OJJDP News @ a Glance - July/August 2015
July | August 2015

OJJDP Administrator Discusses Systemic Reform With Judicial Officials

In 1964, 15 year-old Gerald Gault was already on probation when he was accused of making an obscene phone call to a neighbor. Although an adult charged with the same crime would have received a maximum sentence of a $50 fine and 2 months in jail in his home state of Arizona, Gault was denied due process and committed to juvenile detention until he turned 21.

“In the Matter of Gault—50 Years Later” was the first order of educational programming at the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) annual meeting convened July 25–29, 2015, in Omaha, NE. Retired Gila County (AZ) Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill and Arizona Dependency Attorney Lisa Pferdeort presented the details of the case, and the subsequent 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established due-process procedures in juvenile delinquency cases, before a panel discussed how the system has improved in the 45 years since the ruling and the present challenges that require continued reform efforts.

In his remarks to the more than 160 attendees, OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee acknowledged the critical role judicial leadership plays in reforming the juvenile justice system and called on the attendees to continue partnering with OJJDP to ensure systemic juvenile justice reform—especially as it relates to indigent defense and racial and ethnic disparities.

Mr. Listenbee highlighted OJJDP’s multipronged approach to juvenile justice reform, which includes—

  • Enhancing and promoting full compliance with the core protections of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Mr. Listenbee outlined the four core protections set forth by the Act—deinstitutionalization of status offenders, jail removal, sight and sound separation, and addressing disproportionate minority contact—and pledged the Office's continued commitment to helping states address these requirements.
  • Reducing or eliminating out-of-home placement. “One of the best ways to prevent kids from going deep into the system, quite simply, is to keep them out of the system in the first place,” Mr. Listenbee said. “Almost two-thirds of the young people we place are there for nonviolent offenses and often for misdemeanors and status offenses.”
  • Ensuring comprehensive reform through the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative. Mr. Listenbee provided an overview of specific OJJDP efforts and partnerships—such as the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative—that are already promoting comprehensive statewide reform, improving access to counsel and quality representation, and working to end racial and ethnic disparities.

“We have made some progress in these areas—with your support and leadership,” Mr. Listenbee said. “But I know we can all agree that there is still much work to be done.”

Additional sessions offered at this year’s meeting—themed “Juvenile Justice: State Courts Leading Reform”—included “Leading Reform on School Discipline,” “Adolescent Brain Development: Youth Status and Juvenile Justice,” and “Racial/Ethnic Disparity: Defining the Issue and Identifying State Reforms.”

CCJ and COSCA are the collective voice of state courts on issues of common concern to state judiciaries. The conferences sponsor educational programs, develop policy papers, and advocate common positions that reinforce the honesty of states’ judicial processes, management policies, and court administration practices.

Resources:

Read the OJJDP-commissioned National Research Council report Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach.