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New Juvenile Justice Reform and the State Courts Initiative Will Work to Improve Outcomes for Youth and Families

Over the past several years, the MacArthur Foundation has provided significant funding to support the Models for Change initiative, which has identified and developed juvenile justice reform efforts and programs across the U.S.  Beginning in 2013, MacArthur transitioned to a “legacy phase” which developed Resource Centers for juvenile justice focused on specific areas of reform.  The state courts have been a major stakeholder group throughout these efforts.  As part of the legacy phase, MacArthur funded five Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA) regional juvenile justice reform summits, led by the CCJ/COSCA Courts, Children, and Families Committee and staffed by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).  For the summits, the Chief Justices were invited to send a 5-person state team to participate in each region.  The purpose of the summits was to identify best practices and develop state level plans for addressing juvenile justice reform.  States are now in the process of implementing these action plans.

Resource Center partners and other key organizations have been involved in the Models for Change initiative and the CCJ/COSCA summits, including the NCSC, the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the Center for Children’s Law & Policy (CCLP), the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), and the RFK National Resource Center (RFK-NRC).  Unfortunately, there were no resources to provide technical assistance to state teams as they implement their action plans, and work with key stakeholders on juvenile justice reform efforts.

SJI is excited to announce it is funding the Juvenile Justice Reform and State Courts Initiative, which will enable the Resource Center partners to develop national resources and TA for the state courts on this critical area.  In collaboration with CCJ and COSCA, the 2-year project will build on the CCJ/COSCA regional summit and state team work, and be informed by the Models for Change Initiative.  The CCJ/COSCA Courts, Children, and Families Committee and the CCJ/COSCA Criminal Justice Committee will appoint a 10-member Advisory Committee to oversee the project.

The NCSC, NCSL, NCJFCJ, CCLP, NJDC, and RFK-NRC will serve as the Expert Working Group for the project.  The Expert Working Group will:

  • identify juvenile justice policy, procedures, and practices that should be reformed;
  • propose projects to be funded by the initiative;
  • provide expertise to identify subject matter experts; and
  • provide TA, training and other activities to the state teams as they continue to implement their action plans.

The Expert Working Group will also promote court community sharing by disseminating information about the initiative and its resources through various websites, conference presentations, and social media.  Initial topics identified by the Expert Working Group include: access to counsel; dual status youth; mental and behavioral health; probation; risk/needs assessments; status offenders; court administration (e.g. data collection, court rules, alternatives to fines and fees); and model protocols for special populations, such as military families.