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How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life
Options of Minority Youth



Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute

Better Health Through Stronger Communities:
Public Policy Reform to Expand Life Paths of
Young Men of Color

How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces
Life Options of Minority Youth

Edgar S. Cahn
with research assistance from

Scott M. Haapala and Miles W. Swanson


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth

Opinions expressed in Joint Center publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, officers, or
Board of Governors of the Joint Center or the organizations supporting the Joint Center and its research.
Copyright 2006 by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
1090 Vermont Ave., Suite 1100, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States.

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute

Executive Summary.......................................................................................................................................................................................vii
I. Introduction................................................................................................................................................................................................1
II. Tripwires to the Juvenile Justice System......................................................................................................................................................2
A. How Schools Push Youth into Incarceration...................................................................................................................................2
B. The Criminal Justice System as a Dumping Ground for Youth with Special Education
Needs, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Problems....................................................................................................................2
C. The Increasing Use of Status Offenses to Incarcerate Youth............................................................................................................3
D. The War on Drugs..........................................................................................................................................................................3
E. The “Invisible Punishment” of Minority Youth...............................................................................................................................4
III. Right to Counsel and Due Process............................................................................................................................................................4
A. Eligibility and Appointment of Counsel.........................................................................................................................................4
B. Waiver of Counsel..........................................................................................................................................................................4
C. Bail and Its Effect on the Indigent..................................................................................................................................................5
D. The Role of Probation Officers.......................................................................................................................................................6
E. The Impact of High Caseloads........................................................................................................................................................6
F. Training, Pay, and Support Services................................................................................................................................................7
G. Pre-Trial Preparation and Trial Performance...................................................................................................................................7
H. Post-Dispositional Representation..................................................................................................................................................8
IV. Disproportionate Minority Confinement and Contact..............................................................................................................................8
V. The Dumping Grounds............................................................................................................................................................................10
A. Mental Health..............................................................................................................................................................................10
B. Substance Abuse...........................................................................................................................................................................12
C. Zero Tolerance.............................................................................................................................................................................12
VI. Youth in the Adult System......................................................................................................................................................................13
A. Prosecution of Juveniles as Adults: Waiver and Transfer Provisions................................................................................................13
B. Prosecution of Juveniles as Adults: The Practical Reality................................................................................................................14
VII. Recommendations.................................................................................................................................................................................15
A. The Starting Point: Keep the Youth Out of the System.................................................................................................................15
B. Probation Officer Assessment Tools and Best Practices..................................................................................................................16
C. Criticisms of Diversion — and Responses....................................................................................................................................21
D. Beyond Diversion........................................................................................................................................................................22
VIII. A Framework for the Development of a System that Expands Life Options for Minority Youth...........................................................22
A. Co-Production: Partnerships between Community, Families, Youth, and the Formal Juvenile Justice System................................22
1. An Asset Perspective: Community Building Programs.........................................................................................................23
2. Honoring Contribution: Incentive Programs.......................................................................................................................25
3. Reciprocity: Self-Esteem Programs......................................................................................................................................26
4. Social Networks: Family and Community Support Programs..............................................................................................27
5. Respect................................................................................................................................................................................29
B. Effective Legal Representation for Youth: Legal Advocacy Programs.............................................................................................31
1. Services for Juveniles in Incarceration..................................................................................................................................35
2. Providing Effective Education and Rehabilitation Services..................................................................................................36
3. Transitional Skills................................................................................................................................................................37
4. Improving Incarceration Special Education.........................................................................................................................37
IX. Conclusion.............................................................................................................................................................................................37
About the Author and the Joint Center Health Policy Institute.....................................................................................................................46
List of Dellums Commission Members and Commission Background Reports............................................................................................46

How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute

During the past twenty-five years, a series of public
policies have had a negative impact upon young men from
communities of color. These policies, which have been
enacted and often amended incrementally, are numerous.
They include the abandonment of rehabilitation and
treatment for drug users in favor of interdiction and criminal
sanctions in the 1980s, state policies to divert youthful
offenders to adult criminal systems, and the imposition
of zero-tolerance policies to exclude youth with problems
from public schools in the 1990s. These policies have had a
cumulative and hardening effect of limiting life options for
young men of color. High school dropout rates and declining
enrollment in postsecondary education, at the same time that
rates of incarceration increase, are explained, to a significant
degree, by these policies.

The work of the Dellums Commission is part of a larger
effort by the Joint Center Health Policy Institute (HPI) to
ignite a “Fair Health” movement that gives people of color
the inalienable right to equal opportunity for healthy lives. In
igniting such a movement, HPI seeks to help communities
of color identify short- and long-term policy objectives and
related activities that:
• Address the economic, social, environmental, and
behavioral determinants of health;
• Allocate resources for the prevention and effective
treatment of chronic illness;
• Reduce infant mortality and improve child and
maternal health;

The Dellums Commission, chaired by former Congressman
and Mayor-elect Ron Dellums, was formed by the Health
Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and
Economic Studies to analyze policies that affect the physical,
emotional, and social health of young men of color and
their communities and to develop an action plan to alter
those public policies that limit life paths for young men of
color. To understand the issues more fully and to inform its
deliberations in formulating an ambitious but realistic action
plan, the Dellums Commission asked experts in various
fields to prepare background papers on specific issues.
These background papers serve to inform the Dellums
Commission’s recommendations.

• Reduce risk factors and support healthy behaviors among
children and youth;
• Improve mental health and reduce factors that
promote violence;
• Optimize access to quality health care; and
• Create conditions for healthy aging and the improvement
of the quality of life for seniors.
We are grateful to Edgar S. Cahn for preparing this
paper and to those Joint Center staff members who have
contributed to the work of the Health Policy Institute and
to the preparation, editing, design, and publication of this
paper and the other background papers. Most of all, we
are grateful to Mayor-elect Dellums, the members of the
Commission, and Dr. Gail Christopher, Joint Center vice
president for health, women and families, for their dedication
and commitment to improving life options for young men of
color across the United States.

This background paper focuses on racial disparities in the
juvenile justice system. It provides an analysis of reasons that
minority youth are overrepresented in the juvenile justice
system and ways in which the system negatively affects the
life options of these youth, including a state-by-state review
of access to counsel and practices that contribute to these
disparities. In addition to recommendations for reducing
disparities, this paper provides a framework for developing a
system that expands the life options of minority youth. This
paper complements and reinforces the conclusions of other
Dellums Commission background papers on education,
health, criminal and juvenile justice, recidivism, the child
welfare system, the media, and community well-being.

Margaret C. Simms
Interim President and CEO
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute

When it comes to minority youth, the juvenile justice
system fails in two ways. It fails to deliver equal justice
by protecting the presumption of innocence upon which
our legal system is built. And it fails to protect the more
fundamental presumption that youth are youth and that
growing up involves learning by trial and error. Most youth,
at some point, do something prohibited by law. But for
minority youth, that first mistake triggers a narrowing of life
options reflected in disproportionate contact with the system,
disproportionate confinement by the system, and a spiraling
descent, first into custodial confinement in institutions for
juveniles and then, following a higher and higher probability,
into prison when, or even before, they reach adulthood.
Minority youth grow up in a minefield of trip wires labeled
“zero tolerance,” “the war on drugs,” truancy, mental health
problems, lack of parental support, learning disability, and
enforced custodial care stemming from abuse and neglect.
Institutionalization through the juvenile justice system
supplies an all-purpose dumping ground for youth of
color—even though more effective, humane, and economical
alternatives are available.
The legal system holds out a framework designed to ensure
that juveniles enjoy a protected developmental status. That
protection is enshrined in the Constitution, the Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and the
American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Standards. The
research examined in preparing this report includes a wideranging set of rigorous empirical studies. In the course of
this research, we have yet to identify a single jurisdiction in
compliance with the law, delivering what the law guarantees,
for youth of color.
Juveniles of color pay the price. They waive their right to
counsel without knowing what that means. Their competence
or lack of competence to stand trial is ignored. Youth of
color are disproportionately detained rather than sent home.
They are denied the option to post bail.
And as for the public defense counsel—they live with
caseloads that make effective representation impossible; they
often do not get to see their young clients until just before it
is time to enter a plea; and they lack investigative and support
staff, adequate training, and adequate pay. They pressure
juveniles to accept a plea bargain regardless of innocence
or mitigating circumstances. There is an over-reliance on
probation officers who make recommendations and function
de facto as judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel combined.
Minority youth are rarely adequately represented in the

critical process of fashioning a sentence. Once incarcerated,
youth do not get the guaranteed education or therapeutic
services required by law. And it gets no better following
As a result, up to 75 percent of a city’s young men of color
come into contact with the police. By 2004, 60 percent of
African American youth who had dropped out of school
had spent time in prison. Black men make up more than half
the population in prison, even though they only make up
12 percent of the total population. Life options close down
early—and stay closed.

The natural “juvenile justice system” that we most often
count on in everyday life to respond to deviant juvenile
behavior is not the formal legal system but the world
of family, schools, peer groups, and community-based
organizations. Real justice for juveniles will require a
partnership between that world and the formal law
enforcement system.
Juveniles make good and bad choices trying to figure out
how to survive, how to gain respect, and how to realize
dreams and hope for the future. The most effective “juvenile
justice” initiatives are those that enlist the youth, their peers,
their families, their neighbors, and neighborhood-based
institutions as partners. Those initiatives provide an array of
incentives and sanctions that signal what kinds of behavior
will and will not enable youth to survive, to be valued, to
develop, and to shape their future. This report contends
that the best investment will be in those initiatives that
involve youth in helping others, that enable them to define
themselves as contributors, that foster a peer culture that
rewards doing the right thing, that enlists the energy of youth
in making a better world, and that mobilizes peer pressure to
disapprove of and sanction behavior that endangers others,
impairs healthy development, or interferes with the rights of
Reforming the current system requires a five-pronged set of
1. Divert most youth offenders from the system at the
outset in ways that make the first contact with the law an
intervention point that avoids stigmatization, provides
needed assistance, advances youth development, and
rewards pro-social use of each youth’s strengths;
2. Provide safe, effective, and economical alternatives to
institutional placement, starting with wrap-around services
but extending to opportunities for the youth and family to
function as assets and contributors, and help them rebuild
their communities;


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
3. Honor the right to effective counsel for juveniles whose
offenses require the system to consider the need for
institutional placement in order to protect the community;
4. Provide the educational and rehabilitative services
guaranteed by law to those juveniles who are

All of these initiatives have been undertaken in one place
or another. The challenge is to set in motion a process that
aligns the entire system of juvenile justice with what those
initiatives have proven possible. The youth themselves
are the single most underutilized resource in changing the
system. The recommendations section at the end of this
report describes specific exemplary programs that have
demonstrated what can and should be done.

5. Halt the trend toward treating juvenile offenders as adult
criminals and the trend toward building more and more
prisons as a response to crimes committed by juveniles.

The Proportion of African American
Youth Increases at Every Stage of
Involvement in the Justice System

African American youth make up 15% of
the youth population as a whole
African American youth make up 26% of
youth who are arrested
African American youth make up 44% of
youth who are detained
African American youth make up 46% of
youth judicially waived to criminal court
African American youth make up 58% of
youth admitted to state prisons





Source: Eileen Poe-Yamagata and Michael A. Jones, And Justice for Some: Differential Treatment of
Minority Youth in the Justice System (Washington, D.C.: Building Blocks for Youth, April 2000).



Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute


In 1967, the socioeconometrician Alfred Blumstein predicted
that if then-current patterns continued, the chances of a
city-living black male being arrested at some time in his life
for a non-traffic offense was as high as 90 percent.8 In 1990,
the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project revealed that
on an average day in the United States, one in every four
African American men ages 20-29 was either in prison or jail
or on probation/parole.9 In 1992, the National Center on
Institutions and Alternatives estimated that approximately
75 percent of all the 18-year-old African American males
in Washington, D.C. could look forward to being arrested
and jailed at least once before reaching 35. In both D.C.
and Baltimore, on an average day, over 50 percent of all
young African American males were either in prison, in
jail, on probation/parole, on bail, or being sought on arrest

“The right to counsel for juveniles was established in 1967
with the landmark case In re Gault. In Gault, Supreme
Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote, ‘under our Constitution the
condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court,’
and the Court ruled against the argument that a probation
officer or judge could adequately represent a minor, given the
‘awesome prospect’ of incarceration until the age of majority.
The Supreme Court held in Gault that children have the
right to remain silent and that no child can be convicted
unless compelling evidence is presented in court, under the due
process clause of the 14th amendment. Gault was a major
change in juvenile law in that it upheld the constitutional
rights of children. As Justice Fortas wrote: ‘Neither the 14th
amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults only.’ The
6th amendment also protects children’s rights to assistance
of defense counsel and, moreover, to effective assistance of
counsel.” 1

The disparity begins with arrests. A combination of policies
and practices, which are detailed in this paper result in the
statistical probability that, whether innocent or guilty of
an offense, a majority of minority youth will have been
arrested before reaching the age of 21. Following arrest, it is
more likely that they will be detained rather than sent home.
And once detained, it is far more likely that they will be

In theory, the right to counsel ought to ensure that the life
options enjoyed by juveniles of color are not reduced by
the justice system. Gault sought to create a constitutionally
mandated level playing field for juveniles in protecting the
presumption of innocence and ensuring that they were not
unduly subject to loss of liberty. Yet, statistics show that
the legal requirements that Gault imposed are not being
implemented, and an unsettling number of children are
paying the price.

