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Innovative Community Partnerships: Kentucky's Statewide Delinquency Prevention Councils. (CT Feature).

Addressing juvenile delinquency through early intervention and prevention is not earth-shattering, nor is it a complicated principle. Less Hype, More Help: Reducing Juvenile Crime, What Works and What Doesn't, by Richard Mendel, an independent writer, researcher and consultant, found that a number of innovative prevention programs have been developed and have proved to be successful. Mendel's report goes on to state that a number of promising programs also have reduced the number of youths who re-offend. Early childhood, school-based prevention and conflict resolution programs are some strategies that have produced impressive results.

In 1998, Kentucky developed an innovative program to promote delinquency prevention and collaboration of community efforts. With support from the General Assembly, Kentucky's Delinquency Prevention and Community Partnership Initiative was established and with the assembly's authorization, the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) formed eight local juvenile delinquency prevention councils.

Council members work together to define problem areas in the community, such as truancy or substance abuse, and identify community programs that can provide services for these problems and award grants for programs, including community education, community ministries, schools and boys and girls clubs.

The eight delinquency prevention councils exist in 11 counties: Boone/Kenton/Campbell, Daviess/Henderson, and Fayette, Hardin, Hopkins, Jefferson, McCracken and Warren. The counties' juvenile arrest rates represent the majority in Kentucky. According to the most recent commonwealth of Kentucky crime report (1999), Crime in Kentucky, total crime arrests were 273,661 in 1999. Juveniles accounted for 11,496 of those arrests (4.2 percent). The top five crimes committed by juveniles are larceny theft (except auto), narcotics/drugs, burglary, disorderly conduct and vandalism.

Purpose and Mission

Delinquency prevention councils address juvenile justice issues at state and local levels. They provide a forum for the development of a community-based, interagency assessment of the local juvenile justice system. Council members meet to discuss community juvenile delinquency issues. The purpose of the council is to:

* Pinpoint problem areas in the community, such as truancy, substance abuse and vandalism;

* Develop a three-year plan to address these needs;

* Enter into written local interagency agreements that specify the nature and extent of contributions that each signatory agency will make in achieving the goals of the local juvenile justice plan;

* Apply and receive public or private grants to be administered by a local unit of government or DJJ that support one or more components of the local juvenile justice plan;

* Share information, as authorized by law, to carry out the interagency agreements;

* Provide a forum for the presentation of interagency recommendations and the resolution of disagreements relating to the contents of the interagency agreement or the performance by the parties of their respective obligations under the agreements;

* Assist the efforts of local community support organizations and volunteer groups in providing enrichment programs and other support services for clients of the local juvenile justice system; and

* Provide an annual report and recommendations to DJJ.

The Fayette County Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Council's mission is to build a community that embraces values conducive to strong youth development and to promote experiences and relationships that will shape youths into caring, responsible adults. Priority areas for this mission are ongoing relationships with adults, safe places and structured activities, healthy starts for healthy futures, opportunities to serve and marketable skills through effective education. To fulfill this mission, the council created local initiatives that merge the council with the Partners for Youth Foundation; supported the Mayor's Youth Council, which provides leadership and service opportunities for a cross-section of youths in the community; worked with the Crawford Middle School Truancy Program to expand to other middle schools; and worked with the Safe Schools Interagency Risk for Harm Collaborative of Fayette County Public Schools to enhance and expand truancy reduction and school safety programs.

The Hardin County Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Council's mission is to remove "risk" from Hardin County families by allowing them to live violence-free, keeping youths productive and in school, and helping teens obtain jobs. Priority areas for this mission are strengthening families, developing early prevention programs, creating an assessment group to provide accurate data collection tools and coordinating prevention programs and services. To accomplish these goals, the council entered into interagency agreements to effectuate provision of juvenile services and to move forward in the arena of delinquency prevention. Agreements are with local law enforcement agencies, school systems, army community services of Fort Knox, ministerial alliances of North Hardin and Elizabethtown, Lincoln Trail Area Development District, Communicare, and Hardin County Fiscal Court and the local court system. Programs such as these have helped the juvenile justice system by reducing the number of delinquent youths.

Council Members

Statutes mandate each council to include representatives from the following areas: law enforcement, the school system, the Department for Community-Based Services, court of justice, commonwealth's attorney, county attorney, county juvenile detention facility and the Department for Public Advocacy. Representation also may include other interested officials, groups or entities, including, but not limited to, juvenile justice agencies, churches, youths, local government, mental health agencies, business communities and interested citizens. The total membership of each council cannot exceed 18 unless there is written authorization from the DJJ commissioner.

Initial appointments provide staggered terms of two, three or four years, which are designated by the DJJ commissioner. Members appointed thereafter serve for a term that is determined by the commissioner. However, a term cannot exceed four years. Council members may be reappointed to successive terms and do not receive a salary for service, but are reimbursed for expenses in the same manner as a state employee.

Council members are key to developing effective prevention and intervention strategies because they work on the front lines in neighborhoods and communities and know the local issues of juvenile crime. As advisory partners to DJJ, councils provide input and participate in activities such as the agency's planning process, the development of legislative proposals, community partnerships and other prevention grants. They meet to determine community needs and provide information regarding problem areas in their counties and input regarding strategies to reduce juvenile crime and/or delinquency. Councils develop these proposals by serving on committees, discussing issues and writing reports that pinpoint the needs in the community. Likewise, to assist with local efforts, the department provides the councils with technical assistance, information, data, and updates on department activities and juvenile justice issues at the local and state levels.

