Parity in Juvenile and adult corrections: a Juvenile Justice update from ACA's Congress.
At the American Correctional Association's Congress of Correction last August, the Juvenile Justice Committee met to discuss ways of promoting and increasing juvenile justice's influence within ACA and on a national level.
States are almost university facing financial issues to a degree greater than in the past, and the committee believes this will impact progress in promoting juvenile justice. Attendance at conferences, especially those scheduled out of state, may be affected by staff reductions and increased travel costs. The committee suggested potential change in the conduct of business by exploring replication of resource usage by both adult and juvenile agencies. To deter costs of travel, or for enhanced preparation prior to a national conference, high-tech advances should be explored to enable improved readiness to act. Use of technological advances can lead to time-efficient, cost-effective sharing of ideas and provide time for comment prior to national and regional meetings. Consideration should be given to things like Web-based technology and the use of blogs. Content review, clarification and assessment of progress can be moved forward through the use of technology. This also would foster greater participation at conferences by off-site professionals and advocates who can be connected directly to those in attendance.
To increase interaction with ACA, several suggestions were shared and reviewed in August, including that the Juvenile Justice Committee:
* Become a recognized, standing ad hoc committee;
* Promote juvenile justice professionals' membership on committees for policy, programming, legislative affairs, substance abuse, mental health and work force;
* Review affiliate juvenile justice membership bylaws and policies with an eye toward broadening ACA's;
* Encourage more juvenile justice professionals to take part in ACA events; and
* Compress sessions where appropriate to include both adult and juvenile issues and resource connections.
To increase the influence of juvenile justice nationally, the committee discussed the following in August:
* Collaborating with a national legislative association;
* Developing strategies to promote juvenile justice issues that are amenable to all state structures;
* Including juvenile justice issues on the federal platforms that ACA develops or influences;
* Using ACA performance-based standards to promote best practices on a national level; and
* Encouraging increased article submissions for online publications for sharing on local agency and national Web sites, such as ACA's (www.aca.org) and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice's (www.ncmhjj.com).
Juvenile justice issues need a marketing plan that targets state legislators, governors, appointed committees or commissions, and other advocates for rehabilitating youths. The plan should include a focus on federal legislators and the Office of the President. Juvenile justice professionals frequently find that instead of being able and allowed to lead, encourage, guide, direct or exhort local and national leaders on what works best, they are told, commanded, demanded or expected to follow political avenues, perhaps at variance with proven best practices. What has proved to be a successful component of quality control in one state, for instance, ought to be successful in another. Ideas or processes of merit should be meritorious regardless of where applied. Should an agency develop a process that impacts significantly an outcome that was formerly not achieved, it would be deserving of replication in other agencies seeking a similar outcome.
To execute this plan of developing broad and niche issues requires a dedication to understanding, acknowledging and communicating best practices, issue resolution and anecdotal processes that have led to successful objectives or outcomes. In other words, a forum needs to be found that allows for sharing what's working in all states. There is no need to reinvent success modes if they have already been discovered in other agencies.
Money is spent for good technical and consultative resources and that likely will continue. However, are juvenile justice professionals prepared to determine exactly what resources they will need from the outside and who can best provide them? Agency decision-makers need to make sure they haven't overlooked expertise within their own agency and in other agencies within their region. How about within ACA, or other national or secular associations? Best practices are out there, likely within one's own agency; the sharing is what will become immensely helpful.
Dianne Gadow is deputy commissioner of Programs and Treatment for the Texas Youth Commission.