This state of affairs clearly violates national policy as set
forth in the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act
(JJDPA). The Act was designed to “provide the necessary
resources, leadership and coordination to develop and
conduct effective programs to prevent delinquency, to divert
juveniles from the traditional juvenile justice system and to
provide critically needed alternatives to institutionalization
…”11 In Cruz v. Collazo, the Supreme Court declared that the
statute clearly evinced the intention to implement the least
restrictive alternatives in providing the necessary resources
to be provided for the states to develop programs to divert
juveniles from the traditional juvenile justice system and to
provide alternatives to institutionalization.12 Unfortunately,
the statute did not create a “private right of action” to enable
youth to enforce that intent or hold states accountable in
using those funds to realize that objective.

Minority youth, who make up 23 percent of the total
population ages 10 to 17, constitute 52 percent of
incarcerated youth.2 The latest data provided by the Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reveal
that in 1997 there were 7,400 new admissions of juveniles
to correctional facilities and three out of four of them were
minority youth.3 That overrepresentation is present at every
stage in the juvenile justice process, and African American
youth are the most overrepresented.4 In six states and the
District of Columbia, minority youth constitute more than
75 percent of juveniles in residential placement.5 And that
stark disparity does not disappear when they become adults.
Minorities make up approximately 12 percent of the total
population, but make up 63 percent of the incarcerated
population.6 “Black men are the only group to hold the
distinction of having more of their number in prison than in

Even without a private cause of action, the right to counsel
could have gone far in advancing that objective. Effective
representation at the earliest stages can have important
effects on the outcome of a case. An attorney who talks to a
client immediately after arrest can:

This paper seeks to provide (1) an overview; (2) a synopsis
of reviews made on a state-by-state basis of access to
counsel and practices that produce these disparities; and (3)
recommendations together with actual examples of ways
to prevent the juvenile justice system from reducing the life
options of minority youth.

• Learn about conversations that the youth may have had
with police, intake workers, and family;
• Explain the process and ensure that the youth does not
inappropriately waive the right to counsel, admit guilt, or
make other detrimental statements or decisions;


The Impact of Waivers to
the Court,
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youth on Young Men of Color
• Quickly identify people who are in a position to speak well
of the youth (e.g., teachers, ministers) and ask them to
testify on the youth’s behalf; and

disruptive students. Like zero-tolerance drug policies, zerotolerance discipline arises out of fear, and assumes that a
‘tough’ stance that reassures the community that schools are
still in control will somehow solve the underlying problems.
Available evidence contradicts that assumption, however.
In the almost 15 years since the initial application of zero
tolerance in school settings, and the 7 years since zero
tolerance was made national policy for firearms in schools,
there are no credible data that the policy contributes to
improved student behavior or increased school safety.”13

• Provide the detention hearing judge with enough
information (e.g., family strengths, possibility of placement
with extended family, or other alternatives to detention) to
warrant release rather than detention.
But no such benefit can arise if appointment of counsel
comes too late or if the youth is not effectively represented.
In some jurisdictions, appointment of counsel for arrested
youth may not take place until the youth appears in court.
And so far, there does not appear to be any state where
juveniles are adequately represented. As we shall see, in most
states juveniles waive their right to counsel without knowing
the implications of that decision. Even where counsel is
routinely appointed, they commonly enter a plea bargain of
guilty without the opportunity and often without even trying
to determine whether a valid defense is available.

Zero-tolerance policies do not take into account the realities
of youth in the educational and criminal system, as well as
adolescent development. For example, zero-tolerance policies
in Maryland have resulted in the creation of School Resource
Officers. These are law enforcement officials from the local
police department or sheriff ’s office who patrol school
grounds and occasionally teach classes to students or staff
on subjects concerning school safety. The primary mission
of School Resource Officers is “to patrol, to investigate, to
apprehend, and to process criminals.”14 The Resource Officer
may also be called upon to investigate criminal activities
off campus that may involve students of the school. By
mandating the use of police officers in our schools, youth are
criminalized as soon as they enter the school’s hallways.

It is not as much the criminality of the behavior that brings
juveniles into the justice system, but the lack of viable
alternatives and diversion programs for children with severe
emotional and behavioral problems, children who have been
expelled from school, and children whose families cannot
provide adequate care. Incarceration of youth becomes the
default response to any deviant behavior with which the
justice system or other youth serving systems are unable to

A zero-tolerance policy enables the school system to push
kids out and into the juvenile justice system, particularly
those children with special education needs. A Maryland
juvenile court judge described what was happening to
special education children: “Learning disabled kids are being
dumped into the juvenile justice system because the Board
of Education is not doing what they need to do. Children are
not identified as Special Education, they do not receive the
services they need, they cannot read and the schools just pass
them along. As soon as they act out they are kicked out.”15

The evidence below, detailing an over-reliance on the
traditional juvenile justice system, indicates a failure to adhere
to the JJDPA’s preference of diversion over incarceration.


Zero tolerance, mental heath problems, status offenses, and the war on
drugs are tripwires that have greatly increased the odds that a young
person of color will enter the juvenile justice system.

There is increasing evidence that zero-tolerance policies,
while facially neutral, are having a disproportionate impact
on students of color.16 Black students, already suspended
or expelled at higher rates than their peers, suffer the most
under these zero-tolerance policies. Zero tolerance means
that black students will be pushed out of schools and into
detention cells faster.17

Today, with the implementation of “zero-tolerance”
policies, youth face arrest and incarceration for a variety of
misdemeanors that previously would never have warranted
involvement with the juvenile justice system. Instead of
sending youth who get in trouble at school to the principal’s
office, youth are now often sent straight into the criminal
justice system. These policies were implemented with the
purpose of “getting tough” on crime and were a result of the
1980s drug policies. “With regard to school discipline (the
policy) intends, through severe punishment of both serious
and non-serious offenses, to ‘send a message’ to potentially

There are way too many kids here who have no business being
here but, nonetheless, end up pleading to some offense. Whose
responsibility is it? It is a severe failing of the system.
— Washington State Detention Center Staff18


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
Children with mental health problems, learning disabilities,
behavioral problems, and addiction issues are not getting
what they need in the community, so they often end up in the
juvenile court system. In particular, youth with mental health
problems and substance abuse problems that manifest in
anti-social behavior are facing, as one youth advocate termed
it, “punishment in lieu of treatment.”19 In 1994, a study by
the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
found that 73 percent of juveniles screened at admission to
a juvenile correctional facility had mental health problems
and 57 percent reported having prior mental health treatment
or hospitalization.20 The National Mental Health Alliance
estimates one-quarter to one-third of youth have anxiety
or mood disorders and approximately 19 percent of youth
involved with the juvenile justice system are suicidal.21

There is no comprehensive oversight to monitor compliance
with the JJDPA; thus, it is difficult to evaluate whether it is
being effectively implemented. Status offenders constitute a
large percentage of youth offenders and overcrowded youth
shelters still force many jurisdictions to place status offenders
in juvenile correction facilities.24 In many rural areas, juvenile
correctional facilities are the only option aside from adult
correctional facilities for status offenders, even when it is
clear other services would be appropriate.25
“According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice
(NCJJ), approximately 80 percent of status offenders are
diverted from formal prosecution without the filing of a
court petition; thus, the NCJJ statistics on petitioned cases
provide only a partial view of the total national status
offender picture.”26 Black youths are more likely to be
petitioned to court for a status offense than whites or other
youths (5.5 per 1,000 for blacks versus 3.8 per 1,000 for
whites or others).27 Black status offenders are also more likely
than whites to be sent to an out-of-home placement.28

It is clear that the lack of appropriate treatment in the
community has led to the use of the juvenile justice system as
a band-aid to provide treatment for children in need. In many
states, inpatient services do not exist and often there are few
effective outpatient services. Frequently, youth entering the
juvenile justice system who are in obvious need of mental
health services or substance abuse treatment will simply be
incarcerated because there is no other place to put them.

The so-called “war on drugs” has had a devastating effect on
minorities and particularly minority youth. Although white
youth sell and use drugs at the same or higher rates as youth
of color,29 black and Latino youth are arrested, prosecuted,
and imprisoned at dramatically higher rates for drug-related

Status offenses are actions which would not lead to an
arrest if committed by an adult. The most common status
offenses are truancy, running away from home, incorrigibility
(disobeying parents), curfew violations, and alcohol
possession by minors.

• In 1980, 14.5 percent of all juvenile drug arrests were black
youth; by 1990, black youth constituted 48.8 percent of
juvenile drug arrests.30

The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act requires
states to “provide within three years ... that juveniles
who are charged with or who have committed offenses
that would not be criminal if committed by an adult (i.e.,
status offenders), shall not be placed in juvenile detention
or correctional facilities, but must be placed in shelter
facilities.”22 Congress specified that status offenders and nonoffenders must be removed from “secure” juvenile detention
and correctional facilities and prohibited juveniles—including
accused and adjudicated delinquents, status offenders, and
non-offenders—from being detained in adult jails and
lockups. Excluded from this requirement are juveniles who
have committed violations of the Youth Handgun Act and
juveniles who are charged with or who have committed a
violation of a valid court order. The JJDPA further mandates
state policies to require individuals who work with both such
juveniles and adult inmates to be trained and certified to
work with juveniles.23

• A black youth with a drug case is more than twice as likely
to be held in police custody for a drug offense as a white
youth.31 While half of all drug arrests involving white youth
result in formal processing, 75 percent of drug arrests
involving black youth are prosecuted.32
• Among young people incarcerated in juvenile facilities for
the first time on a drug charge, the rate of commitment
among black youth is 48 times that of whites, while the rate
for Latino youth is 13 times that of whites.
• Black youth are three times more likely than white youth
to be admitted to an adult prison for a drug conviction.34
While the rate of young whites being sent to prison for
drug offenses from 1986-1996 doubled, the comparable
black rate increased six-fold.35
These statistics are astounding. The nation’s war on drugs
not only incarcerates minority youth at a higher rate than
white youth, but continues to punish them and limit their life
options well after they have served their time.


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youthon Young Men of Color


Because of the complex interaction of socioeconomic
disadvantage, institutional racism, and discriminatory
sentencing policies, minority youth are more likely to be
incarcerated than white youth. The collateral consequences—
termed “invisible punishment” by Jeremy Travis, former
director of the National Institute of Justice—are legal
barriers, which are increasingly and disproportionately
harming the life options of young African Americans—in
particular, their economic, political, and social well-being.36
For anyone convicted of a felony drug offense, the collateral
consequences include lifetime bans on the receipt of welfare
and food stamp benefits.37 For anyone convicted of any
drug-related activity, the collateral consequences include
the denial of public housing benefits and the denial of
student loans.38 As minority youth are disproportionately
convicted and incarcerated for drug-related offenses, their
ability to participate in their communities when they are
released from incarceration is drastically affected. Also,
laws that disenfranchise felons in general have the same
disproportionate effect on African Americans as the
restrictions on drug offenders.39

In some states, access to counsel is blocked by complicated
processes and burdensome fees and eligibility requirements.
Many states have no uniform system for assigning counsel
to accused youth, leaving it up to each respective county to
make the determination. In Maryland, local public defender
offices are responsible for assigning counsel, resulting in
unequal access across the state. The Public Defenders offices
impose various fees on youth and parents, often without
assessing their income levels.40 Frequently, states require the
youth or the parents to fill out overly burdensome forms
to be eligible for counsel. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, there
are many problems with the screening process used to
determine indigence. The typical screening form is designed
for adult indigence determinations and is rarely adapted
for juveniles. It asks the youth for personal information,
usually only known by their parents, such as monthly income
and employment information, asset information, allowable
monthly expenses such as child support, child care, medical
and dental expenses, transportation costs, and monthly costs,
such as rent, food, and credit cards.41 The parent often must
apply in person within a short window of time to secure
representation. In Maryland, parents have ten days after
arraignment and prior to adjudication to gather the necessary
paperwork and get to the public defender’s office.42 This can
present a challenge for parents who are working full time or
are otherwise unavailable.

The above tripwires for minority youth entering the criminal
justice system and the continuing “invisible punishment”
once they are released play a major role in limiting their life
options. A key component in all of this is exactly how the
criminal justice system interacts with minority youth when
they enter the criminal justice system. Do the inequalities of
the juvenile justice system extend to access to counsel and
quality representation? Clearly, they do. From the beginning,
during appointment of counsel to incarceration and through
the appeal process, minority youth are continually at a
significant disadvantage in the criminal justice system.

The Institute of Judicial Administration/American
Bar Association (IJA/ABA) Juvenile Justice Standards
provide that juveniles “should not be permitted to waive
constitutional rights on their own” during custodial
interrogation.43 Despite these standards, across all states,
waiver of counsel is a common and pervasive occurrence.
Most children are not aware of their right to or the benefits
of counsel. Sometimes, youth are told by a probation officer
or even a district attorney that they do not really need an
attorney. Other times, the youth might be too afraid to speak
up or totally unable to understand the consequences of their
waiver.44 When juveniles do waive counsel, it is up to the
judge to ensure that they understand the consequences of
that decision. However, according to a Washington Juvenile
Justice Assessment Project survey, judges fail to discuss the
voluntary nature of such waiver 69 percent of the time.45
“At times, children proceed without counsel even though
they have not waived the right to an attorney. Hearings may
proceed for reasons of expediency, and no formal waiver
is even attempted.”46 These are unacceptable reasons for
denying juveniles their right to counsel and increase the
likelihood that they will fall deeper into the justice system.

