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Five Emerging Practices in Juvenile Reentry May 31, 2011

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As many as 100,000 youth under the age of 18 are released from juvenile correctional facilities every year. These young people often return to their communities with complex needs, such as physical and behavioral health issues and barriers to education and employment.

The National Reentry Resource Center’s Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice is developing resources for the field to increase the likelihood of successful juvenile reentry and promote safer communities. The Committee’s work is currently focused on five key areas emerging in youth reentry policy and practice:

  1. Integrating the science of adolescent brain development into the design of reentry initiatives.
  2. Ensuring that reentry initiatives build on youths’ strengths and assets to promote pro-social development.
  3. Engaging families and community members in a meaningful manner throughout the reentry process.
  4. Prioritizing education and employment as essential elements of a reentry plan.
  5. Providing a stable, well-supported transition to adulthood that helps to create lifelong connections.

Integrate the science of adolescent brain development in the design of reentry initiatives.

Research conducted in recent decades has documented both the various pathways that youth follow into juvenile delinquency and the intersection of those pathways with the development of the adolescent brain. The brain is not fully developed during adolescence and into the mid-twenties, leaving youth particularly susceptible to spontaneous and less-reasoned decision-making, as well as the powerful impact of peer pressure. Effective reentry planning and case management considers these types of developmental factors that research has shown are associated with this age population.

These findings have strong implications for reentry planning, case management, and supervision strategies. Reentry planning should be grounded in cognitive approaches (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy) that are responsive to adolescent brain development. Furthermore, cognitive approaches should be applied through an “ecological model” that contemplates the role of the youth’s family, peer group, school and community in dealing with his or her individual issues.

Case workers and supervision officers should be prepared to

While this body of knowledge comes from complex research, its implications are simple and straightforward and must be part of our work in support of the return of young people from out-of-home placement to the community.

For more information about designing reentry programs with adolescent development in mind click here to watch a video of the 2011 Second Chance Conference session, “Juvenile Reentry in the Context of Adolescent Brain Development and Pro-Social Connections: Using a Strength-Based Approach.”

Build on youths’ strengths and assets to promote pro-social development

While the youth with whom we work are both challenged and challenging, they also possess strengths upon which we can build. Approaching youth from a strength-based perspective means identifying and celebrating their assets and helping to enhance their positive qualities. Professionals working with youth in the juvenile justice system should encourage these youth to take affirmative control over their own decision-making.

These professionals should think comprehensively about the development of youth and their transition to adulthood. They should adopt a “Positive Youth Development” approach rather than focusing primarily on risk factors using a deficit-based approach. Positive Youth Development emphasizes that all young people can develop positively when connected to the right opportunities, supports and relationships.

Consistent with the ecological model noted above, professionals should focus on the youth’s education, career, peer groups (and relationships more broadly), role in the community, health, and his or her creativity and sense of self within the world. This involves a new way of supervising juvenile justice-involved youth by considering them evolving and malleable.

For more information about promoting pro-social development of youth, here to watch a video of the 2011 Second Chance Conference session, “Juvenile Reentry in the Context of Adolescent Brain Development and Pro-Social Connections: Using a Strength-Based Approach.”

Engage families and community members in a meaningful manner throughout the reentry process

The vast majority of youth return from out-of-home placement to the communities from which they were committed. Regardless of whether a youth returns to the care of a family member, foster parent, or group home, the youth will more likely than not have some level of engagement with his or her family.

Research has shown that youth benefit from having pro-social parents and other relatives involved in their lives. A young person’s likelihood of recidivating can be decreased by strengthening his or her family’s capacities as well as intra-family relationships and communication.

Unfortunately, a significant number of youth entering placement do so without strong connections to their families. This presents a challenge for case workers and supervision officers trying to engage family members and navigate the relationships between them and the youth in care. To promote these connections, juvenile reentry professionals should enlist the assistance of both immediate and extended family members, and other community members, from a youth’s first contact with the system.

Professionals can use a variety of techniques to foster improved relationships between families and in-custody youth. These techniques include family intervention, identifying a wider range of family members who can provide short- and long-term support for the youth, and enlisting community assets (e.g., people, places, groups) as part of the youth’s support system after returning to the community. Involving these assets and individuals as members of the youth’s reentry team can help in his or her reintegration and rehabilitation.

It is important that professionals engage family as soon as the youth enters care rather than waiting for his or her imminent return to the community. Case workers and supervision officers should assist families in visiting youth during the period of incarceration, as research has shown that family contact during incarceration can result in improved in-facility behavior and post-release outcomes. If families lack transportation, case workers and supervision officers should make every effort to provide rides when they go on institutional visits. Video conferencing technology should be used to keep the youth connected to family and other community members who will be supportive during and after placement.

