Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Proposed Comprehensive Plan for Fiscal Year 1998

Program Goals

OJJDP seeks to focus its assistance on the development and implementation of programs with the greatest potential for reducing juvenile delinquency and improving the juvenile justice system by establishing partnerships with state and local governments, Native American and Native Alaskan jurisdictions, and public and private agencies and organizations. To that end, OJJDP has set three goals that constitute the major elements of a sound policy that assures public safety and security, while establishing effective juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs:

To promote delinquency prevention and early intervention efforts that reduce the numbers of juvenile offenders entering the juvenile justice system, the numbers of serious and violent offenders, and the development of chronic delinquent careers. While removing serious and violent juvenile offenders from the street serves to protect the public, long-term solutions lie primarily in taking aggressive steps to stop delinquency before it starts or becomes a pattern of behavior.

To improve the juvenile justice system and the response of the system to juvenile delinquents, status offenders, and dependent, neglected, and abused children.

To preserve the public safety in a manner that serves the appropriate development and best use of secure detention and corrections options, while at the same time fostering the use of community-based programs for juvenile offenders.

Underlying each of the three goals is the overarching premise that their achievement is vital to protecting the long-term safety of the public from juvenile delinquency and violence. The following discussion addresses these three broad goals.

Delinquency Prevention and Early Intervention

A primary goal of OJJDP is to identify and promote programs that prevent or reduce the occurrence of juvenile offenses, both criminal and noncriminal, and to intervene immediately and effectively when delinquent or status offense conduct first occurs. A sound policy for juvenile delinquency prevention seeks to strengthen the most powerful contributing factor to socially acceptable behavior -- a productive place for young people in a law-abiding society. Delinquency prevention programs can operate on a broad scale, providing for positive youth development, or can target juveniles identified as being at high risk for delinquency with programs designed to reduce future juvenile offending. OJJDP prevention programs take a risk and protective factor-based delinquency prevention approach based on public health and social development models.

Early interventions are designed to provide services to juveniles whose noncriminal misbehavior indicates that they are on a delinquent pathway or to first-time, nonviolent delinquent offenders or nonserious repeat offenders who do not respond to initial system intervention. These interventions are generally nonpunitive, but serve to hold a juvenile accountable while providing services tailored to the individual needs of the juvenile and the juvenile's family. They are designed to both deter future misconduct and reduce the negative or enhance the positive factors present in a child's life.

Improvement of the Juvenile Justice System

A second goal of OJJDP is to promote improvements in the juvenile justice system and facilitate the most effective allocation of system resources. This goal is necessary for holding juveniles who commit crimes accountable for their conduct, particularly serious and violent offenders who sometimes slip through the cracks of the system or are inappropriately diverted. Activities to support this goal include assisting law enforcement officers in their efforts to prevent and control delinquency and the victimization of children through community policing programs and coordination and collaboration with other system components and with child caring systems. Meeting this goal involves helping juvenile and family courts, and the prosecutors and public defenders who practice in those courts, to provide a system of justice that maintains due process protections. It requires trying innovative programs and carefully evaluating those programs to determine what works and what does not work. It includes a commitment to involving crime victims in the juvenile justice system and ensuring that their rights are considered. In this regard, OJJDP will continue to work closely with OVC to further cooperative programming, including the provision of services to juveniles who are crime victims or the provision of victims services that improve the operation of the juvenile justice system.

Improving the juvenile justice system also calls for strengthening its juvenile detention and corrections capacity and intensifying efforts to use juvenile detention and correctional facilities in appropriate circumstances and under conditions that maximize public safety, while at the same time providing effective rehabilitation services. It requires encouraging states to carefully consider the use of expanded transfer authority that sends the most serious, violent, and intractable juvenile offenders to the criminal justice system, while preserving individualized justice. It necessitates conducting research and gathering statistical information in order to understand how the juvenile justice system works in serving children and families. Finally, the system can only be improved if information and knowledge are communicated, understood, and applied for the purpose of juvenile justice system improvement.

Corrections, Detention, and Community-Based Alternatives

A third OJJDP goal is to maintain the public safety through a balanced use of secure detention and corrections and community-based alternatives. This involves identifying and promoting effective community-based programs and services for juveniles who have formal contact with the juvenile justice system and emphasizing options that maintain the safety of the public, are appropriately restrictive, and promote and preserve positive ties with the child's family, school, and community. Communities cannot afford to place responsibility for juvenile delinquency entirely on publicly operated juvenile justice system programs. A sound policy for combating juvenile delinquency and reducing the threat of youth violence makes maximum use of a full range of public and private programs and services, most of which operate in the juvenile's home community, including those provided by the health and mental health, child welfare, social service, and educational systems.

Coordination of the development of community-based programs and services with the development and use of a secure detention and correctional system capability for those juveniles who require a secure option is cost effective and will protect the public, reduce facility crowding, and result in better services for both institutionalized juveniles and those who can be served while remaining in their community environment.

In pursuing these three goals, OJJDP divides its programs into four broad categories: public safety and law enforcement; strengthening the juvenile justice system; delinquency prevention and intervention; and child abuse, neglect, and dependency courts. A fifth category, overarching programs, contains programs that have significant elements common to more than one category. Following the introductory section below, the programs that OJJDP proposes to fund in FY 1998 are listed and summarized within these five categories.

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