Over the past seven years, the American Bar Association
Juvenile Justice Center has been assessing the status of this
nation’s juvenile justice system. Its reports reveal a system
that is not providing equal access to counsel. This failure
contributes directly to the disproportionate incarceration of
minorities, the use of jails as a dumping ground for children
with mental health and drug abuse problems, and conversion
of the juvenile justice system into a vehicle for entry into the
adult criminal justice system. The overwhelming majority of
individuals working in the juvenile justice system are trying
their best to positively affect the lives of children. However,
the limited resources they have been provided with and the
flawed framework of the system have created a war that
cannot be won.


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
In some states, it was reported that youth waived their right
to counsel 40 to 50 percent of the time.47 In one Louisiana
parish, it was estimated to be 90 percent of the time.48
“In the absence of effective counsel … juveniles may be
unable to make an informed choice and may enter into
a plea bargain because they do not fully understand the

waive counsel without ever talking to an attorney and
do not understand what waiver means, and yet their
competency to waive counsel is not challenged.53

The IJA/ABA’s Juvenile Justice Standards strongly discourages
money bail for juveniles, stating, “The use of bail bonds
in any form as an alternative interim status should be
prohibited.”54 The JJDPA suggests that existing alternatives
to secure detention, such as conditional release, electronic
monitoring, shelter care, contract homes, or house arrest
should be explored and proffered to the court as alternative
means of guaranteeing the appearance of a child in court.55
While most states’ laws expressly “equate a juvenile’s right to
bail with the right possessed by an adult, the use of money
bail in the juvenile system has been criticized particularly
because it disadvantages indigent defendants, especially
children, who are not usually financially independent.”56
The use of bail in the juvenile courts should not become a
substitute for other, more appropriate forms of release. The
IJA/ABA’s Juvenile Justice Standards states a strong presumption
for incarceration release and consider the following as the
only permissible factors for pretrial detention:

“Plea bargains are not inherently bad or even detrimental to
the youth as long as they are not made for expediency’s sake
and the youth clearly is guilty. Juvenile Justice Standards (IJAABA, 1980) provides that a juvenile should not accept a plea
bargain unless it is clear that the juvenile fully understands
the alternative choices and the implications of a plea bargain
in the event of rearrest or failure to adhere to sentencing and
probation provisions.”50
Although children are usually advised of their right to
counsel during arraignment, waiver is often obtained even
before the youth has spoken with an attorney. In some
jurisdictions, it has been reported that probation officers
obtained and even encouraged the waiver of counsel.
Certain states have restrictions in place that prevent youth
from waiving their right to counsel. For example, Montana
prevents a youth or parents from waiving counsel if
adjudication could result in a sentence for a period of more
than six months.51 Maine was one of the only states in
which judges took an active role in stemming this problem
by regularly refusing to accept waivers of counsel and pleas
before a juvenile has been given the opportunity to speak
with counsel.52

• Protecting the jurisdiction and processes of the court [to
ensure appearance of a child in court];
• Reducing the likelihood that the juvenile may inflict serious
bodily harm on others during the interim period; or
• Protecting the accused juvenile from imminent bodily harm
upon his or her request.57

The OJJDP’s 2004 report on access to counsel discusses
concerns about juveniles waiving their right to detention

“Georgia is a prime example of how this use of bail
affects juveniles from poorer backgrounds. Children in the
delinquency system have a right to bail in Georgia, although
that right can only be invoked by the parent or guardian.
Under Georgia law, a juvenile himself cannot request
that bail be set, even though the right as a constitutional
matter belongs to the youth and it is his liberty, not that
of his family member, at stake. Most courts do not inform
children and their parents of the right to bail, and the few
jurisdictions that utilize a bail system do not follow any
discernible guidelines about the appropriate level of bail or
form of security to set for juveniles.”58 In one jurisdiction,
the court routinely set bail amounts upwards of $2,500 for
nonviolent charges without conducting an inquiry into the
family’s ability to post bond, the potential harm in releasing
the child, or the likelihood that the child will not appear for
the next court hearing.59 As one appointed counsel observed
about this process, “bail is used as a means to continue
custody when no legal grounds exist.”60

In the ABA Juvenile Justice Center’s 1995 national
study, 34 percent of public defenders’ offices and a
similar proportion of court-appointed counselors
reported that some juveniles waive their rights at the
detention hearing. Forty-six percent said that only
“sometimes” or “rarely” is there an advisory colloquy
with the judge before the youth waives this right. More
recent interviews with state attorneys and court officers
found that both the time the judges allot for colloquies
and the quality of colloquies varied considerably.
Reasons cited for waiver were that juveniles think
their case is not very serious and parents fear the
cost of engaging an attorney (perhaps unaware that
one could be appointed free of charge or unable to
navigate the eligibility procedures). In states with high
waiver rates, researchers found that many juveniles


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youthon Young Men of Color

national survey, the ABA found that excessive caseloads
were “the single most important barrier to effective
representation” and led to burnout and job dissatisfaction.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance recommends
an annual caseload no greater than 200 to 250 for public
defenders handling juvenile cases on a full-time basis,
national and state studies indicate that caseloads are much
larger. The average juvenile caseload in the ABA’s national
survey was 300 (of a total caseload exceeding 500).67
Although some states have minimum practice standards
to limit the maximum number of cases that should be
undertaken, they are rarely followed or enforced.

Probation officers play too large a role in the adjudication
process, often filling the roles of counsel and judge. As
employees of the court, they are increasingly relied upon
to make recommendations about probation and detention,
negotiate binding consent agreements, and serve as key
witnesses in disposition hearings.
One probation officer shared, “I tell the kids to waive
counsel. What’s the point? Look who’s representing them
[referring to the public defenders]?”61

I had 30 arraignments a week ... [I would get the cases and
have no time to prepare.] The only way to do it is to create an
assembly line. I can only survive if I plead out half of my cases
at arraignment. A ‘good’ attorney can’t survive. My caseload
was way too high to be able to do a decent job. I would have my
secretary fill out a [guilty] plea form on every case right when we
got the case. Then I’d have it ready for arraignment, a completed
[guilty] plea form in every file.
— Former Washington State Public Defender68

Many juvenile defense attorneys expressed concern about
the judges’ total reliance on the court service unit to make
recommendations and their almost absolute deference to
those recommendations. Youth interviewed in detention
expressed confusion between the role of their lawyers and
probation officers who often took on the responsibility of
counseling youth about their legal rights and options.62
In Georgia, it was reported that judges adopt
recommendations from the probation officer on detention
and disposition an average of 95 percent of the time, and for
sentencing, defer to their assessment of a child’s character
and demeanor.63 Defense attorneys rarely object. In one
Montana county courtroom, counsel agreed with probation
officers on disposition almost 90 percent of the time.64

In some jurisdictions, juvenile caseloads do not necessarily
exceed 200 in a year, but attorneys often must handle cases in
district court and circuit court, as well as their juvenile cases,
pushing their caseloads well above standards.
In some instances, it was reported that lawyers may have 15
cases set for trial on one day, or 40 to 50 cases on calendar
for a day.69 One public defender described the caseload as
“mind-numbing.” Thus, in most jurisdictions the problem
of excessive caseloads is present despite the apparently low
numbers of juvenile cases. It was reported in Maryland that
caseloads can be well over 360 cases.70 In Washington, public
defenders averaged about 400 cases annually, with some
carrying as many as 700 cases.71 In Georgia, average caseloads
for juvenile defense attorneys were estimated to be over
900 cases per year.72 There is no doubt that heavy caseloads
inevitably prevent lawyers from establishing meaningful client
contact and providing effective representation.

The role of a probation officer is often unclear in the
juvenile defense system. As juvenile defense attorneys
have limited resources at their disposal, they often rely on
probation officers for essential background knowledge on
the case. Specifically, in Pennsylvania, probation officers are
usually relied upon quite heavily in the disposition phase of
a case. Prosecutors and judges also rely heavily on probation
officers “for conducting a predisposition investigation and
making sentencing recommendations. In this capacity, the
probation officer serves as the key witness, and his or her
predisposition report is the central, if not the only, piece of
evidence the court considers in sentencing a child.”65

“In many states surveyed, large caseloads result in an
over-dependence on probation officers, who often have
more contact with youth—either in detention facilities
or other placements—than do attorneys. Juveniles may
not understand that the probation officer has no duty of
confidentiality to them and that what they say to the officer
can be used against them in court. When overburdened
defense counsel rely on information from probation officers,
the attorney’s role as an advocate may be diluted.”73

In many cases, probation officers have elicited incriminating
statements from juveniles, in the absence of counsel, which
were later used against the youths at trial. In Louisiana, it
is common for probation officers to carry guns, as firearm
training incurs a significant salary boost.66

Public defenders are overloaded with cases and, as a direct
result, the quality of their representation suffers. In its


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute


Lack of training, inadequate pay, and substandard support
services all contribute to the relatively poor level of
representation for youth. Most states have no minimum
practice standards, and attorneys fresh out of law school
undertake juvenile defense without an understanding of the
complex issues involved in the cases. Low salary caps force
attorneys to take more cases than they can handle. Public
defenders have severely limited resources at their disposal.

It is no surprise that overloaded, underpaid, and
inexperienced attorneys with limited resources at their
disposal are not able to provide quality representation.
Counsel often arrive at the courtroom with little or no
information about the case and having barely met with their
client only minutes prior to adjudication.
It was reported in Maryland that 90 percent of detained
youth did not even know their public defender’s name.79
In Louisiana, out of more than 100 youth interviewed, 40
percent never met with their attorney prior to adjudication,
and another 29 percent met with their attorney for only a
few minutes prior to adjudication.80 The majority of public
defenders do not investigate the underlying facts of cases
or the educational, mental health, or other social history
required to represent young clients. Most of the defenders
do not have access to a trained and experienced investigator
for one reason or another, nor do they have readily available
social worker staff to collect social history information.
In Ohio, it was reported that only 55 percent of attorneys
bothered to ask their client about the circumstances
surrounding their arrest.81

The lack of training programs or classes for juvenile defense
varies from state to state. There is a general misconception
that juvenile law is easy and is the place where new attorneys
can gain experience before moving on to the adult criminal
system. States such as Texas, Montana, and Maine have little
or no judicial requirements for training prior to representing
juveniles and have no resources available to gain such
training. On the other hand, Maryland’s Office of the Public
Defender offers a program entitled Juvenile Court Attorney
Training, a one-week program dealing primarily with the
particular challenges and skills necessary to providing an
effective defense for juveniles. Social workers and attorneys
are used as instructors in the Maryland training program.
There are also follow-up classes available.74 Further, the lack
of knowledge surrounding regulations pertaining to children
in need of special education, such as the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), means that attorneys
cannot provide the best representation possible.

When cases do go to trial, the level of advocacy is sub par.
In a majority of jurisdictions, the dispositional hearing is
held on the same day as the acceptance of the plea. Very
few attorneys present additional evidence at this hearing,
but instead, the majority report that they rely on the
recommendations of the probation officer. The reasons cited
for this reliance include the following:

Across the states, it was reported that inadequate pay was a
major problem in juvenile defense. Generally, pay varied from
county to county within the same state. Texas employs a flatfee pay system, creating a disincentive to perform more than
the minimal amount of work required.75 Other states employ
low salary caps; these are particularly problematic. Low salary
caps force attorneys to take on more cases to make up the
difference. In Virginia, the salary cap of $120 per case is so
low that many attorneys refuse to take juvenile delinquency
cases.76 Payment of hourly rates can be arbitrary, which
complicates the process even further. For example, it was
reported in Texas that judges routinely pay attorneys a certain
amount for the first court appearance and then significantly
reduce the amount for each subsequent appearance if the
case is not concluded that day. Another contributor to poor
representation is the significant gap in pay between public
defenders and prosecutors.77 In Louisiana, public defenders
are paid between $20,000 and $30,000 a year with no
benefits, while prosecutors are paid almost 50 percent more
with benefits.78

• Attorneys are not usually paid for work on
dispositional issues;
• Attorneys believe that the probation officers know better
than they do what is appropriate for the child; and
• Attorneys complain that there are not enough
dispositional alternatives available.82
Across all states, substandard representation is largely
attributable to the poor quality of advocacy and lack of
preparation by public defense attorneys. During adjudication,
these attorneys have trouble remembering clients’ and
witnesses’ names, are unfamiliar with the facts and
circumstances of the cases, and elicit damaging testimony
from their own clients on the witness stand.83 In Georgia, a
judge stated that in about 12 percent of the juvenile cases
that come before him, “defendants take the stand and wind
up admitting what they are charged with.”84 The lack of
advocacy also extends to the filing of pre-trial motions. In


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youthon Young Men of Color
Pennsylvania, for example, only 1 percent of appointed
counsel reported regularly filing pre-trial motions (e.g.,
suppression of evidence or violation of Miranda rights).85

system, their racial/ethnic differences tend to aggregate
and the minority youth suffer an enormous “cumulative


“In 1997, in 30 out of 50 states (which contain 83 percent of
the U.S. population) youth of color represented the majority
of youth in detention. Even in states with tiny ethnic and
racial minority populations (like Minnesota, where the
general population is 90 percent white, and Pennsylvania,
where the general population is 85 percent white), more than
half of the detention population are youth of color. In 1997,
OJJDP found that in every state in the country (with the
exception of Vermont), the minority population of detained
youth exceeded their proportion in the general population.”95
While African American youth currently represent 15 percent
of the nation’s overall youth population, they represent 26
percent of youth arrested, 31 percent of youth referred
to juvenile court, and 44 percent of detained youth.96 The
following statistics provide only a small sample of the
underlying problem.

A lack of post-dispositional representation was cited as a
major problem in all states. Most public defenders rarely
file an appeal or have any contact with their client postdisposition. Even if an appeal is filed it is common for the
process to take up to a year, leaving the child in limbo.86
Further complicating the process, courts often deny funding
for post-disposition advocacy.87
The statistics speak for themselves. In Louisiana, more than
90 percent of the youth surveyed had not had any contact
with their lawyer since being incarcerated.88 In Maryland,
between 1996 and 2002, just 32 juvenile appeals were
pending in the court of appeals. In some states, attorneys
were hard pressed to remember ever filing an appeal.89

• In one county, an estimated 95 percent of the
delinquency cases are African American, yet they
only comprise 40 percent of the county’s general
population. In a large urban county with a 45 percent
African American general population, 86 percent of
the delinquency cases involved African American
youth. The disproportionate number of detained
African American youth is particularly revealing.97

Throughout all the states, it was agreed that the costs
associated with post-dispositional advocacy presented the
biggest problem. In addition, it was unanimously agreed
upon that there was a certain futility in filing appeals when
the appeal process would take longer than the client’s
sentence and a stay of the sentence was not possible.


• In 2000, African American children made up 62
percent of the state’s overall detention population,
while only 29 percent of the general population was
African American. The figures are even starker for
long-term incarceration: 72 percent of children held
in secure correctional facilities in 1999 were African

According to the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention
Act, disproportionate minority confinement occurs
when the ratio of minorities in detention, correctional
facilities, and jails exceeds the percentage of the minority
population in the general population.90 “A 1993 University
of Washington study by Dr. George Bridges has shown that
disproportionate numbers of racial and ethnic minorities
are found at each stage of the process in the juvenile justice
system—starting from police stops on the street all the way
through to sentencing.”91

• According to studies by the Department of Juvenile
Justice (DJJ), in 2001, Hispanic and African American
male detention populations between the ages of 13
and 17 were projected to increase 31 percent and 24
percent, respectively, by 2006.99

The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002
broadens the Disproportionate Minority Confinement
initiative to encompass disproportionate minority contact
at all decision points in the juvenile justice system.92
The 2002 Act also requires intervention strategies that
include delinquency prevention and systems improvement
components. Yet, in 2003, a study initiated by the Building
Blocks Initiative in King County and conducted by
Christopher Murray & Associates concluded that “racial
disproportionality starts with the telephone to the detention
screeners.”93 As the youth are processed through the justice

• “Minority youth are typically overrepresented at
every stage in the juvenile justice process. In 1999,
minorities made up approximately 37 percent of
the juvenile population in the United States, yet 63
percent were held in juvenile detention facilities
before their adjudication or were committed to state
juvenile correctional facilities … Kentucky’s minority
population in 1999 totaled roughly 10 percent of the
total juvenile population in the state.”100


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
• “In Kentucky, more than 7,300 juveniles were
admitted to detention in 1999. Of those, minority
youth made up 41 percent of the detention
population. This rate is four times greater than
their proportion of the general Kentucky juvenile
population. Of the juveniles committed to the
custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice for
supervision and treatment, either in the community
or in a secure corrections program, approximately 25
percent were minorities. Additionally, between 1997
and 2000, African American youth made up more
than half of the youths transferred to adult court. The
proportion of black females in commitment was more
representative of the general population of black
female juveniles in the state. While these numbers do
not consider such factors as the offense committed or
number of prior referrals, they do provide evidence
of disproportionate minority confinement.”101

total of 18 white juveniles were arrested in the city
of Baltimore in 1980 and charged with drug sales;
by 1990, that number had actually dropped to 13
such arrests. In stark contrast, 86 black juveniles
were arrested in Baltimore in 1980 for drug sales; by
1990, with the drug war in full swing, that number
burgeoned to 1,304 black juveniles. Black juveniles in
Baltimore were being arrested for drugs at roughly
100 times the arrest rate than whites of the same
• In 1997, while white youth constituted 66 percent of
the juvenile court referral population, they made up
53 percent of the detained population. By contrast,
African American youth made up 14.3 percent of
the state population and 44 percent of the detained
population. In every offense category (person,
property, drug, public order), a substantially greater
percentage of African American youth were detained
than white youth.107

• “About 15 percent of the youth interviewed in
facilities expressed concern that the system showed
evidence of minority youth being treated differently
than their white counterparts, while only a handful
of youth noted differences based on gender and/or
handicapping conditions. While limited information
was obtained regarding the specifics of these
allegations, it is clear that the perception of some
youth in the system regarding disparate treatment is

• In 1997, 7,400 new admissions to adult prisons were
youth under the age of 18. Three out of four of these
youths were minorities.108
• “Over 75 percent of the children incarcerated in
Texas in 1997 were children of color.109 In 1999, the
number of Texas juveniles in Texas Youth Correction
(TYC) facilities exceeded the adult prison populations
of over a dozen states. Most of the incarcerated
youth in Texas are serving sentences for nonviolent

• Among drug offenses, 78 percent of those involving
African American youth are brought to trial,
compared to 56 percent of those involving white

• “Minorities comprised 50 percent of the youth
population statewide, but they accounted for 65
percent of the juveniles held in secure detention, 80
percent of the juveniles placed in secure corrections,
and 100 percent of the juveniles held in adult jails.”111

• In 14 of the 15 jurisdictions surveyed, alcohol
violations, simple assault, and theft/shoplifting
accounted for the most commonly committed
offenses by both white and African American youth.
The data demonstrate that although youth of all races
are committing similar types of offenses, minority
youth—particularly African American youth—are
being carried further along in the system than their
white counterparts.104

• Despite demographic differences, there was
agreement in every jurisdiction that children and
youth of color are overrepresented in Virginia’s
juvenile justice system. Studies by national
advocacy groups and the Virginia Department of
Criminal Justice Services show that minorities are
overrepresented at every stage of the process.112

• According to interviews with youth at several facilities
around the state, almost 50 percent of the youth
had been detained for probation violations, violating
electronic monitoring, or for outstanding warrants.105

• Even though many detention centers are regional,
housing youth from several different counties with
varying demographics, staff reported predominantly
African American detention populations. In one
jurisdiction, a detention administrator received a call

• “A study conducted by the National Center on
Institutions and Alternatives shows the devastating
effects of the drug war in Baltimore, Maryland. A


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youthon Young Men of Color
from a judge who requested the release of a group
of white youth from detention despite the intake
officer’s assessment that the youth presented a risk to
public safety. In a recent detention report, the Virginia
Department of Juvenile Justice projected that the
number of African American youth at risk for being
detained will increase by 11 percent between 2000 and

detention facilities, and 8 percent of youth incarcerated in
secure juvenile correctional facilities.116 Concerning Native
Americans, Albin et al. report that, although they “constitute
10 percent of Montana’s youth and 10 percent of juvenile
arrests, they comprised 14 percent of youth incarcerated in
secure juvenile correctional facilities, 15 percent of youth in
secure detention facilities and 19 percent of youth in adult
prisons … Native American youth suffer unique problems in
the state. Each Indian reservation in Montana has a different
collection of resources available to its youth. Most have few
resources internally and have further complications because
of multiple levels of jurisdiction for different youth.”117

Washington State
• “In 1998, Dr. Bridges released a study on probation
officers’ attitudes toward different racial groups.
He found that, holding all other factors constant,
probation pre-sentencing reports consistently
portrayed African American and white youth
differently, resulting in harsher sentences for the
African American children. ‘What struck me was
the profoundly different ways the reports described
children who are seemingly different only by their
race,’ said Dr. Bridges in an interview. ‘The children
would be charged with the same crime, be the same
age and have the same criminal history, but the
different ways [the children] were described was just

It has been stated in numerous articles, journals, assessments,
and books that the juvenile detention system has turned
into a dumping ground for community, school, and health
programs that are being under-funded and as the first,
instead of the last, resort for children with behavioral
problems. There arises an opportunity to help children
greatly in need, every time one enters the juvenile justice
system. Too often children end up in detention with the
difficulties in their life compounded.


• “A social worker interviewed described a review of
her caseload and realized that it was
disproportionately white, meaning that she was
receiving a disproportionate number of referrals
by defense attorneys for white youth. If a defender
doesn’t refer a case for help from a social worker, it
is less likely that case will have sentencing alternatives
developed. These types of devastating consequences
reinforce the need for defenders to receive training
as to how to address their own and systemic biases in
the justice system.”115

• One juvenile court judge estimates that more than 60
percent of the children in his court need mental
health services. “Half of my kids are on psychotropic
meds,” said one probation officer in a large urban
county. A DOJJ official estimated that “90 percent
of the girls in long-term secure facilities are on some
form of medication to address mental health illnesses
… The Commissioner of the DOJJ stated that 32
percent of the children in the Department’s custody
have been institutionalized for mental health problems
and 80 percent of these children are on some form of
psychotropic medication.”118

While a significant amount of data has been collected on
the disproportionate number of African Americans in the
juvenile justice system, the statistics also indicate a rising
number of Native Americans and Hispanics. Because many
Native Americans live on reservations, they are subject to
federal law and make up the majority of the juveniles in the
federal juvenile detention system. In the past, statistics were
not adequately tracking the number of Hispanics entering
into the system. Better tracking methods are now being
implemented to rectify this oversight. Many courts and
detention centers are lacking in translators, which has caused
significant problems in understanding court proceedings and
has prevented equal access to counsel.

• “Youth with learning disabilities and/or an emotional
disability are arrested at higher rates than their nondisabled peers.”119
• “It is estimated that 18 percent of mentally retarded,
31 percent of learning disabled, and 57 percent of
emotionally disturbed youth will be arrested within
five years of leaving high school.”120

Montana is one of the very few states where we have
statistics that might offer insight into the broader problem.
Hispanics in Montana comprise 2 percent of youth, 1
percent of youth in adult jails, 5 percent of youth in secure

• “According to one Department of Human Services
(DHS) employee, ‘hundreds of kids are being
committed to the custody of DHS because the


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
Department of Corrections (DOC) doesn’t have the
dollars to pay for their care.’ Under the use of ‘C-5’
hearings, a section of the juvenile code which were
designed to address circumstances when it would be
‘contrary to the welfare of the juvenile’ to continue
living with his parents, ‘two hundred to three hundred
of the 2,900 kids in DHS custody come from the
juvenile justice system.’ DHS reportedly fights these
proceedings, claiming it is ill-equipped to handle
teenagers and that it lacks the resources.”121

• Studies of incarcerated youth suggest that as many as
70 percent suffer from disabling conditions.129
• “Despite the fact that expert appointment is
uncommon, many judges and attorneys acknowledge
that children in delinquency court often have a host
of developmental issues, mental health problems
and special education needs. According to the Austin
American Statesman, in 1999, 42 percent of all children
incarcerated had mental health needs. Experts can be
valuable at all stages of the proceedings. In addition
to sorting out competency issues (the only purpose
for which most Texas courts employ experts) experts
can assist in determining whether a child had the
mental ability to waive rights or understand his actions
and in identifying whether a child has special needs
or conditions that should be considered when making
dispositional and placement decisions.”130

• “In a 2001 survey of families with children in the
juvenile justice system, over half the families reported
that their child had been hospitalized two or more
times for psychiatric disorders and 10 percent had
attempted suicide.”122
• Seventy to ninety percent of the youth in the two
most heavily utilized correctional facilities have severe
emotional disabilities, although those facilities were
not designed to handle such youth.123 Eighty to ninety
percent of youth probably have some sort of mental
health or substance abuse problem, and many have
both.124 Programs providing services to youth with
such dual diagnoses are rare.125

• “Children and youth with mental health needs are
funneled into the justice system at alarming rates, with
anywhere from 50 percent to 85 percent of youth in
detention in need of medication.”131
Washington State
• “In 2000, Washington’s Juvenile Rehabilitation
Administration found that 40 percent of kids
incarcerated in its facilities met the criteria for ‘serious
mental health disorder.’ Less than three years later, in
February 2003, 58 percent of youth in residence met
the same criteria.”132

North Carolina
• “Overall, 57 percent of survey respondents reported
that mental health issues related to the charges against
juveniles ‘very often’ or ‘often’; 42 percent indicated
that defense attorneys’ training in mental health issues
was lacking, inadequate, or very inadequate. Fifty
percent of responding attorneys themselves indicated
they received inadequate, very inadequate, or no
training in mental health issues.”126

• “Defenders fail to adequately help their clients with
mental health and other serious problems. Eightythree percent of defenders surveyed reported only
‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’ raising issues such as mental
capacity, competency, low educational level, low
comprehension level or literacy as often as they
thought appropriate. Twenty-two percent said they
did not raise the issues even when they felt the case
merited it because there were not enough resources
to adequately explore the issue. Twenty-three percent
explained they did not raise these important issues
because judges are not receptive to the arguments.
Significantly, an additional 50 percent said they did
not raise these issues because ‘plea bargaining with
reasonable prosecutors prevents the need.’ This last
reasoning reflects an unwillingness or inability to
creatively address issues on sentencing, even when a
good plea deal has been obtained.”133

• “The North Carolina development centers estimate
that as of December 2001, 17 percent of their
juvenile population was taking psychotropic
medication. 20 percent were behaviorally or
emotionally disabled. This is inconsistent with a 1994
OJJDP study, which found that, nationally, 73 percent
of juveniles screened at admission to a juvenile
correctional facility had mental health problems
and 57 percent reported having prior mental health
treatment or hospitalization.”127
• It is estimated that 18 percent of mentally retarded,
31 percent of learning disabled, and 57 percent of
emotionally disturbed youth will be arrested within
five years of leaving high school.128


The Impact of Waivers to
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rest of his or her education in an alternative school, a
place that has been criticized as a dumping ground for
behavior disordered children and a gateway back into
prison … The consequences of court intervention
for children with school charges can be far-reaching;
because so many of them waive counsel and plead to
the charges, they become a delinquent youth in the
system, acquiring a record which may be used in the
future to impose harsher penalties.”141

• “Probation officers in a rural county estimate that 70
75 percent of their youth have some form of
substance abuse that needed treatment… However,
even if the court identifies substance abuse as
the underlying problem with youth, programs for
rehabilitation are scarce, especially in rural counties.
Even in the urban counties, there are no substance
abuse residential programs designed for children.”134

• “In one county it was noted that of the 26 cases on
the juvenile court docket for the day, nearly half were
school-related charges, none of which were felony
offenses, and many which appeared to be brought
back repeatedly for review. Investigators noted in
several instances that youth were sent to detention
for violations of school policies, and it was clear that
in some counties the courts were readily accessible
to school personnel who wished to punish a student
quickly for misconduct. The infractions ranged from
‘mouthing off ’ to a teacher to missing school after
having been warned about truant behavior.”142

• “6,799 juveniles were arrested for drug abuse
violations—1,360 for liquor law violations and 301 for
driving under the influence in 2001.”135
North Carolina
• “Without factoring in the influence of drugs
or alcohol in arrests on other charges, arrests for
substance abuse constituted 16 percent of all juvenile
arrests. In North Carolina, arrests of juveniles for
drug and alcohol related violations in 2002 numbered
2,250, and constituted 5 percent of complaints against
• “A 2001 survey of North Carolinian high school
students indicated a slight decrease in active drug use
among 9th–12th graders since 1997, but overall drug
use remained high.”137

“‘Zero tolerance’ is a catch phrase that refers to the current
policy of schools to immediately and automatically impose
severe sanctions on a student for any violation of school
rules and regulations.”138 This has had an overwhelming
impact on the nation’s schools as the proliferation of cases
referred to juvenile court involving minor school infractions,
such as running in the halls, skipping classes, and talking back
to a teacher, are no longer being dealt with by the school
officials, but by disciplinary hearings and even reports to the
district attorney for prosecution.139
• “Georgia has a statute which makes it a ‘misdemeanor
of a high and aggravated nature’ to ‘disrupt or
interfere with the operation of any public school.’
This law is routinely invoked against students for
behavior ranging from cursing at the principal to
fighting with another student on school property.”140

• “Many of these youth had disabilities that qualified
them for special education services, and there were
concerns that they were unidentified and/or simply
not receiving appropriate services. Investigators
noted in one county a profoundly mentally disabled
student was brought to court charged with truancy
where a prior finding of dependency had been made
on his behalf and that of his siblings. In another
case, investigators noted an eight-year-old child
was brought before the court with a request by the
prosecuting attorney to detain him for school-related
conduct perceived to be threatening. While these
instances were more blatant in nature, the increase in
school-related charges poses significant challenges to
juvenile defenders.”143
• “A public defender in one parish estimates that
approximately 25 percent of his caseload came from
schools while a prosecutor in another parish estimated
30 percent came from schools… One judge estimates
almost 60 percent of the youth in the system have
special education needs that are not being met by the
• Surveillance and security efforts have led to dramatic
increases in the criminal punishment of high school
students. So have new federal and state laws requiring
school personnel to report certain categories of
offenders to police or prosecutors.145

• “Certain public school districts enforce a policy that
permanently expels a child if they are sent to boot
camp. Once this occurs, the child must complete the


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
North Carolina
• “Long-term suspensions increased by 22 percent
between the 1999–2000 and 2000–2001 school
years. Ninth graders received about one-third of all
long-term suspensions. Over half of the long-term
suspensions were given to black/multi-racial students.
Approximately four percent of the overall student
population received multiple short-term suspensions
of any length. In all, out-of-school suspensions in
2000–2001 resulted in over 650,000 lost instructional
days for North Carolina public school students.
Students who received one or more out-of-school
suspensions were less likely to score at or above
grade level on End-of-Grade and End-of-Course
achievement tests across subject areas. Black/multiracial students are greatly overrepresented in multiple
short-term suspensions, long-term suspensions and

While transferring youth into the adult system was originally
used to deter juveniles from committing crime, the facts
show that this approach has done just the opposite. “One
study, comparing New York and New Jersey juvenile
offenders, shows that the rearrest rate for children sentenced
in juvenile court was 29 percent lower than the rearrest
rate for juveniles sentenced in the adult criminal court.”151
“A recent Florida study compared the recidivism rate of
juveniles who were transferred to criminal court versus those
who were retained in the juvenile system, and concluded that
juveniles who were transferred recidivated at a higher rate
than the non-transfer group. Furthermore, the rate of reoffending in the transfer group was significantly higher than
the non-transfer group, as was the likelihood that the transfer
group would commit subsequent felony offenses.”152

• Virginia is among the many states to enact zerotolerance policies in schools that have dramatically
affected the number of children and youth referred to
juvenile court.148

Incarcerating youth offenders in adult prisons also places
juveniles in real danger. “Children in adult institutions are
500 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted, 200 percent
more likely to be beaten by staff, and 50 percent more likely
to be attacked with a weapon than juveniles confined in a
juvenile facility.”153 A 2001 Report of the Surgeon General,
titled Youth Violence, explained that “placing youths in adult
criminal institutions exposes them to harm. Results from
a series of reports indicate that young people placed in
adult correctional institutions, compared to those placed in
institutions designed for youths, are eight times as likely to
commit suicide, five times as likely to be sexually assaulted,
twice as likely to be beaten by staff, and 50 percent as likely
to be attacked with a weapon.”154

• One detention center administrator reported that the
detained population increases during the school


• “In one county, two-thirds of delinquency case
complaints come from the public school system.
Children as young as six and seven are referred to
court for issues that seem to clearly relate to special
education status.”147

• “Maryland is among 29 states that provide for
legislative waiver (often called automatic waiver).
Youth legislatively waived must be charged in the adult
system. With a few exceptions, the law provides two
mechanisms that allow a juvenile to return his case to
juvenile court. A juvenile automatically charged as an
adult may petition the Court to transfer or ‘reverse
waive’ jurisdiction back to the juvenile court. At a
reverse waiver hearing, the burden is on the child’s
defense attorney to address five factors through
the presentation of evidence that reverse waiver is
‘in the child’s interests or the interests of society.’
Additionally if the child is found not guilty of the
charge that automatically sent him to the adult system,
the criminal court may hold a reverse waiver hearing
to send the sentencing hearing back to the juvenile

• “Some interviewees reported that the zero tolerance
policies allowed schools in their jurisdictions to
practice ‘dumping’ kids from one school to another.
Some reported that this practice of dumping most
affected children and youth who need special
education services and older youth who are sent to
adult education programs. One juvenile defender said,
‘If we could fix schools we’d fix delinquency by 75

With children as young as 12 being charged as adults, the
adult criminal justice system is not equipped to handle
the myriad problems and issues arising from their special
developmental and educational needs and vulnerabilities.
The most recent studies demonstrate that putting young
offenders in adult prisons leads to more crime, higher prison
costs, and increased violence.


The Impact of Waivers to
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• Children as young as age 12 can be transferred to
district court. Other statutes allow for transfer for
certain felonies when the child is 14 and 16.156

than their Anglo counterparts, even where they were
adjudicated for the same offense, were the same age
and had similar adjudication histories in the juvenile

• “The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
(juvenile court) has original and exclusive jurisdiction
over juveniles—defined as persons under the age
of 18—accused of acts that would be crimes if
committed by an adult (misdemeanors and felonies),
traffic violations, as well as status offense jurisdiction
over a child who commits an act prohibited by
law that would not be a crime if committed by an

• “Many attorneys state that the reason for the decline
in certifications is the determinate sentencing
provision of the Texas Family Code, which permits
a prosecutor to seek in juvenile court a sentence of
up to forty years. Under determinate sentencing, a
juvenile will first serve his sentence at the Texas Youth
Commission (TYC, or the juvenile corrections facility
of the state of Texas), but may later be transferred to
adult prisons and become subjected to adult parole
laws. The transfer occurs at the request of TYC and is
rarely denied.”162

• Once a child is tried and convicted as an adult, the
juvenile court no longer has the jurisdiction to charge
the youth as a juvenile for criminal acts that would
otherwise merely constitute delinquency. This means
that, unless the State Attorney chooses not to file the
juvenile in criminal court, juvenile courts are limited
to merely holding a preliminary hearing if a juvenile,
14 or older, is accused of committing a “violent
juvenile felony.” Juvenile courts also lose jurisdiction
over any “ancillary charges” (a delinquent act
committed by the juvenile as part of the same act or
transaction as a felony delinquent act) brought against
juveniles tried as adults.158

• “Judges that appoint attorneys for juveniles who have
been certified to adult court do not appear to factor
the minor’s age, background or circumstances into the
• “There is scant information available about the
number of children and youth transferred from the
juvenile court to the Circuit Courts in Virginia and
even less information about what happens to them
once they enter the adult system.”164
• “In 1996, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice
Services issued a report about juveniles convicted
of murder in Circuit Court in Virginia. The report
indicated that juveniles convicted of murder as adults
received sentences ‘which exceeded Virginia adult
sentencing guidelines’ and that ‘juveniles released
from prison for homicide ... served more years on
average than adults released during the same time

• “Between January 1997 and January 2000, Kentucky’s
juvenile courts referred 336 juvenile offenders to
criminal (adult) court for prosecution and possible
commitment to prison. This number represents only
those youth actually transferred, and not those who
are considered by courts for transfer. In Jefferson
County alone, it is estimated that up to 300 transfer
cases are filed per year, although many are not actually

• “Investigators found no statistics regarding youth
transferred to adult court, and most interviewees
were unaware of any data regarding juveniles in
the adult system. Judges guessed that three to five
percent of the court’s cases are sent to Circuit Court.
One Commonwealth’s Attorney kept no records or
statistics but claimed to have filed five or six motions
to transfer within the last six months. The investigator
was unable to confirm that number with any court
personnel. Another Commonwealth’s Attorney
claimed to file only one motion to transfer per month,
yet defenders in that jurisdiction reported that the
Commonwealth’s Attorneys regularly filed motions
as negotiation leverage. Defenders around the state
reported that it is routine for the Commonwealth’s
Attorney to file motions to transfer and offer to move

• “Reports indicate that as many as a thousand children
and youth a year are being prosecuted as adults in
Maryland.” 160
• “The number of children certified to adult court
decreased from 433 in 1998 to 236 in 1999.
Researchers at the Texas Criminal Justice Policy
Council found that African Americans, and to a lesser
extent, Hispanics were more likely to be certified


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
to dismiss the motion if the juvenile pleads guilty to a
juvenile charge.”166

treatment facilities, group homes) increased 24 percent,
from 124,900 in 1990 to 155,200 in 1999. As a result,
approximately 39 percent of all juvenile detention and
confinement facilities had more residents than available
beds. As the system becomes more crowded, detention
staff must learn how to manage continuous admissions
and releases and the general lack of stability in such a
setting. 170

The system is not working. The juvenile court system was
designed with the mission to “develop and implement
effective and coordinated prevention and intervention
programs and to improve the juvenile justice system so that
it protects public safety, holds offenders accountable, and
provides treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the
needs of juveniles and their families.”167As a part of the U.S.
Department of Justice, it also has the mission “to ensure fair
and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”168

The report also highlights the potential risks of crowding:
Crowding can create dangerous situations in terms
of facility management; it also is detrimental to
the rehabilitation and treatment of the youth who
are confined. In addition to the logistical problems
inherent in crowded conditions (e.g., where youth will
sleep, how they will be fed, how they will be educated),
crowded conditions can also give rise to violence.
Youth are more likely to have to be transported to
the emergency room as a result of injuries sustained
during interpersonal conflicts in crowded facilities.
Youth who are detained for long periods of time
usually do not have the opportunity to participate in
programming designed to further their educational
development (e.g., obtaining a general equivalency
diploma). In addition, treatment programs in detention
facilities are not designed to address chronic problems
(e.g., substance abuse, history of physical or sexual
abuse) requiring sustained and intensive interventions.
Instead, programming in detention facilities is generally
designed to assist youth in adjusting to the correctional
environment, ease the transition back to the community
upon release, and identify problems needing long-term
intervention. Thus, while the youth is in detention,
long-term educational and mental health needs are
often put on hold. Between 50 and 70 percent of
incarcerated youth have a diagnosable mental illness
and up to 19 percent may be suicidal, yet timely
treatment is difficult to access in crowded facilities.
In the worst case scenario, crowded facilities lead to
increased institutional violence, higher operational
costs, and significant vulnerabilities to litigation to
improve the conditions of confinement.171

There is no equal access to quality counsel and representation
in delinquency proceedings. Even if there were equal access, it
would not be sufficient to offset the ways in which the juvenile justice
system disproportionately circumscribes life options for youth of color.
The most important thing one can do is to keep a youth out
of the system altogether. If a youth comes into contact with
the system, diversion must be the primary first step.

Diversion—i.e., sending a youth back to back to his/
her home, family, and community—ought to be the
presumptive first step. In Washington, D.C., that appears
to be the prevailing police practice for white juveniles but
not for juveniles of color. A report released by the OJJDP
in September 2005, entitled “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,”
highlights two principal reasons for avoiding detention
and confinement: crowding and the negative impact that
confinement and detention may ultimately have on juvenile
offenders.169 The following contains excerpts from that
bulletin, expanding on these reasons for avoiding detention
and confinement.

In “Alternatives to the Detention and Confinement of
Juvenile Offenders,” the authors note the rise in the
population and consequent crowding of juvenile detention
and confinement facilities:
Over the past 15 years, crowded detention and
confinement facilities have become more common.
Between 1990 and 1999, the number of delinquency
cases involving detention increased by 11 percent,
or 33,400 cases. Over the same time period, the
number of adjudicated cases resulting in out-of-home
placement (e.g., training schools, camps, ranches, private

Unproven Effectiveness of Detention and
The second reason for avoiding the detention and
confinement of juvenile offenders, as highlighted in the
2005 OJJDP report, is that detention and confinement do
little to rehabilitate the detained youth and may in fact have a
negative impact on the youth:
The time a youth spends in secure detention or
confinement is not just time away from negative factors


The Impact of Waivers to
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that may have influenced his or her behavior. Detaining
or confining youth may also widen the gulf between the
youth and positive influences such as family and school.
Research on traditional confinement in large training
schools (i.e., correctional units housing as many as
100 to 500 youth), where a large majority of confined
youth are still held in the United States, has found
high recidivism rates. As many as 50–70 percent of
previously confined youth are rearrested within one or
two years after release. Some states have limited the size
of these facilities, while others continue to operate 300and 400-bed training schools. In either configuration,
although the long-term nature of a youth’s sentence
affords a greater opportunity to provide necessary
treatment, educational, vocational, and medical services,
confinement in these facilities represents a significant
separation from the communities to which all youth
will return and therefore creates a substantial obstacle
in terms of community reentry upon release.172

programs for the majority of committed youth. These
programs allow for a greater connection between
the youth and his or her family, school, and other
community-based support systems and have shown
powerful effects in reducing subsequent involvement
in delinquency. States can reduce their reliance on
secure detention and confinement, choosing instead
to place youth in graduated sanctions programs that
are responsive to the risks and needs of the delinquent

Probation officers have the role of promoting probation
which, “by definition, represents a system for maintaining
offenders and alleged offenders in the community rather
than prison.”174 As discussed above, they too often take on
the role of prosecutor, defender, and judge. Standing “at
the threshold of the delinquency system, [they] are ideally
positioned to attach to a child the label ‘bad,’ ‘sad,’ ‘mad,’
or ‘can’t add’—or no label at all.”175 These labels can funnel
children into incarceration, more appropriate educational
programs, family services, mental health evaluations, or
substance abuse programs. Because probation officers have
such an important role, ensuring that they are adequately
trained with the most current and effective screening tools
and informed of the local diversion options should be made
a top priority. Properly identifying the needs of children
entering the system should be a priority for diverting kids,
who are in need of social services, away from incarceration.

The report notes that, in fact, alternatives to detention and
confinement, such as community-based programs, have
yielded distinct and more positive results:
Community-based programs are cost-effective
solutions for a large number of delinquent youth.
These alternatives to secure detention and confinement
are intended to reduce crowding, cut the costs of
operating juvenile detention centers, shield offenders
from the stigma of institutionalization, help offenders
avoid associating with youth who have more serious
delinquent histories, and maintain positive ties between
the juvenile and his or her family and community.

Determining whether pretrial detention is appropriate is one
of the first decisions that probation officers must make when
children are first brought in. Pretrial detention is not to be
used for punishment. It is used for three reasons. (1) They
detain “those whom the authorities believe might commit
new crimes before their cases are disposed of are detained
to protect society. (2) Those whom the system believes will
not show up in court are kept under lock and key so they
can be produced at the appointed hour. (3) An unstated
third reason for detaining youngsters, which operates more
often than most juvenile officials would like to admit, is that
those in charge don’t know what else to do with them.”176
It is important that this third reason be acknowledged so
that clear measurable steps can be taken to address this
problem. “If staff do not accept and act upon the notion
that detention use must be tied to risk of non-appearance
or rearrest, there is nothing to preclude them from putting
kids in custody to ‘teach them a lesson’ or ‘to have them

Between the 1960s and mid-1990s, significant research
demonstrated that community-based programs (e.g.,
intensive supervision, group homes, day reporting
centers, probation) were more effective than traditional
correctional programs (e.g., training schools) in
reducing recidivism and improving community
adjustment. Even studies with less favorable results
showed that community-based programs produced
outcomes similar to those of traditional training
schools but at significantly reduced costs.
Studies conducted on state and local levels also testify
to the effectiveness of well-structured, properly
implemented, community-based programs as
alternatives to secure correctional environments. For
example, Massachusetts relies less on holding youth
than most other states, turning instead to a network of
small, secure programs for serious offenders (generally
fewer than 20 youth per facility), complemented by
a full continuum of structured community-based

The Florida Legislature has enacted a provision prohibiting
the use of secure detention in certain instances. This is


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
a prime example of a measure that acknowledges that
inappropriate uses of detention are common. It reads as

The key attributes of objective classification and risk
assessment instruments are:
• They employ an objective scoring process.

A child alleged to have committed a delinquent act
should not be placed in secure detention for the
following reasons:

• They use items that can be easily and reliably
measured, meaning that the results are consistent both
across staff and over time as they relate to individual
staff members.

1. To punish, treat or rehabilitate the child.
2. To allow a parent to avoid his or her legal
3. To permit more convenient administrative access to
the juvenile.

• They are statistically associated with future criminal
behavior, so that the system can accurately identify
offenders with different risk levels.181
The RAIs should be designed to accomplish the following:

4. To facilitate further interrogation or investigation.

• Introduce greater consistency and equity to the
decision-making process;

5. Due to lack of more appropriate facilities.178

• Focus limited system resources on the highestrisk and highest-need offenders, while reducing the
unnecessary use of secure detention, residential
treatment, and correctional placements;

Due process requires that people should not be locked up
before trial to take care of social problems. In order to
remove a juvenile from the community, there needs to be
a system in place that requires an objective test that shows,
by clear and convincing evidence, that such removal is
necessary to protect the community or to ensure they will
return for the next hearing. Research has shown that over
half of the youth arrested will have no further contact with
the juvenile justice system, therefore it is important to focus
our resources on the needs of juveniles who most need
intervention services.179

• Ensure that decisions are based both on concerns for
community safety and concerns about the youth’s
needs and necessary treatment interventions;
• Provide a mechanism to facilitate linking youth with
the types of programs that are most appropriate to
their offense, level of risk to reoffend, needs, and
strengths; and

Risk Assessment Instruments
Risk assessment instruments (RAIs) have proven to be
effective methods for “determining an offender’s risk of
reoffending, receiving technical violations, failing to appear
before the court, or other negative outcomes. Classification
and risk assessment play a vital role in determining the
number and type of youth best suited for either diversion
or release from confinement. Diversion programs have
been criticized at times for expanding the use of sanctions
for more minor offenses rather than decreasing the overall
number of youth in secure settings. Some critics have
claimed that diversion programs are often unable to attract
the large number of candidates needed to reduce the size and
costs of the detained and confined population.”180 RAIs offer
intake officers an objective racially neutral tool to assist in
channeling low-risk youth away from incarceration and back
to their communities until their trial date, thereby freeing up
resources for more high-risk individuals.

• Provide for administrative overrides, both mandatory
and discretionary. Mandatory overrides reflect policy
RAI results, combined with the initial investigations of intake
officers, can be used to help determine appropriate actions
at every step of the judicial process, including whether a case
should be handled formally, diverted, or handled informally;
whether pretrial detention is required; in determining the
appropriate type of detention; and in determining the
type of post-dispositional programs.183 Different types of
screenings may be used at various steps within the system.
The more information a judge has regarding a child’s
support system, educational abilities, and health status, the
better he or she will be able to determine which diversion or
supervisory program is most appropriate.
Fine-tuning the RAIs takes time. “If important facts were
missed in these tests or if the point system was off, the
instrument could throw too many youth in detention or
allow the wrong kids into community programs.”184


The Impact of Waivers to
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Options oftoMinority
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“Applying objective standards simply won’t work
effectively or efficiently if the process for making
decisions is unstructured, haphazard, or lacking authority.
Clear designation of responsibility, specific time frames,
supervisory review, and high-quality documentation are
necessary components of reformed admissions practices.”185

than white youth. In 2000, the identical percentage
of white and minority youth were detained in the
county—22 percent for each group. To make this
change, the county used the following interventions:
• A Disproportionate Minority Confinement
Committee was established to make racial equity a
priority throughout the reform process. Committee
members were drawn from the juvenile court, the
police department, the district attorney, public
schools, the county commission, probation, and
Portland State University to set up a collaborative
relationships and a model for the reform process.

Cook County took three years to refine its RAIs. This may
seem like a long time, but long-lasting system change does
not happen overnight. The results have been impressive.
Below are some examples of effective intake tests and
programs that are implementing them.
Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument Version 2

• Data-driven research tools were used throughout
the reform process to provide objective analyses that
may have helped curb the defensiveness and emotion
that surround politically sensitive subjects like race.

The MAYSI-2 is an intake screening tool developed at the
University of Massachusetts in the 1990s. The informational
Web site on the MAYSI-2 tool (available at http:/www. describes the tool as follows:

• Detention alternatives were established, including
shelter care, foster homes, home detention, and a day
reporting center. Many programs were contracted out
to local providers in communities of color, where the
majority of detained youth live.

The MAYSI-2 is a brief screening tool designed to
assist juvenile justice facilities in identifying youths 12
to 17 years old who may have special mental health
needs. It is intended for use at any entry or transitional
placement point in the juvenile justice system (e.g.,
intake probation, pretrial detention, and state youth
authority reception centers). The MAYSI-2 can be
administered routinely to all youths in probation
intake interviews or within 24 to 48 hours after their
admission to juvenile justice facilities. It requires no
more than 15 minutes to administer and does not
require the expertise of a mental health professional for
scoring and interpretation.

• A sanctions grid of detention alternatives for
Violators of Parole (VOPs) was developed. Before
reform, 20-30 percent of admissions to detention
were VOPs, with little regard to actual need or
threat that the youth posed. The county developed a
“sanctions grid” that included things like a warning
and then community service before the intake staff
could re-detain a VOP. This tool helped to minimize
staff inconsistencies and detention levels.

The MAYSI-2 is a paper-and-pencil self-report
inventory of 52 questions. Youths circle YES or NO
concerning whether each item has been true for them
“within the past few months.” Youths read the items
themselves (5th grade reading level) and circle the
answers. Administration takes about 10 to 15 minutes
and scoring requires approximately three minutes. The
MAYSI-2 is available in both English and Spanish as
well as in software form.186

• Objective screening and assessment measures
– A cross-agency team spent over a year developing
and testing an RAI to guide admissions decisions.
The RAI avoids criteria like “good family structure”
or “gang affiliation” that may be very subjective or
skewed to the detriment of minority youth.
• A detention intake team was created to implement
the RAI and to hold itself accountable for equitable
treatment of minorities. The team reviews every
single youth in detention every day and looks at their
RAI scores, their case status, and their amenability
to treatment. This level of close scrutiny and quality
control has led to swift and successful compliance
with the system’s reform efforts.

Multnomah County Detention Reform Initiative
In a 2006 publication on reforming the juvenile justice
system, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ)
highlighted Multnomah County, Oregon, as a model for
positive reform. The report revealed the following:

• Increased staff diversity and diversity training
were also implemented.187

In 1994, minority youth in Multnomah County were 31
percent more likely to be detained in juvenile detention


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
The Texas First Time Offender Program

Dr. Jeannie von Stultz, director of Mental Health
Services for the Bexar County Juvenile Probation
Department, says that SNDP brought a welcome
change in that treatment is now geared toward
addressing a diagnosis based on screening and
assessment, rather than controlling behavior. “We
use MAYSI [the Massachusetts Youth Screening
Instrument] which allows us to prescribe more specific
treatment,” von Stultz said.

The Texas First Time Offender program represents one
holistic approach to the mental health needs of juveniles in
the justice system. The program is described at length in a
2005 article, “Mental Health and Juvenile Justice: Promising
Practices in Texas,”188 excerpted below:
The Texas First Time Offender program, available in
43 of the 254 counties in the state, provides services
that range from screening and assessment, substance
abuse counseling, case management and connecting the
family to community support systems. This program
works to keep young people from criminal behavior by
addressing their mental health needs and by working to
increase the stability of the family.

The diversionary program is designed for juveniles
who meet certain criteria: they must be at risk of
removal from their families because of their psychiatric
symptoms, or they must have been identified by their
school system as needing special education due to their
emotional difficulties. And it is mandatory that a family
member or other adult in the young person’s life agree
to participate in the program. Otherwise the juvenile is
not eligible.

Tarrant County’s Family Matters works with youth
deemed at risk for delinquency by the county’s Juvenile
Probation Department. This program arranges and
coordinates such treatment services as individual and
family counseling and family stabilization.

Juveniles and their families who qualify can receive
a wide range of support services. According to von
Stultz, that system of care is especially critical for the
success of the program. “We provide skills training
and therapy for the child and the family. Many of our
families have had bad experiences with various parts
of the system and get overwhelmed,” she said. “Our
program includes a family advocate, and that aspect
works very well.”

The Texas state legislature provided funding for the
Special Needs Diversionary Program (SNDP) in 2001.
This is an alternative to incarceration for juveniles
with mental health needs, seeking to prevent their
removal from their homes and to keep them from
further involvement with the juvenile justice system.
At the same time, legislation was enacted requiring that
every juvenile formally referred to juvenile probation
departments be given a standard mental health

The SNDP approach provides intensive intervention
and is family-based. The team works with the juvenile
and the family to create an individualized case plan,
incorporating such services as individual and family
therapy, rehabilitation services, skills training, and
chemical dependency education. SNDP guidelines
require that the team meet with the family three to five
times a week. Two of these visits must occur in the
home. The family is encouraged to play an active role
so that, over time, they become less dependent upon
the SNDP team and more reliant on supports available
to them in the community.

These screenings can result in the juvenile being
referred for further mental health assessment. In 2004,
18 percent of juveniles screened were referred for
further mental health assessment. However, fewer than
half of those referred actually received a subsequent
assessment, due to limited access, especially in smaller
SNDP applies a team approach in which a juvenile
probation officer who receives special training is
paired with a licensed mental health practitioner.
Each team manages a caseload of 12 to 15 youth and
their families. Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Tarrant, Travis,
Hidalgo, and Cameron counties, representing half of
the state’s juvenile justice population, were selected for
SNDP’s first round of funding (2002). In its first year,
764 youth were enrolled in 19 sites, served by 38 teams.
More than fifty-two percent of these juveniles finished
the program.

One of the positive outcomes reported by the
Bexar County program in its first year was that the
majority of family and youth who participated in
the program were successful in identifying resources
within themselves that helped them manage stressful
Erin Espinosa is concerned about continuity of care
for youth who come through the state’s SNDP, which
provides services to enrolled juveniles and their families
for four to six months. “What we’ve seen so far is a
gap in the availability of services after young people


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Options oftoMinority
Youthon Young Men of Color
leave our programs,” she said. “Of the 75 percent of
kids who are tied back into follow-up care, less than
25 percent actually receive it.” This is especially true in
the rural areas. “Urban areas have more opportunities
to provide continuity of care and community for these
kids,” Espinosa said. “In the rural areas, there’s not
much available for them after the programs.”

When youth are detained, the expeditor (or intake
supervisor) will continue to monitor the case so that
changes in circumstances (e.g., reductions in charges
that alter RAI scores) can be acted upon. The expeditor
also watches for persistent errors. For example, if
intake workers consistently mis-score a particular riskfactor, the expediter will take note and make sure that
training is conducted to improve performance.191

While the major goal of the SNDP program is to
provide an alternative to incarceration for juveniles in
need of mental health services, ultimately its success
depends upon the local availability of these services
once the youth completes the program. The Texas
Juvenile Probation Commission is working on a plan
to address this gap through the use of telemedicine.
The Telemental Health Pilot Initiative would utilize
the latest advances in telecommunications to connect
communities in need with the mental health expertise
of a major regional medical center specializing in
psychiatric services.189
As Frank Orlando observes in “Controlling the Front Gates:
Effective Admissions Policies and Practices,” a report on
policies and practices for overcoming admissions problems
in juvenile detention facilities: “Implementing reforms based
on objective standards, rather than the often unbridled,
subjective discretion common to many intake operations,
is bound to meet resistance. Trying to introduce these new
approaches in the face of this opposition is a formula for
failure. If police departments do not agree to new eligibility
criteria, for example, they can undermine political support
for the reforms by claiming they are ‘soft on crime.’ Similarly,
if judges don’t endorse the use of RAIs to determine
who is admitted, they will be unwilling to authorize intake
workers to release low-risk youth. Finally, many times line
staff interpret new, objective approaches as attacks on their
judgment and professional abilities. Overcoming these
concerns requires regular meetings, training, and effective use
of data to demonstrate the new approach’s value. Once the
new system is implemented, the benefits of these objective
processes need to be continuously reinforced through routine
reports and other forms of feedback.”190

“Expeditors” are one tool described by Orlando as a means
of ensuring case-level quality control. He describes the role
and reason for using expeditors further in “Controlling the
Front Gates”:
These individuals review all admissions, checking to
ensure that they meet eligibility criteria, that the risk
assessments are properly scored and, if appropriate,
working to facilitate release to a detention alternative.

Sacramento County began using an expeditor in 1994,
whose role is to “reduce the unnecessary use of detention
in Juvenile Hall by advocating alternative release programs
for both pre- and post-dispositional detainees. The county
set three measurable goals for the position: (1) making at
least 100 alternative recommendations per month to the
court for pretrial detainees, (2) reducing the average time
from disposition to actual placement by three days, and (3)
reducing the average daily pretrial population at the hall by 10
beds. The most recent data show even more dramatic results.
Since the expeditor position was established, the detained
pretrial population has been reduced by an average of 37

Early Resolution Programs
Orlando’s report also highlights admissions incentives, like
Early Resolution Programs, which mitigate a prosecutor’s
traditional hesitance to release juveniles from custody:
Getting kids out of custody is a big negative
for prosecutors… [the Annie E. Casey] Juvenile
Justice Initiative (JJI) overcame that obstacle with
an innovation that proved desirable to enough
of the players that they adopted it. Indeed, the
reform involved not only releasing eligible kids to
community-based programs, but speeding up the
whole juvenile justice process at the same time. Called
Early Resolution, it provided kids who were eligible
for community-based alternatives to detention the
opportunity to have their case settled earlier in the
process and avoid trial. Previously, prosecution,
defense, and probation officers would get together with
the judge right before the trial to see if a settlement
could be reached. By that time, of course, everyone
would have done all the work to get ready for the trial.
Early Resolution freed the prosecutors from that timeconsuming task for cases settled up front. “The change
benefited the staff by letting them concentrate on
fewer cases and better cases.”193
Prosecutors were willing to accept the program because
it resulted in more plea bargains. Defense attorneys were
willing to accept the program because it included “a
complete and open ‘discovery’ process, which provided the


The Impact of Waivers toJoint
Political and
Health to
Institute on Young Men of Color
defense with a lot of information about the case early on.
In addition, the prosecutors often offered the defense a
better deal to settle the case early.”194 The program allowed
probation officers to write substantially shorter reports for
each juvenile, which resulted in more short reports, but
“fewer long reports than they would wind up having to do
for a full blown trial.”195

infraction of a consent order because they believe they will
be held accountable by the public for being soft on crime if
the youth commits another offense.

There are empirically validated Risk Assessment Instruments
(RAIs) that provide a scientific basis for recommending
diversion. Failure to make maximum use of diversion
represents prosecutorial subversion of public policy.


“Diversion programs cost money.”
The investment in diversion is frequently rejected on grounds
that 50 percent of the youth who are diverted would not
be back in the juvenile justice system even without a formal
diversion program.
Research has shown that approximately 54 percent of
males and 73 percent of females arrested will have no
further contact with the juvenile justice system. Even
without juvenile justice programming, most youth will
have no further involvement in the system. The critical
task is to target only those youth who need intervention
services and to match them with the appropriate kinds
and levels of programming they need, rather than
to serve youth who are unlikely to commit another
Diversion programs have been criticized at times
for expanding the use of sanctions for more minor
offenses rather than decreasing the overall number of
youth in secure settings. Some critics have claimed that
diversion programs are often unable to attract the large
number of candidates needed to reduce the size and
costs of the detained and confined population.196

The 2005 OJJDP report, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,”
provides an extensive description of those systems and how
they might be used:
Much like a pretrial release process in the adult system,
an objective detention risk assessment system is
needed for juvenile courts and correctional agencies
to determine whether youth should be placed in
secure confinement while awaiting adjudication and
disposition hearings. The two major concerns in
reaching such a decision are whether the youth will
appear for court hearings and whether the youth is
likely to commit additional crimes if released from
custody. Such risks should be assessed through
objective, valid, and reliable means. Secure detention
can then be used sparingly. The factors to be
considered in objective detention risk assessments (and
in other classification and risk assessment instruments)
can be separated into four categories:197
1.	 Number and severity of the current charges.
2.	 Earlier arrest and juvenile court records.
3.	 History of success or failure while under
community supervision (e.g., preadjudication,
probation, parole).

The objection that one is throwing away money on kids who
would not come back into the system is best addressed by
investing in youth development programs and programs
that enlist the youth in contributing to the community. At
least 80 percent of the juveniles who are arrested have major
academic problems, family problems, and mental health
problems. A diversion program that is designed to help them
develop self-esteem and make good life choices, and that
creates a peer culture built on community service and helping
others, is a good investment.

4.	 Other “stability” factors associated with court
appearances and reoffending (e.g., age, school
attendance, education level, drug/alcohol use,
family structure).
Typically, jurisdictions construct an additive point scale
to quantify the level of risk that each youth reviewed
for release or detention presents to help decision
makers ensure that low-risk youth charged with nonserious crimes are not placed in detention. Conversely,
such instruments also serve to ensure that youth who
pose a serious risk to themselves and others are not
readily released without proper supervision.

Prosecutors need to be “tough on crime.”
Prosecutors can now divert, but they often are reluctant
to, or become extremely punitive about the most minor


The Impact of Waivers to
Justice System
Youthon Young Men of Color
A number of jurisdictions use objective detention
risk assessments to reduce the number of youth
detained prior to formal adjudication. Sacramento,
CA; Multnomah County, OR; and Cook County,
IL implemented risk assessment instruments as
part of their involvement with the Annie E. Casey
Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.
Administrators in Cook County, IL, for example,
combined the use of a validated risk assessment
instrument with an array of alternatives to detention
for those youth who do not require secure custody.
Immediately upon a youth’s arrest, on-call probation
staff complete an objective detention risk assessment
before the initial detention decision. The assessment’s
numerical score produces a recommendation to either
detain or release and, if release is recommended, the
assessment outlines any special conditions that may be

begin instead from a strength-based perspective, asking:
What can that youth do now—to help other youth, to help
the neighborhood, to create a new peer culture, and even to
effect system change in the juvenile justice system itself ?
Most thinking and action in this field is geared either to the
individual juvenile or perhaps to the juvenile’s family. In fact,
we are dealing with an entire peer culture in neighborhoods
and communities where 40 percent of youth never finish
high school, where childhood is not experienced, where
substance abuse is part of one’s environment, and where
hope has all but disappeared. That obliges us to begin
thinking in terms of how to create a peer culture built on
civic responsibility, on helping others, and on community
service that makes pro-social activity a path to personal
development and fulfillment, as well as a means to address
individual and family needs.
When one looks for exemplary programs, there are few
that begin to approach the loss of life options in terms of
creating a new peer culture. And while use of foster care
and kinship care is common, there are few efforts that
seek to recreate the extended family or build the informal
social networks needed to enhance the capacity of fragile,
overtaxed households headed by a single adult.

If diversion is not available, avoiding detention within
the system becomes the second step, for reasons that will
be discussed below. The provision of counsel prior to
detention at the earliest possible stage is critical—and there
are jurisdictions where that is being done. (See Exemplary
Programs listed below.)


Neither diversion nor the avoidance of detention by
themselves is sufficient to reduce the risk factors or enhance
the protective factors that shape a youth’s life options.
Preserving and even expanding those life options must begin
with systematic efforts to reduce the risk factors and enhance
the protective factors that shape a youth’s development
in each of the five domains where those factors operate:
individual, family, school, peer, and community.199 Providing
juveniles with stronger family and community support
systems can decrease their likelihood of risky behavior and
increase their ability to make good decisions.

The starting premise is that no program or intervention
can generate the intended outcomes or realize its maximum
potential unless it can enlist those it is helping as co-workers
and co-producers of the intended outcomes. The challenge is
to enlist those youth, their families, and their communities as
“co-producers” of expanded life options for youth of color.

Families are often fragile. Increasingly, foster care systems
are relying upon kinship care to rebuild an appropriate home
for youngsters. But many children are being raised by their
grandparents, and those elders are stretched to the limit.
They can provide a foundation, but they, too, need support
and back-up.

