Call to Order and Roll Call
The4th meeting of the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code was held on Thursday, October 25, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Katie Stine, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: David D’Amora, Council of State Governments; Sarah Brown, National Conference of State Legislatures; Jeanette Moll, Texas Public Policy Foundation; Doreen Cavanaugh, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute; Marissa Castellanos, Catholic Charities; and Marylee Underwood, Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs.
The minutes of the September 26, 2012 meeting were approved without objection.
National Perspectives on Juvenile Justice
David D’Amora, Director of National Initiatives, Council of State Governments, discussed various strategies for addressing juvenile status offenders across the country. Status offenses are acts that are not considered criminal when committed by adults, but carry juvenile court sanctions for youth because of their legal status as minors, including habitual truancy, running away, curfew violations, and underage liquor law violations. The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) provides uniform standards of care and custody for status offenders, and deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO) is one of the core requirements. DSO states that status offenders and abused and neglected youth may not be placed in secured detention or locked confinement, and ensures the offenders and their families receive family and community-based services to address their behavior problems. The Valid Court Order Exception (VCO) allows judicial discretion to place status offenders in detention if they violate the court order. In 2007, Kentucky, Texas and Washington accounted for 60 percent of the VCO exceptions invoked. He noted Jefferson County, Kentucky and Clark County, Washington, have successful truancy diversion programs. Programs in Florida, New York and Connecticut which mandate pre-court diversion and prevention services have seen significant reductions in the number of status offenders referred to the court system and in the number of juvenile reoffenders. He suggested these individuals need to be tracked longer to see if they become adult offenders.
Mr. D’Amora discussed the successful use of evidence-based practices for status offenders, including risk/needs assessments, family involvement/assessment programs, and interventions designed to address youth with antisocial behavior, low academic achievement, mental or cognitive disorders, and mental retardation, family violence and drug abuse. These intervention programs have reduced recidivism, new offending by siblings, days spent in confinement, delinquency and criminal referrals, and improved academic performance, family cohesion and youth functioning. The length of the therapy is based on the risk level of the offender, with most programs lasting between six and twelve months. Some states underwrite the cost of intervention programs and he agreed to provide more information to the members.
Justice Noble asked which risk/needs assessment tool has been most successful, and agreed the key to successful services hinges on a correct assessment of the offender. Mr. D’Amora said CSG policy prohibits him from recommending a specific assessment tool, because some are open source and others are proprietary. He said Ed LaTessa and Brian Lovens with the University of Cincinnati are both experts on assessment systems and he will ask them to contact the task force with more detailed information. He noted treatment response can change during the course of the intervention, which requires flexibility to revise the treatment plan.
Ms. Priddy said most risk/needs assessment tools do not include a family assessment component which is very important to a successful outcome, and asked Mr. D’Amora for additional information on programs that include family interventions. He agreed to provide the information to the task force.
Mr. Schuler said Kentucky is second in the nation for detaining status offenders. He said the Administrative Office of the Courts form of the VCO is very strict, and offenders can be detained for minor infractions like chewing gum and smoking. He wondered if it is ever appropriate to send a status offender to secured detention. Mr. D’Amora said sometimes an offender is so out of control that detention is needed to protect public safety, but that one cannot apply the wrong response and hope to get the right outcome. He said Kentucky is spending millions of dollars on secured detention for the very small percentage of status offenders who are violent, and detaining many more who do not threaten public safety.
Sarah Brown, Criminal Justice Program Director, National Conference of State Legislatures, reviewed legislative trends and approaches in juvenile justice reform. She said the juvenile justice system must balance the interests of rehabilitation, accountability and public safety, while protecting the rights of youth. Juvenile justice policies across the country are changing with emphasis on public safety, positive outcomes, and increased funding for prevention programs. Trends over the past decade include distinguishing juvenile needs from adults, changes in due process and procedures for juveniles, developing community-based preventions and inventions including evidence-based practices and truancy prevention, addressing the mental health needs of juvenile offenders, detention and corrections reform; disproportionate minority contact, and improving reentry and aftercare programs. Ms. Brown said the MacArthur Foundation Models for Change has invested over $100 million to accelerate juvenile justice system reforms which have been implemented in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana and Washington, Ohio, Arkansas and Georgia.
In response to a question from Senator Stine about the shift from a rehabilitative model for juveniles to a criminal model during the last two decades, Ms. Brown said an increase in youth violence convinced state legislatures the criminal model was needed. But a decreasing youth crime rate and a poor economy has forced states to reconsider detention programs for status offenders. States are now moving toward prevention and intervention programs and services for families, which are more cost effective and produce better outcomes.
Jeanette Moll, Policy Analyst, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), reviewed changes in the Texas juvenile justice system since 2007, resulting in a historic decline in the youth incarceration rate, a decrease in youth violence rates, and increased safety for those youth in detention who now have access to more effective programs. These reforms have led to more cost efficient and effective juvenile programs which are community-based and offer programs closer to families, churches and other sources of community support. While detention is still necessary to protect public safety, Texas moved toward community-based programs, saving the state millions of dollars and providing better results for offenders and their families. Zero tolerance programs in schools have proven ineffective and a tiered model of school discipline has been implemented to produce safer schools and higher graduation rates.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is working with other states to reform their juvenile justice systems based on the success of the Texas model. The foundation encourages implementation of community-based programming, risk/need assessment of offenders to produce better outcomes, juvenile probation programs which are more cost-effective than detention, evidence-based programming which is proven to reduce the risk of criminal behavior, recognition that status offenders are not adults and are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted in adult institutions, and use of performance financial incentives encourages counties to keep status offenders in the community rather than committing them to a state facility. Almost every state is looking for better outcomes and increased cost-effectiveness for juvenile offenders. Reforms in Texas have reduced populations in state facilities and permitted closing three facilities at a savings of $100 million, increased accountability and reduced delinquency rates. New York, Georgia, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio have implemented juvenile justice reforms. A majority of the states have implemented CHINS systems that direct juvenile offenders toward child welfare services. About half of the states prohibit the use of the VCO exception.
Doreen Cavanaugh, Research Associate Professor, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, congratulated Kentucky on being one of twelve states to receive a three year award for SAMHSA/CSAT Substance Abuse Treatment Enhancement and Dissemination (SAT-ED) for infrastructure development for youth with co-occurring substance use/mental health disorders. Dr. Cavanaugh said financial mapping is a process of identifying public funds expended on a yearly basis to address certain issues at the federal, state, and local level, which can be used to develop a comprehensive financial plan to coordinate funds in the most effective and efficient way to assure the provision of coordinated services and supports. She recommended the task force consider this process to maximize resources to address co-occurring mental health/substance use disorders in youth, with a goal of reducing involvement with the juvenile justice system.
Federal funding may come from juvenile justice, labor, housing, education, child welfare, entitlements, block grants, categorical funding, discretionary grants, demonstration grants, and research funding. Medicaid dollars may be maximized through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program and CHIPS (Children’s Health Insurance Program) for early diagnosis and treatment of children with substance use disorders. She encouraged states to expand block grant funding to provide substance abuse and mental health services through the juvenile justice system. She reviewed several funding sources in the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system which could be coordinated to maximize funds.
Working Group Reports
Senator Stine asked the members to read the working group reports and be ready to discuss them at the November 13 meeting of the task force.
The meeting adjourned at 4:00 p.m.