OJJDP Administrator Discusses Prevention Strategies at National Mentoring Summit
On January 30, 2014, OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee joined a panel of experts in a plenary session on mentoring and other strategies for preventing youth from becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. The discussion took place at the fourth annual National Mentoring Summit in Arlington, VA. The 2-day summit was hosted by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership along with OJJDP, the Corporation for National and Community Service, Harvard School of Public Health, and United Way Worldwide.
The other panelists included James Anderson of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition; Roger Jarjoura, principal researcher in the Human and Social Development Program of the American Institutes for Research; and Laurie Parise, executive director and founder of Youth Represent. David Gregory, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” facilitated the discussion.
The session covered a range of topics, including harsh and exclusionary school disciplinary policies and in-school arrests that push youth out of school and into the justice system, a process also known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Annual rates of school suspension have doubled since the 1970s, even though rates of serious school violence and youth arrest have remained steady or even declined over the same period. When a student is suspended or expelled, his or her likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system the subsequent year increases significantly.
Administrator Listenbee cited the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, launched by Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2011, as an important step forward in addressing this problem. OJJDP is a key member of the initiative. Among other activities, the Justice and Education Departments recently issued guidance documents to help states and localities address school discipline more effectively.
In addition, Administrator Listenbee emphasized OJJDP’s longstanding commitment to mentoring as a critical component in preventing entry into the juvenile justice system and fostering positive outcomes for at-risk children. In fiscal year 2013, OJJDP awarded nearly $74 million to national and local organizations to strengthen, expand, and implement youth-mentoring activities and youth-development programming throughout the nation.
Administrator Listenbee stressed the importance of tailoring mentoring approaches to the needs of specific populations, including girls, LGBT youth, and children of incarcerated parents. (See the article, “OJJDP Publishes Report on Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents,” in the News in Brief section.)
The Office has awarded nearly $1 million to MENTOR to establish a new National Mentoring Resource Center, which will provide resource, reference, and training materials to the field and advance the implementation of evidence- and research-based mentoring practices. The center will also provide training and technical assistance, and a Web site will be launched in the coming months. “A major focus at OJJDP is to find ways to develop evidence-based practices and share these practices throughout the nation,” Administrator Listenbee said.
The National Mentoring Summit featured more than 60 workshops and 4 plenary sessions facilitated by mentoring practitioners, youth development experts, researchers, technical assistance providers, and government and corporate partners. More than 750 practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and corporate and philanthropic stakeholders attended the event.
Workshops led by OJJDP staff included The National Mentoring Resource Center: A Partnership Between OJJDP and MENTOR, OJJDP’s Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program: Mentors as Advocates and Teachers, and A Highlight of Approaches to Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents.
January was National Mentoring Month, an annual media campaign to recruit volunteer mentors for youth and to focus national attention on the importance of individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, and nonprofit organizations working together to ensure positive outcomes for youth.
To access mentoring resources, visit the Web sites of OJJDP, MENTOR, The Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. To learn more about OJJDP’s new research report on mentoring children of incarcerated parents and MENTOR’s recently released survey of young people's perspectives on the outcomes and availability of mentoring, read the News in Brief section.