in broad public safety and criminal justice efforts, in ways that complement actions by courts, county jail administrators and state corrections departments.

With police departments a primary means for cities to ensure safety – and in the context of continued tragic events and simmering or exposed tensions – several mayors laid out visions for continued progress in community policing, or what some call guardian policing. Some pointed to specific strategies to build or restore trust between police departments and residents, including Mayor John King of Covina, California, and Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther noted: “Bike patrols, walking crews, community liaison officers, school resource officers, social media outreach, our Diversity Recruiting Council, listening tours – these are just some of the many ways our police make every effort to engage with the communities they serve, keeping communication lines open and building trust and goodwill.”

Mayors highlighted investments in diversion and reentry programming that yield both short- and long-term payoffs, picking up on themes consistent with the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ (YEF Institute) resources in use by dozens of cities pursuing strategies to reduce arrest and incarceration for youth and young adults. For instance, pointing to adoption of an increasingly common tactic to reduce overuse of jails, Mayor John Tecklenburg of Charleston, South Carolina, explained that the police department “is now testing a new citation and release pilot program, designed to reduce the number of citizens incarcerated for minor offenses.”

Mayors in cities of vastly different sizes – including  Mayor Adrian Mapp of Plainfield, New Jersey; Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston; and Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. – focused on providing better supports and services upon reentry from prisons and jails, such as access to drug-free housing, job training programs and mental health services.

Mayor Ginther of Columbus explained that city’s comprehensive reentry approach, which spans services, supports, and jobs: “We will continue to invest in Restoration Academy, which offers a second chance to restored citizens who are ready to contribute to their communities and support their families. And this year, I am pleased to announce that we will offer two classes of Restoration Academy, with one class specifically for 18- to 23-year-olds. The City of Columbus alone has hired 40 graduates to date.”

Informed by NLC’s longstanding support for the California Gang Prevention Network and successor initiative the National Forum for Youth Violence Prevention, a number of cities continue to launch, expand and improve strategies to steer young people into productive pursuits and away from gangs and guns. Mayors in cities including Baltimore; Evanston, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey; Seattle; and Nashville, Tennessee, referred to city adoption of a variety of methods. These included fielding outreach workers, development of comprehensive violence prevention plans, and hospital-based violence intervention programs to reduce retribution. Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee summed up a common view when he said, “Our emphasis will be on youth development and preventing youth violence because we need to ensure that every young person can achieve their goals and build a successful future.”

This post is part of a series expanding on NLC’s 2016 State of the Cities report. Check back next week as we delve deeper into what mayors had to say about data and technology.

Andrew Moore About the Author: Andrew Moore is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Connections in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

3 Ways Cities Can Improve Curfews for Minors

In last Thursday’s post, we showed that curfew laws can have unintended consequences. Here are a few steps city leaders can take to ensure the safe and fair application of curfews for minors.

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(Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Sana Johnson. It is the second of two blog posts on curfew within a broader series on opportunities for municipal leadership in juvenile justice reform.

Curfew laws have serious unintended consequences, including disproportionate minority contact, the criminalization of homeless and runaway youth, worsening outcomes for kids and the exposure of cities to lawsuits for unconstitutionality. Local decision-makers should consider taking the following actions in order to ensure that their curfews protect rather than harm young people in their cities:

  1. Narrowly tailor the curfew ordinance to accomplish clearly defined objectives. Before drafting curfew ordinances, city leaders should develop a narrowly tailored purpose for the curfew. Local lawmakers can build exceptions or “defenses” into the law to ensure that the ordinance does not inappropriately refer young people to the juvenile justice system. In several cases, cities with narrowly tailored curfew laws experienced lower rates of juvenile arrests than cities with general curfew laws. Examples of narrowly tailored curfew ordinances included at least double the number of exceptions than vague curfew ordinances. While other differences in local laws and practice may also contribute to differences in arrest numbers, ambiguous curfew laws unnecessarily increase youth exposure to arrests.
  1. Expand the resources available to young people during curfew hours. Municipal leaders can protect homeless and runaway youth and close gaps in programming for young people by providing safe, positive environments during curfew hours. As a part of the effort to prevent youth criminalization and victimization, leaders in Minneapolis collaborated to establish the Juvenile Supervision Center (JSC). Located in city hall, the center provides a safe place for police to bring youth picked up for curfew violations, truancy and other low-level offenses. The JSC receives youth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  1. Ensure fair treatment for all youth in your city’s juvenile justice system. Cities can reach better public safety and outcomes for youth by improving their juvenile justice systems. Municipal leaders can work with their police departments to develop alternatives to arrest for young people who violate curfew. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative offers city officials a variety of resources outlining how they can create a continuum of community-based alternatives to the juvenile justice system. Police training programs and objective screening tools empower cities to reduce disproportionate minority contact when enforcing curfew.

Although the evidence of curfew effectiveness remains scarce, city leaders can undoubtedly play a significant role to assure the responsible enforcement of these laws and protect the young people in their city.

sana_headshotAbout the Author: Sana Johnson is the 2015-2016 National League of Cities Menino Fellow in the partnership between Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. 

What City Leaders Should Know About Curfews for Minors

Do curfew laws really protect city youth and increase public safety? This is the first of two blog posts on curfew within a broader series on opportunities for municipal leadership in juvenile justice reform.

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Curfew laws aimed at curbing youth crime and victimization often have unintended consequences – such as unintentionally criminalizing city youth and worsening outcomes for kids. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Sana Johnson.

In order to respond to requests for information from cities engaged in Juvenile Justice Reform, NLC sought to increase our knowledge about curfews for minors. Not only do curfew laws yield a number of serious unintended consequences, but their effectiveness as a tool for protecting general public safety – especially the safety of young people – remains unconfirmed by research.

Nighttime curfews aimed at curbing youth crime and victimization tend to last from midnight until early morning, while daytime curfews intended to reduce truancy operate in accordance with school hours. Authority over curfews usually lies at the local level, but state legislatures occasionally write laws that empower cities to enact curfews if they so choose. Due to the absence of information on curfews, juvenile justice experts cannot definitively describe the degree to which curfew arrests result from municipal ordinances versus state or county laws. However, leaders in the field can identify the harmful consequences of curfews laws, which include disproportionate minority contact, the criminalization of homeless and runaway youth, worsening outcomes for kids, and exposing cities to lawsuits.

Disproportionate Minority Contact

Cities concerned about racial and ethnic disparities in their arrest rates – a key measure of disproportionate minority contact – should review the demographic data in enforcement of their curfew law. Disproportionate minority contact refers to the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. In 2011, the likelihood of police arresting black youth for violating curfew outweighed that of white youth by 269 percent. In 2014, black youth made up around 15 percent of the under 18 population, yet represented almost 50 percent of the curfew arrests in cities across the country. Crime and population data show that no other racial group experienced such a great disparity in curfew arrests that year.

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The Criminalization of Homeless and Runaway Youth

Rather than address the underlying circumstances that contribute to youth homelessness, the enforcement of curfew laws creates another opportunity for homeless and runaway youth to enter the juvenile court systems and detention facilities. Each year, around 1.6 million young people experience homelessness. With no place to go at night, homeless and runaway youth often encounter the juvenile justice system through curfew and loitering violations.

Worsening Outcomes for Kids

Police arrest more youth for curfew and loitering violations than all four categories of violent crimes combined, such as murder, manslaughter and robbery. By authorizing police officers to arrest young people, thus increasing youth involvement in the juvenile justice system, curfew laws may worsen outcomes for kids. Recent research finds that juvenile justice systems that respond punitively to youth delinquency actually produce worse results in terms of public safety and youth development. Also, youth placed in locked facilities for curfew violation and other offenses are more likely to engage in future delinquent behavior.


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Lawsuits Challenging Constitutionality of Statutes

Curfew laws make cities vulnerable to lawsuits for unconstitutionality. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) play an active role in suing cities for their curfews, typically arguing that curfews violate young people’s First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. For example, in 2001 a superior court judge struck down the curfew ordinance of West Orange, New Jersey, for unconstitutional ambigity. Decisions in these cases do not provide clear guidance on what makes a curfew law constitutional, making it difficult for cities to draft responsible curfew laws.

Curfew violation belongs to the group of crimes referred to as status offenses – non-criminal behavior prohibited by law due to a young person’s age. Although federal law prohibits detention for youth charged with status offenses, each year thousands of kids end up in detention facilities by way of juvenile courts. The Vera Institute for Justice’s report, From Courts to Communities, urges that status offenses should never result in juvenile court involvement, especially since status offenses pose no immediate risk to public safety and often result from unmet needs of the youth and family. Leadership by local officials can build opportunities to hold youth accountable and avoid the consequences of detention.

The absence of a comprehensive study on curfew effectiveness makes it difficult for lawmakers to form definitive opinion on the value of curfews, but local leaders working to improve safety and outcomes for their young people can still take action against harmful curfew laws. The second and final blog post in this series outlines steps city leaders can take to improve their curfews for minors.