Video conferencing may also be used to

  • Conduct meetings between incarcerated youth and their community schools as part of planning for reentry.
  • Conduct job interviews between a youth and a potential employer.
  • For more information about integrating family and community members into juvenile reentry, click here to watch a recording of the National Reentry Resource Center’s 2010 webinar, “Family Engagement in Reentry for Justice-Involved Youth.”

    Prioritize education and employment as essential elements of a reentry plan

    A youth’s connection to education and employment must be a key part of his or her rehabilitation and reentry plan. Education and work are lynchpins to a law-abiding and productive adult life.

    A number of factors complicate the education of youth in care. First, youth entering correctional placement usually face significant educational deficits, consisting of both learning disabilities and poor academic performance. Consequently, they are often far behind in grade level and credits. Second, there are frequently delays in getting education records transferred, which causes interruptions in education plans when a youth is moved from one placement to another. Third, the learning environment in youth correctional facilities is often less-than-ideal. All these barriers are frequently compounded by the difficulty of reenrolling youth in schools and getting schools to recognize their progress while in detention.

    To overcome these barriers, case workers and supervision officers should have open lines of communication with the youth’s home school and invite the appropriate school officials to participate on the youth’s reentry team. Education liaisons or advocates should ensure that the youth’s route back into the education system is open and his or her rights are respected.

    If a traditional education path is not feasible, case workers and supervision officers should help the youth find work that aligns with his or her interests and strengths. This may involve helping the youth obtain a GED and receive training in a particular trade. Engaging community members such as workforce development agencies and business owners in reentry initiatives can help reentry staff develop effective job training and placement support for youth.

    Ensuring reentering youth are connected to school and/or employment is the subject of the National Reentry Resource Center’s next webinar, “Education and the World of Work: Anchors to a Strong Juvenile Reentry Plan,” to be held on June 15, 2011 at 2 pm ET. To register for the webinar, here.

    Provide a stable, well-supported transition to adulthood that helps to create lifelong connections

    In order to implement the case management plan and the supports and services youth need for successful reentry, we must view our work as part of a longer term and broader strategy. This strategy calls for the use of a strength-based approach not only through the youth’s period of community supervision, but also as he or she exits adolescence and enters the stage of emerging adulthood. Even though the youth is no longer under supervision, he or she still needs the same type of supports and anchors as youth who are not involved in the juvenile justice system.

    Youth in foster care face many of the same family and community challenges as youth in the juvenile justice system. Many child welfare systems have adopted a “permanency approach” to help these youth transition to adulthood by fostering a strong set of connections to pro-social adults and peers and a sense of belonging to their community. Those who work with youth involved in the juvenile justice system should strive to instill a sense of permanency in their lives and maintain a long-term view towards the youth’s well-being.

    The permanency approach can be incorporated into reentry planning by reconceptualizing the traditional discharge agreement. This agreement, entered into between the youth, his or her family and supervision officer, must identify these longer-term supports. The discharge agreement can serve both as a final checklist to ensure all discharged youth have been connected to long-term services and as a resource list of appropriate adults in the youth’s life who agree to serve as long term supports upon returning to the community. These supports may come in many forms, such as a school official, mentor, or adult family member.

    For more information about strengthening transitions to adulthood for reentering youth, click here to watch a video of the 2011 Second Chance Conference Session, “Reentry in the Context of Transitioning to Adulthood.”

    For links to other helpful resources on the subject of reentry from the juvenile justice system, click here to visit the National Reentry Resource Center’s topic page on juvenile reentry.


    Deschutes DA Bar Complaint Moves Forward May 27, 2011

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    The Oregon State Bar has found enough evidence of possible misconduct by Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty to refer the matter to its disciplinary office for further investigation. The Bulletin newspaper in Bend reports the bar notified Flaherty of its decision May 18. The state bar will now analyze the case to identify any unanswered ethical issues and will correspond with Flaherty until the bar has enough information to dismiss the complaint or move to the next step. The investigation resulted from a complaint filed in March, which alleges that Flaherty misused a grand jury to settle a personal score with Deschutes County Legal Counsel Mark Pilliod and The Bulletin over the release of job application information for assistant prosecutors. Flaherty did not immediately return a call on Wednesday. ___ Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com


    Strong Juvenile Reentry Plan Webinar May 25, 2011

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    Educational attainment is connected to a wide variety of important outcomes, from employment and income to health and well-being. The potential impact of education is even greater for youth in the juvenile justice system facing educational deficiencies greater than their peers. Education can bridge youth in residential placement to employment, reduce the risk of recidivism, and increase the likelihood of successfully transitioning to the community and to adulthood.

    This webinar will describe the elements of strong educational programs in residential facilities, strategies for ensuring continuity to community-based academic and vocational programs, and the roles different juvenile justice system parties play in ensuring educational opportunities for youth committed to placement. This webinar, moderated by Shay Bilchik, founder and director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, will feature presentations by:

    When: Wednesday, June 15th, at 2 pm ET.

    To register for this webinar, please click here.



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    On May 25, 2011, the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) will host a free webinar on the role law enforcement agencies can play in offender reentry. The webinar, “Law Enforcement and Reentry – From Start to Finish,” will feature three innovative examples of police-led reentry initiatives. Each example will focus on the key reasons to involve law enforcement agencies in reentry initiatives—from planning and implementation to monitoring and issuing violations. Focusing on the Justice Center’s Planning and Assessing A Law Enforcement Reentry Strategy toolkit, Justice Center staff and presenters will discuss

    The webinar will feature presentations by:

    After the presentations, participants will have an opportunity to ask questions.

    The webinar, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, will be held at 2:00 pm (ET) on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. To register for the webinar, click here.


    Bill Would Move Juvenile Defendants Out Of Adult Jail May 7, 2011

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    Oregon locks up some juveniles in adult jails while they’re awaiting trial. Lawmakers are close to signing off on a bill to change that.

    The state Senate could vote as soon as Monday, but some are questioning the cost of moving those defendants to juvenile facilities.

    Oregon’s Measure 11 creates mandatory minimum sentences for certain violent crimes. It also requires youth accused of Measure 11 crimes to be tried as adults.

    That means while these teenagers are awaiting trial, some counties put them in adult jails. That’s despite the fact that if they’re convicted, they’ll live in a juvenile detention center.

    Youth offender advocates say 16 and 17 year olds are at risk during their time in adult jail, which can last months.

    Shannon Wight is with the Partnership for Safety and Justice.

    Shannon Wight: “It’s kind of a glaring inconsistency in our law then these young people when they’re first arrested and just charged with a crime are being subjected to an adult jail.”

    A lobbyist who represents county-level juvenile detention centers says the group supports moving teens accused of Measure 11 crimes to youth facilities. But she says the agencies are concerned about the expense.

    The group says it costs twice as much to house an inmate at a juvenile center than at an adult jail.

    Oregon House Bill 2707:


    Oregon Juvenile Department Directors Association explain its position:



    Retroactivity Is Absolutely Necessary To Insure That Justice Is Served May 6, 2011

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    Here’s an update from Julie Stewart

    I have been invited to testify June 1st before the U.S. Sentencing Commission at a hearing on crack retroactivity. Of course, I’ll tell the Commission that retroactivity is absolutely necessary to insure that justice is served. But I need you to reinforce that message to the Commission, too.

    Please help me by taking action in one or more of the following ways:

    I know that your voice can make a difference. Four years ago, when the Commission last considered voting to make a change to the crack guideline retroactive, FAMM members let loose an avalanche of letters and other expressions of support that helped win the day. I know we can do it again!

    Thank you!



    Julie Stewart


    P.S. If you can make it to the hearing, please let us know you are coming by emailing apage@famm.org. If you cannot make it, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook where we will be reporting live from the hearing.


    Oregon Domestic Violence Case Shows Need for Careful Investigation May 5, 2011

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    Oregon Domestic Violence Case Shows Need for Careful Investigation

    Federal financial funding, specific to domestic violence prosecutions has been available to the states since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted as Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In part due to the availability of federal funds to subsidize such cases, domestic violence prosecutions are on the rise in Oregon.

    Domestic assault in Oregon typically is charged as a class A misdemeanor or class C felony. Charges can quickly become more serious, however, and many domestic violence cases can rise to class B or even class A felony level and involve lengthy mandatory minimum penitentiary sentences under Oregon’s “Ballot Measure 11” sentencing law.

    Domestic violence cases often embroil otherwise law abiding citizens in the criminal justice system for the first time. The effects of a domestic assault arrest are not felt only by the person arrested, however. The alleged victim and/or the children and family of those arrested are also dramatically and negatively affected — sometimes by the authorities themselves.

    Mandatory Arrest Policies

    Consider, for example, what happens when a police department adopts a mandatory arrest policy. (The Portland Police Bureau has just such a policy, as do many local law enforcement agencies in Oregon.) Under such a policy, whenever law enforcement officers are called to a house or apartment about a domestic disturbance, the officers are required to make an arrest. In a raging dispute between two parties, singling out one of them to be arrested doesn’t always make sense. Singling out one party after only a preliminary and often incomplete investigation often results in a prosecution which is based on an inaccurate, false, or incomplete version of what actually occurred. Too often, once the prosecutorial train has left the station, with an arrest and perhaps a cursory interview of those involved, there is little chance to correct the factual record before the prosecution begins in earnest.

