CJJR was honored to co-sponsor the Coalition for Juvenile Justice DMC Conference on December 5 – 6, 2016. As part of the conference, CJJR Director Shay Bilchik led a plenary session as well as three workshops, cumulatively recognizing four individual jurisdictions for their progress in reducing racial and ethnic disparities through their Capstone Projects.
In the Plenary Session, Equity Across Systems: The Shared Challenges of Behavioral Health, Education, Child Welfare, Law Enforcement, and Juvenile Justice, Lincoln Police Department Chief of Police Jeff Bliemeister presented the Capstone Project developed by the Lancaster County, Nebraska team that attended CJJR’s 2014 Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) Certificate Program. In order to reduce the overrepresentation of youth of color at arrest, the team created a school-based diversion program called Project RESTORE. Key stakeholders, including the police department, public schools, county attorney’s office, human services department, and the court, collaborated on this project to provide comprehensive services for youth coming into contact with juvenile justice system. As a result of ongoing implementation of their Capstone Project, Lancaster County has been able to continuously refine its diversion policies and practices to better address racial and ethnic disparities.
During the breakout workshop session, Bringing It All Together: How Cross-system Collaboration Can Impact Racial and Ethnic Disparities, CJJR Fellows Judge Deborah Minot, David Tristan and Shawn Roth joined Shay to present their RED Capstone Projects. Judge Minot spoke on behalf of the 2013 RED Johnson County, Iowa team, whose Capstone Project targets racial and ethnic disparities for disorderly conduct charges in schools. The Capstone team brought together key stakeholders to redefine school protocols around when to contact law enforcement, implement a uniform set of graduate sanctions for in-school behaviors to limit law enforcement interventions for in-school behaviors, and create a community-based diversion program to address students’ behavioral issues. In two years, school-based arrests in the jurisdiction went down 61 percent, and the proportion of arrests for African American youth went down from 90 percent to 50 percent. The success of this “first-of-its-kind-in-the-state pre-charge” diversion program was recognized in a local newspaper in 2014.
David Tristan, Juvenile Court Officer from Iowa Juvenile Court Services, and Shawn Roth, Detective Sergeant from Iowa Davenport Police, presented their Capstone Project on behalf of the 2015 Scott County, Iowa team. Their Capstone Project resulted in the development of a diversion program for first time youth offenders who commit non-traffic, simple misdemeanor offenses. Through the collaboration of key stakeholders in the jurisdiction, rigorous trainings, policy revision, and implementation of diversion practices with fidelity, Scott County was able to not only reduce the number of juvenile court referrals from 1748 to 252 in two years, but also to divert all youth referred to juvenile court in 2016, of which over 50 percent were youth of color.
Finally, at CJJR’s Informational Luncheon, we highlighted the reform effort currently being implemented in Alachua County, Florida to reduce racial disparities in juvenile justice. The team came to CJJR’s 2015 RED Certificate Program and developed a multifaceted system of care structure focused on reducing the number of misdemeanor arrests and increasing the number of diversion referrals for youth of color. Bringing together key partners including law enforcement, education, mental health, Department of Juvenile Justice, and the court, leaders of these agencies collaborated to revise policies, train line staff, and engage the community. As a result, Alachua County has lowered the rate of misdemeanor arrests for youth of color by 44 percent, reduced school-based arrests by almost 80 percent, and increased law enforcement’s use of Civil Citations by 28 percent. Coincidentally, we were honored to have the Chief of Gainesville Police Department, Tony Jones, join us at the luncheon to informally discuss the reform efforts in Alachua County.
We congratulate these teams for their hard work and sharing their achievements with the field! If you would like to learn more about these Capstone Projects or get in contact with the teams, please contact Amber Farn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about our work to reduce racial and ethnic disparities here.