A unique characteristic of the delinquency prevention councils is the direct involvement of elected officials. School board members, commonwealth attorneys, county attorneys, sheriffs and judges have enabled councils to impact their communities through their direct involvement. Delinquency prevention councils are most effective in addressing meaningful change at the community level. They are DJJ's direct link to local communities.

Key Principles

Delinquency prevention councils, in partnership with DJJ, are the key to building a strong juvenile justice system in Kentucky that will provide effective ways to prevent crime and further victimization. The key principles for preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency are to:

* Strengthen families;

* Support core social institutions;

* Promote prevention strategies and programs;

* Intervene immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs; and

* Identify and control the small percentages of serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders.

Councils use these principles as guidelines when creating their missions, priority areas and strategies, and create partnerships with community programs to help fulfill the mission. For example, the McCracken County Juvenile Delinquency Prevention council found that elementary school children in their area had a large number of disciplinary problems. To correct the problem, the council funded seven local programs targeted toward at-risk students at three elementary schools with the largest number of disciplinary problems. With the additional funding, these programs were able to provide mentoring services, as well as after-school activities for the at-risk youths.

Defining Prevention

As Mendel states, "Attempting to reduce crime by focusing only on law enforcement and corrections is like providing expensive ambulances at the bottom of a cliff to pick up the youngster who falls off, rather than building a fence at the top of the cliff to keep them from falling in the first place."

DJJ has taken a holistic approach to defining prevention by addressing youths at all stages of the juvenile justice continuum. In Juvenile Justice in America, author Clifford Simonsen offers a number of theories and definitions of prevention. Some of the ambiguity is related to distinguishing between the prevention and control of delinquency. Further, there is widespread recognition that prevention includes a wide range of activities separated as follows:

* Primary Prevention: Generally directed toward an environment with high-risk factors and with no distinction between those who have committed a crime and those who have not. In this situation, councils partner with programs that provide after-school activities and/or mentoring such as elementary after-school programs, boys and girls clubs, youth foundations and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

* Secondary Prevention: Generally directed toward programs that are designed to serve delinquency-prone individuals and emphasize early identification of and treatment for youngsters exhibiting behavior known to lead toward delinquency. In this situation, councils partner with programs that help reduce truancy by making sure children get to school, have help with their homework and have necessary mentoring, such as family nurturing centers, community development centers and neighborhood associations.

* Tertiary Prevention: Generally concerned with preventing recidivism or an increase in delinquent behavior. In this situation, councils will partner with programs that provide services for these youths, e.g., drug courts.

For purposes of using DJJ's limited resources in an appropriate manner and clearly defining prevention versus alternative programs, DJJ has adopted the following philosophy: Prevention is a measure taken before delinquent behavior has occurred and is directed toward preventing such occurrence. Addressing pre-delinquent behavior is a process of identifying problems related to delinquency, developing needed resources and building a strategy directed toward lowering the levels of pre-delinquent behavior through the provision of services to individuals or groups with specific needs.

This definition suggests that the department will emphasize a primary or secondary prevention approach. As DJJ moves ahead in this area, it will look toward including programs that fit the tertiary prevention model.

Working Together

With DJJ's definition of prevention in mind, delinquency prevention councils develop a local juvenile justice plan based upon use of local community resources in a cooperative and collaborative manner to prevent or discourage juvenile delinquency and to develop meaningful alternatives to incarceration. Councils partner with programs that provide youths with alternatives to getting into trouble. For example, the Daviess/Henderson County Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Council partnered with eight local programs targeted toward encouraging pro-social behaviors in youths and involving families in the programs. Programs that provide these services are the Neblett Community Center and the Seventh Street Corp.

When delinquency prevention councils enter into written local interagency agreements, councils will form partnerships with community programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, boys and girls clubs, etc. In a written agreement, the programs will specify the services they will offer. These services must work toward achieving the goals of the county's juvenile justice plan. In addition to these responsibilities, delinquency prevention councils apply for and receive public or private grants that support one or more components of the local juvenile justice plan. Grants are used to fund programs that offer services to at-risk youths in the community. Councils award grants to programs that are, for example, willing to provide after-school services, tutoring services or drug/alcohol education. Councils assist by providing support services to the organizations and volunteer groups.

As stakeholders in the juvenile justice system, DJJ's delinquency prevention councils are a vital link to local communities. At the local level, these groups have been effective in assessing community needs and collaborating to address local juvenile justice issues. The delinquency prevention councils provide a vehicle for communities to come together to discuss issues such as urban versus rural needs, prevention versus intervention, and limited community resources. As community partners, the councils know their local issues and are key in developing strategies that can be most effective in their areas.

Ralph E. Kelly, Ed.D., is commissioner, and Leah M. Settle is public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice in Frank fort, Ky.

REFERENCES

Mendel, Richard A. 2000. Less hype, more help. Reducing juvenile crime, what works and what doesn't. Washington, D.C.: American Policy Forum.

Simonsen, Clifford E. 1990. Juvenile Justice in America, Third Edition. Toronto: Macmillan Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kelly, Ralph E.; Settle, Leah M.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1U6KY
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:2060
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