    Both Men and Women Can Be Victims

    The misleading myth that domestic violence is practically synonymous with violence against women can often color the initial investigation of domestic assault cases. Though it is true that more women are victims of domestic assault than men, sometimes the stereotype is reversed. Sometimes it is the man who is the victim and the woman who is the perpetrator. Every case is unique, however, and most be calmly and dispassionately investigated to get at the truth. Unfortunately, it is often the defense who must uncover the truth, as the prosecution’s investigation usually ends with an arrest.

    Shoddy Police Work Can Lead to Injustice

    Often, the police actions in rushing to make an initial arrest can result in an unjust prosecution not based in fact. This scenario was illustrated painfully in a recent case handled by our office involving a man and a woman who got into an argument while driving home from an evening out with friends.

    While the husband drove home the wife asked that he pull over so that she could drive. She was concerned that he might be feeling the effects of some beer he had drunk with dinner. This led to arguing between the couple during the drive home. At an intersection near their home, the man punched the wife in the face causing her nose to bleed profusely. He got out of the car, threatened her, slammed the passenger door shut, and turned to walk off. In shock, the wife put the car in drive and left the scene to go home.

    As it turned out, as the wife left the scene, she clipped the husband with the right front bumper as she took off in a panic. The husband suffered little if any injury and proceeded to walk over a mile to their home. When he arrived home to find himself locked out of the house, he decided to call the police in a drunken and juvenile attempt to get his wife in trouble.

    The police arrived, and ignoring the blood spattered interior of the car and the wife’s version of events – which made entirely more sense than the intoxicated husband’s version – they arrested the wife for vehicular assault for intentionally “running over” her husband! The police even confronted the husband when they caught him trying to clean up and cover up the bloody evidence in the car and on his and his wife’s clothes. Still, they did nothing and further prosecuted the wife.

    The wife was now facing a Class B felony charge that carried a mandatory 70 month prison sentence if convicted. The prosecution carried on, despite the husband recanting his version to the police and despite the wife’s offer to testify without counsel at grand jury — a request cynically and perhaps unlawfully refused by the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case. The wife was forced to post bail, and spend months under the threat of incarceration while her defense was prepared. It was only on the day before trial was scheduled to begin that the prosecution abandoned its ridiculous persecution of the wife. The case was settled when the wife accepted a plea to a misdemeanor assault based on “reckless behavior” and was granted a short bench probation with no jail time involved.

    The husband? He was never prosecuted.



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    The National Reentry Resource Center is sponsoring a webinar on gang violence and reentry on May 11. Gang violence accounts for a disproportionate amount of criminal activity: A study of Boston’s Project Ceasefire found that less than one percent of youth were responsible for more than 60 percent of youth homicides. Many of these youth were affiliated with gangs and under community supervision (or at least well known by justice officials) prior to committing homicide.

    This is the first in a two-part webinar series focusing on the American Probation and Parole Association’s (APPA’s) Collaboration, Analysis, Reentry, Evaluation (CARE) model to address gang reentry. This webinar will include an overview of the CARE model and Project Safe Neighborhoods. Specifically, the webinar will provide strategies for partnering with agencies inside and outside the justice system and helping gang-affiliated individuals return to the community following incarceration. These and other issues will be discussed in this webinar.

    Date/Time: May 11, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. ET
    Presenter: Matthew DeMichele, Ph.D, American Probation and Parole Association

    To register for this webinar, please click here.


    Federal Interagency Reentry Council Launches Website, Releases “Mythbuster” Series May 2, 2011

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    Reentry has a tremendous impact not only on the criminal justice system, but also on public health, housing, the work force, education, families, and communities. Reflecting the federal government’s commitment to addressing reentry challenges in a multidisciplinary manner, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has assembled a Cabinet-level interagency Reentry Council comprised of 18 federal departments and agencies. The Reentry Council will support the federal government’s reentry efforts by enhancing communication, coordination, and collaboration across the federal government. Reentry Council partners are working together to increase public safety, assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive citizens, and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

    The Reentry Council has now launched its official website, which is housed within the larger website of the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC). There you can access information created by the Reentry Council, learn about the Council’s goals and composition, and identify agency contacts.

    The Reentry Council has also released a set of “Reentry MythBusters,” one pagers designed to clarify existing federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. The MythBusters cover topics critical to reentry, such as public housing, access to federal benefits, parental rights, employer incentives, and more. As the MythBusters show, some federal laws and policies are narrower than is commonly perceived, as is the case with public housing and food assistance benefits. States and localities often have broad discretion in determining how policies are applied and/or have various opt-out provisions for states (TANF and child support are examples). In some cases, statutory barriers do not exist at all or are very limited, as is the case with federal hiring. In fact, some federal policies, such as federal bonding, contain incentives for assisting the formerly convicted population.

    These Reentry MythBusters demonstrate how the Reentry Council is working to develop coordinated reentry strategies to reduce crime and enhance individual and community well-being. These efforts build on the considerable resources that the federal government is already investing in states and localities to support successful reentry and reintegration.