Cities interested in reconsidering their curfews can contact Laura Furr at furr@nlc.org.

sana_headshotAbout the Author: Sana Johnson is the 2015-2016 National League of Cities Menino Fellow in the partnership between Boston University’s Initiative on Cities and NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. 

How to Reduce Arrests of Young People in Your City

Missed our latest juvenile justice reform webinar? Not to worry, now you can watch and listen to Police Protocols to Reduce Arrests of Young People in Your City on YouTube.

This webinar, which took place  on Friday, December 18, 2015, features Deputy Superintendent Michael Gropman of the Brookline, Massachusetts Police Department and Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Learn more about Brookline’s pilot of the Massachusetts Arrest Screening Tool for Law Enforcement (MASTLE) and Philadelphia’s efforts to reduce school-based arrests.

The webinar profiles how these two cities have used data and objective assessment criteria to reduce arrests of youth in a developmentally appropriate way. It builds on a new NLC resource that highlights opportunities for cities to ensure the first point of contact between youth and police doesn’t lead to unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Heidi Cooper
About the Author: 
Heidi Cooper is the Justice Reform Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Contact Heidi at cooper@nlc.org

Three Supreme Court Cases that Impact Local Juvenile Justice Reform Efforts

This post was co-written by Laura E. Furr.

In the last decade, the Supreme Court has ruled three times on the rights of juvenile offenders to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. These cases provide important context for city leaders joining a national movement for reforming juvenile justice practices to hold youth accountable in developmentally appropriate ways.

Children are Different Infographic

Credit: Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

First, in Roper v. Simmons (2005), the Court ruled that states may not impose the death penalty on anyone who has committed a crime under the age of 18. In Graham v. Florida (2010), the Court held that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for any crime except for homicide. In Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Court held that a state cannot impose life in prison without parole on a juvenile without taking into consideration mitigating evidence about the offender’s age

And the Court has not finished addressing the rights of juvenile offenders. By the end of June 2016, the Court will decide whether Miller should apply retroactively to juvenile life in prison sentences issued before they originally decided the case.

Whereas the decisions in these cases and their reasoning seems straightforward, state and local implementation of these decisions often proves complex. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative recently released The Supreme Court and the Transformation of Juvenile Sentencing, which discusses how to implement these decisions and provides examples of jurisdictions that have adopted juvenile sentencing reforms.

The common theme across these 54 decisions: that juvenile offenders have “diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform,” and the state should spare juveniles the death penalty and only issue sentences for life in prison without parole for the most serious crimes.

Recent and emerging brain and adolescent development research underpins this common theme, and provides crucial support for the development of policies and programs that seek to decrease juvenile crime and improve positive outcomes for young people. Juveniles lack maturity and are more vulnerable to negative influences than adults, but are more capable of reform because their character is not yet fixed.

The core principle that “children are different” – related to the common theme in the decisions — applies throughout the local legal system, including in police interactions with youth, and in local regulation of young people, such as curfew and attempts to provide services for youth in need of help.

NLC’s juvenile justice reform initiative supports city leadership of reforms that hold youth accountable in ways that reflect the reasoning of the Supreme Court in this groundbreaking series of opinions.

About the Authors:

Lisa Soronen bio photo
Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

 

Laura Furr
Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr.

An Interaction with Police Doesn’t Have to Mean Detention for Young People

“Every interaction between police officers and our young people is, or can be, an opportunity for prevention or intervention.”  
– Betsy Hodges, mayor, Minneapolis

Decades of evidence support Mayor Hodges’ comment. Systems that overuse detention and other harsh corrections methods often make young people more likely to reoffend and in doing so, harm them, their families and their communities. The good news is that with the right services, most first-time youth offenders never have further problems with the law.

Diversion programs, which are often developed by municipal police departments, are systems that allow low-level offenders to avoid criminal charges and convictions, and are an important way cities can implement juvenile justice reform.

These programs hold youth accountable for offenses while keeping them in school and in their communities, all while providing access to services that address unmet needs such as mental health services and family support. Access to these services can be the key for young people to make positive and lasting changes.

Leadership academy in action

Captain Tanya Washington of the Little Rock Police Department (left) and Shirley Torres of Homeboy Industries work on action plans for juvenile justice reforms in their cities.

Over two days at NLC’s recent Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform Leadership Academy in Minneapolis, 38 motivated and passionate city leaders, police and probation officers and service providers met to discuss ways their jurisdiction could identify and implement alternatives to traditional detention. Led by national juvenile justice reform experts, teams from cities as diverse as Farmington Hills, Michigan and Los Angeles met to learn and exchange ideas about how diversion programs could work in their jurisdictions.

Key lessons that emerged from the leadership academy include:

  • The most effective diversion programs offer as many “off ramps” as possible to help youth avoid continued involvement with the juvenile justice system;
  • Status offenses, acts such as truancy or curfew violations that are only considered offenses when committed by minors, can often signal unmet individual and family needs. Community partners are critical in helping law enforcement direct youth to appropriate resources;
  • To improve public safety and provide effective rehabilitation, the juvenile justice system must work to align with the latest research on youth development and mental health;
  • Reform efforts must address racial and ethnic disparities at every point in a young person’s contact with the justice system.

Leadership academy attendee citiesThe meeting also featured a tour of Minneapolis’s Juvenile Supervision Center (JSC). The JSC, located in city hall, provides a safe place for police to bring youth picked up for truancy, curfew violation or other low-level offenses. The JSC provides an exemplary model of collaboration between city, county and school department stakeholders. Of the over 2,000 youth seen annually at the JSC, less than 10 percent re-enter the center while their case is active. The center has also helped reduce the time police officers need to process cases from several hours to five minutes.

Finally, participants planned next steps to implement in their communities, including:

  • Developing champions at multiple local agencies and organizations to encourage the use of productive data sharing;
  • Completing an analysis of demographic data to get a clear picture of racial and ethnic disparities;
  • Creating a civil citation program to avoid detaining offenders who are not a risk to the public or to themselves.

Heidi Cooper
About the Author:
Heidi Cooper is the Justice Reform Associate in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

New NLC Collaboration to Provide Mental Health Training to Police Officers Working in Schools

School resource officers and other police officers in schools can play a crucial role in affecting positive youth outcomes and improving public safety.

SRO and student

(Andersen Ross/Getty Images)

Police officers who respond to the developmental and mental health needs of youth in an informed and age-appropriate way help ensure the safety of everyone in schools, from students to teachers and staff. These officers also contribute to making neighborhoods and communities safer. However, like all law enforcement personnel, they need adequate training to do their jobs well.

In service of this, NLC is collaborating with the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change (Collaborative for Change) at the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice to build the capacity of school resource officers (SROs) in two cities, Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark.

Following a competitive application process, the Collaborative for Change selected Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark., based on their dedication to and leadership of city-led juvenile justice reform. These cities are currently engaged in NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform initiative, and will be among the first localities to receive the Collaborative for Change’s Adolescent Mental Health Training for SROs (AMHT-SRO), free of charge.

“The police officers that serve in our schools are on the front lines of our youth public safety efforts. Giving these officers the right set of tools is critical to productive interactions and outcomes with youth, especially those with mental health needs,” said Betsy Hodges, mayor, Minneapolis. “Being selected to receive resources from the National League of Cities and the Collaborative for Change will help us succeed in our Juvenile Justice Reform efforts and ultimately in our pursuit of citywide safety.”

The Collaborative’s comprehensive, two-day curriculum provides training for SROs who work in middle and high school settings. The purpose of the training is to help SROs develop the critical skills and capacity for appropriately responding to the many predictable behavior issues that they often encounter among adolescents with mental health problems.

“Part of what motivated us to develop this training curriculum was concern that many SROs do not routinely receive any youth mental health or adolescent development training,” said Kathleen Skowyra, Associate Director of the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. “We believe it is critical that SROs receive training to help them identify the signs and symptoms of mental health issues among the students they supervise, and as well as training to improve their crisis intervention, de-escalation and communication skills.”

The Collaborative for Change provides multiple trainings for thousands of juvenile justice system professionals each year, including the popular Crisis Intervention Training for Youth and the Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice. Their training complements NLC’s juvenile justice reform initiative to support diversion of youth away from unnecessary arrest and toward a continuum of community-based services that better meet youth needs, improve outcomes and increase public safety.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative supports both NLC and the Collaborative for Change to help government leaders build a more effective juvenile justice system.

Laura Furr
About the Author:
Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr.

What Cities Need to Know to Provide Services to Runaway Youth

NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform project is increasing the capacity of city officials to address the needs of runaway youth and keep them out of the juvenile justice system. Join us for our upcoming webinar, Opportunities for City Leaders to Improve Outcomes for Runaway Youth Without Juvenile Justice System Involvement.

Runaway Life on the streets ain’t easy. (nathan4847/Getty Images)

The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night, there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth in America. Thousands of these youth are runaways, minors who left home without permission and stayed away for at least one night. Youth run away from home for many reasons, but often they choose to leave because home is not a safe place — over 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth are victims of abuse or neglect.

Local governments and their community partners have the opportunity to support runaways by diverting them from the juvenile justice system and providing services that meet their complex needs.

Challenges Facing Runaway Youth
After leaving home, a runaway may end up living on the street or staying with people who do not have her best interests in mind. Because runaways are often too young to sign a lease, get a hotel room or hold a job, many survive by selling drugs, panhandling or engaging in prostitution.

Thirty-nine states designate running away as a status offense, the common term for several non-criminal behaviors prohibited by law because of a young person’s age. Even where running away is not a status offense, most states authorize police to take runaways into custody without a court order. Consequently, although runaways may need support services, many do not seek help for fear of getting into trouble with the law or being forced to return home.

What Local Governments Can Do
In states where running away is considered a status offense, such as New Jersey and Georgia, runaways are at risk of being referred to the juvenile court system or sent to a detention center. Local governments can support runaways by diverting them from the juvenile justice system and connecting them to service providers that address their social, physical and mental health needs.

Local Examples

  • Gloucester Township, N.J., recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to interacting with runaway youth, created Project MARRS. Project MARRS is a set of strategies for law enforcement to use when working with runaways. One strategy involves the Juvenile Return Questionnaire. Police use the questionnaire responses to assess whether the youth is at risk of running away again or if abuse or neglect at home factored into her decision to leave. The Juvenile Investigation Unit, which includes a licensed clinical social worker, analyzes the runaway’s responses and any case history the runaway or her family may have in order to decide whether to refer the runaway to support services or return her home.
  • Clayton County, Ga., decreased the number of runaways entering the courts through a multi-system integration approach. When police pick a young person up for running away, the Clayton County Collaborative Child Study Team coordinates a response with local service providers before a petition can be filed in juvenile court. This allows a runaway’s needs to be addressed before legal action is taken, reducing her likelihood of getting involved with the justice system or running away again.
  • The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), which already has a drop-in center, an outreach program and a confidentially-located emergency shelter to connect runaway youth to community service providers, is now part of the stakeholder group establishing a juvenile assessment and service center in Las Vegas. When it is the best option, NPHY will also support runaways through the process of reuniting them with their families. Nevada’s Homeless Youth Right to Shelter Law gives runaway youth 12 years and older who don’t have a stable residence the legal right to a number of services, such as food and overnight shelter, counseling and access to medical care.

Participate in our Webinar to Learn More
To learn more about local government action being taken to help runaway youth, join us for Opportunities for City Leaders to Improve Outcomes for Runaway Youth Without Juvenile Justice System Involvement, on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm Eastern.

Register today!

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative supports NLC’s juvenile justice reform project.

Izzy Jorgensen

About the Author: Izzy Jorgensen was a 2015 summer intern with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

City Leaders are Taking Up the Charge of Juvenile Justice Reform

This is the first in a series of blog posts providing ongoing updates as more cities – especially those in NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform technical assistance initiative – create new examples of successful reform.

Kid - blog(Getty Images)

As cities strive to create fair and effective responses to young people in the juvenile justice system, everyone benefits from reduced future crime and improved outcomes for young residents. We see new examples of progress toward reform emerging in four key areas:

  • Reducing racial and ethnic disparities that begin at the first point of contact between the system and youth – arrest. This reduction can often be accomplished through improved police training and arrest protocols.
  • Opportunities to improve outcomes for youth accused of non-criminal offenses, such as skipping school or running away, by addressing the needs of these youth in their communities rather than sending them to detention facilities.
  • Mechanisms for sharing information and data across city agencies to support informed policymaking, align services for youth and measure success.
  • Structures that connect youth with a continuum of community-based services so that they are held accountable for their actions in ways that improve their life outcomes and reduce the risk of future criminal activity.

These opportunities have frequently been the focus of conversation among the six cities participating in the Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform technical assistance initiative. At the recent Mayors’ Institute on Children and Families, hosted by the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, five mayors discussed juvenile justice reform opportunities, analyzed data demonstrating the need for reform in their cities, and took up the mantle of juvenile justice reform champions.

Finally, in case you haven’t seen it yet, NLC’s recently released municipal action guide, Increasing Public Safety and Improving Outcomes for Youth through Juvenile Justice Reform introduced city leaders to opportunities for city-led juvenile justice reform. The guide also highlights several local examples, including innovative programs and policies in Gainesville, Fla., Minneapolis and Baltimore.

Through this blog series and other resources, NLC will continue to build on the information included in the guide throughout the year, thanks to support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative.

headshot_LFurrAbout the Authors: Laura Furr is the senior associate for Juvenile Justice Reform in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr. Stay engaged by subscribing to the juvenile justice reform newsletter! Email Laura to start receiving it.