Achieving this is not easy with youth who do not believe they
have the causal power to shape their destiny and who have
typically been labeled marginal or worse in school.

The analysis in this paper starts from the premise that the
real juvenile justice system is home, family, peer group,
school, neighborhood, and community. Enhancing the
capacity of that system to do the best job it can is our
starting point.

Five principles guide the Time Dollar Institute (also known
as Time Banks USA) in its work to enlist both youth and
1. An Asset Perspective: Even the most troubled
youth has both present capacity to help others and
developmental potential that can be tapped.

We have to go beyond the usual deficit orientation, which
focuses on “fixing” a youth and his/her family. We must


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
2. Honoring Contribution: Contributions must be
valued and rewarded as real work.
3. Reciprocity: Calling upon youth who receive help
to “give back” by helping others prevents
dependency and leads to stronger outcomes all
4. Social Networks: Clients and service providers
need to collaborate to build a new kind of extended
family as a web of mutual support that will remain
as a personal safety net.
5. Respect: Giving a new listening to those who go
unheard and ignored and providing formal vehicles
and advocates to amplify their voices and assert their

1. An Asset Perspective
Youth have the present capacity to help others and to build
community through various forms of public service. Various
exemplary programs described below recognize this capacity.
1a. Tapping Present Capacity
Time Dollar Youth Court
The Time Dollar Youth Court is a project of Timebanks
USA. A peer model Youth Court, where the jury is proactive,
provides a role for youth jurors that vests them with power
to help others and values their present ability to reach out
to their peers and to express approval or disapproval of
a specific act, while still affirming that youth’s worth and
potential. When offenders are enlisted as jurors, they enjoy
immediate status elevation as part of a peer group entrusted
with protecting the community and setting standards for
acceptable conduct. By making juror duty a mandatory
element of the sentence in nearly all cases, the Time Dollar
Youth Court has tapped the present capacity of teenagers
and created a role that enables at-risk youth to function as
contributors and to participate as valued members of a peer
culture centered around civic engagement.
In addition to requiring community service combined with
other sanctions, such as restitution and a Life Skills course,
this Youth Court enlists virtually all offenders as jurors
so that now every jury is composed of nearly 100 percent
offenders. In 2005, it conducted 696 hearings. Analysis of
recidivism rates stayed at approximately half the recidivism
rate of a control group. The effect was most pronounced
for the first six months following arrest, when re-arrest
rates were in the 7-9 percent range; re-arrests rose after six
months to 15-18 percent, but that remained far below the
recidivism rate of 30 percent or higher for the control group

that was just sent home. In effect, these offenders sitting
as jurors had reduced recidivism rates by 50 percent. They
have become major assets to the community, advancing the
rule of law effectively among peers. The community service
to which they are sentenced seeks to provide appropriately
crafted opportunities to function as a resource to others.
Thus, respondents charged with truancy have been sentenced
to tutoring first- and second-graders, resulting in impressive
academic improvements by tutees who badly wanted the
approval of these older youth. Respondents charged with
stealing cars have been sentenced to watch the cars of
seniors who are attending church services. In a summer
program, youth helped renovate basements for a computer
lab that they would use. Linking these roles to rewards with
Time Dollars is an essential part of the strategy used to
develop a positive peer culture. Time Dollars are earned for
each hour as a juror; these can be cashed in for rewards such
as a recycled computer. This Youth Court is now operating at
a scale that demonstrates how at-risk youth, enlisted as assets,
can provide the first line of defense against penetrating the
juvenile justice system.
Youth Community Service Club
A Youth Summit in Washington, D.C. proposed the creation
of a teen community service club where teenagers can earn
rewards, satisfy high school community service requirements
(where applicable), and have fun by serving as mentor, buddy,
tutor, or counselor for a younger kid or as senior helper or
neighborhood aide.
Mandatory Community Service
Many programs for juvenile offenders now include a
mandatory community service element in their programs.
1b. Tapping Developmental Potential:
Investing in Youth Development
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts:
The EdLaw Project
The EdLaw Project is an advocacy organization which aims
to secure equal opportunity for Boston youth by affirming
each child’s right to an education. The EdLaw Project’s
informational Web site further describes the history and
goals of the program:
In partnership with the Youth Advocacy Project
(described below in the section Effective
Representation for Youth), the Children’s Law Center
of Massachusetts, Inc. launched the EdLaw Project in
January 2000. The project was based on local research
showing that nearly 80 percent of the Youth Advocacy
Project’s delinquency clients experienced school


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
failure prior to court involvement and on national
research indicating that lack of appropriate academic
achievement is the leading indicator for chronic
court involvement. The EdLaw Project advocates for
appropriate education services for Boston’s high-risk
children, addressing such issues as academic failure,
suspension and expulsion, undetected special needs,
inadequate education while in state custody, and
reintegration in the school system following detention
or incarceration. The project has grown to include three
attorneys and, in addition to direct advocacy work, has
partnered with local residents and agencies, such as
La Alianza Hispana, Parents Place, the Center for Law
and Education, and the Boston Parents Organizing
Network, to deliver a variety of workshops and
conferences for parents and youth workers on parental
engagement, parental rights and responsibilities, and
the components of a quality standards-based education
(Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, Inc., and
Youth Advocacy Project, 2000).201

A study done by the Washington State Institute for
Public Policy showed that TeamChild saves taxpayers
nearly $4,000 for each child receiving full services.
TeamChild’s holistic advocacy for youth has been
recognized nationally and replicated around the
TeamChild was piloted in 1995 through a Title II
Formula Grant from OJJDP. The project was born out
of collaboration among Columbia Legal Services, the
Seattle-King County Defender Association, and the
Washington Defender Association. Since its creation,
TeamChild has grown from a one-person office in
Seattle to an organization with five offices and more
than a dozen staff members helping hundreds of youth
in five Washington counties. TeamChild’s successful
expansion over the past eight years is built on a solid
service delivery model that fills a critical need for
communities struggling to support youth in trouble.202
Maya Angelou School

In Washington, D.C., the Maya Angelou School also strives
to divert youth from violence and delinquency by meeting
children’s educational needs. The school’s informational
website (available at
communityint/schools/maya_pcs.htm), describes the
school’s mission and curriculum as follows:

The 2004 OJJDP report, “Access to Counsel,” highlights the
efforts of several agencies to provide legal advocacy services
to youth, including the Washington state-based TeamChild.
The report describes TeamChild as follows:
A majority of youth involved in the juvenile justice
system are struggling with untreated mental illness,
addiction, learning disabilities, and unsafe living
environments. Many of these youth are disconnected
from school, positive adults and peers, and stable
homes. Once involved in the juvenile justice system,
they drift further away and are often excluded
altogether from community support. Many youth can
be diverted from delinquency and violence if their basic
needs are met. This basic premise underlies the work
of TeamChild, a Washington-based civil legal advocacy
project for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

The Maya Angelou School’s mission is to create
learning environments in urban communities where
teens, particularly those who have not succeeded in
traditional schools, can reach their potential. Through
the Maya Angelou Public Charter School and related
See Forever programs, students develop the academic,
social, and employment skills that they need to build
rewarding lives and promote positive change in their
communities. The Maya Angelou School’s special
focus is on integrating the world of work into the
traditional academic setting. Sponsored by the See
Forever Foundation, the school provides a challenging
curriculum for the city’s most underserved students.
The school environment supports a personal approach
to learning, with wrap-around support for students
that includes team-building activities, field trips, access
to quality mental/physical health care, and a talented
energetic staff committed to the empowerment of
students and their families. School is open year-round
between eight and ten hours daily. Classes have a 7:1
student teacher ratio, and class work is technologically
relevant. Second-year students choose to train in either
the catering or technology field. In addition to classes,
each student receives three to five hours of individual
tutoring per week. It is estimated that 50-70 percent

TeamChild goes to the roots of delinquency by
providing civil legal advocacy and mentoring to young
people who are having difficulty gaining access to
education, treatment, and safe living situations. Public
defenders, juvenile probation officers, community
service providers, and courts refer youth to TeamChild
for representation. As part of its unique relationship
with youth, TeamChild actively engages them in
problem solving, gives them a voice in planning for
their future, and helps them develop the skills they need
for adulthood and independence.
TeamChild has been proven to be a cost-effective
approach to reducing recidivism among juveniles.


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
of graduates will go on to college, and the rest will
move directly into the workplace. Maya Angelou was
chartered in 1997 by the D.C. Public Charter School

and aftercare programs. GCTC also runs the Youth
Industry Program, which trains youth in carpentry
skills, and the Raven School, which prepares students to
take the General Educational Development test. Other
youth are trained and permitted to work in the culinary
arts, horticulture, automotive technology, desktop
publishing, and secretarial positions. Recent evaluation
results demonstrate that from September 1999 through
August 2000, 84 percent of the participating youth
completed the program and 70 percent were employed
when they left the program. In addition, 1999–2000
graduates had a 16 percent rearrest rate, compared with
a rearrest rate of approximately 54 percent among all
youth released from the Texas Youth Commission in

Fresh Start
Fresh Start is an example of a non-residential program,
mentioned in the 2005 OJJDP report, “Alternatives to Secure
Confinement and Detention.” The report includes a detailed
description of the program as follows:
One example of a nonresidential skills training
program is Fresh Start in Baltimore, MD. Fresh Start
was established to provide hands-on training and
education for juvenile delinquents in the Baltimore
area. The primarily voluntary program targets youth
ages 16–19 who are convicted of nonviolent crimes
and who typically come from low-income, high-crime
neighborhoods. The 40-week program is designed to
help youth learn practical skills, such as carpentry and
boat repair, and to integrate education and employment
experience. Fresh Start has recently partnered with local
colleges so that program graduates can attend collegelevel courses at a reduced cost. In 2000, Fresh Start
added a Workforce Development Center to its array of
program services. Each Fresh Start graduate is assigned
to a job retention counselor who helps the youth
navigate common workplace challenges. Approximately
90 males graduate from the program each year.
Approximately 50 percent of those who enter the
program complete all modules, and those who finish
the first eight weeks have an 80 percent completion
rate. Fresh Start tracks its graduates for three years after
program completion. Graduates from 1997 to 2000
had a rearrest rate of 19 percent and a reincarceration
rate of seven percent, well below the rearrest rate of 75
percent that other Maryland Department of Juvenile
Justice programs reported. About 66 percent of the
graduates were employed, and 15 percent continued
their education.204

2. Honoring Contribution
There will never be enough money to pay even minimum
wage to all the kids we need as buddies and mentors and
engaging in constructive roles in the community. But there
is no shortage of stuff that kids want and that can be
purchased or secured through charitable donations. Youth
respond to incentives. If those incentives reinforce a youth’s
sense of self-esteem, then they can compete successfully for
many with the high-risk rewards that drug dealers now can
offer. There are ways to make doing the right thing pay off
with meaningful rewards that reinforce a youth’s sense of
COPS Dollars
In “Violent Neighborhoods, Violent Kids,” another article
published by the OJJDP, Marcia Chaiken noted that the
COPS dollars utilized in California served as a useful tool for
channeling youth energy into productive activities:
In Redding, CA, police officers have capitalized
on boys’ economic motivations by giving groups
of youth “COPS dollars” when they complete
projects to improve their neighborhoods. Endorsed
by local merchants, COPS dollars can be redeemed
at restaurants and other businesses popular with
community youth. As a result of this program, boys
in blighted areas who used to hang out and get into
trouble are removing litter, cleaning up vacant lots,
and creating play and recreation areas for themselves
and younger children. Judging from their willingness
to approach officers and ask what needs to be done
in return for COPS dollars, boys—in addition to the
police, businesses, and other residents—favor this

Gulf Coast Trades Center
The 2005 OJJDP report also discussed the residential skills
program Gulf Coast Trades Center, located in Texas:
An example of a residential skills program that is not
combined with an at-home alternative is the Gulf
Coast Trades Center (GCTC), a private, nonprofit
organization that has served troubled youth in the
Houston, TX, area since 1971. GCTC serves youth
ages 16–19 who are referred by the Texas Youth
Commission or by a probation officer. The program
provides education, job training, life skills planning,


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
Time Dollars

groups has spearheaded a community building effort
that has built recreational facilities, winterized homes,
and provided after-school programs for children.
In 2005, they opened a Time Dollar store to enable
residents to secure items they could never have
afforded for participating in the effort. Five hours
(either as receiver or provider of services) could
be redeemed for one token. Two tokens enabled
one to secure a Bronze level reward; four tokens
secured a Silver level reward; and eight tokens a
Gold level reward. Gifts-in-Kind has indicated that
its merchandise could be used to stock such a store.
This could serve as a prototype for a Time Dollar web
store as a joint public/private venture so that youths
earning Time Dollars through designated community
service can get electronics, financial aid (scholarships
and loan forgiveness), Metro passes, clothes, athletic
equipment, meals, tickets to special events (sports,
concerts, movies), discounts, snack food, computers
and printers, modems and software, Internet access,
and school supplies.

A tax-exempt complementary currency, Time Dollars,
provides one way to track contribution and structure
eligibility for rewards without heavy reliance on scarce
• In violence-prone schools in Albany, NY, the School
of Social Welfare at SUNY worked with the principals
to set up a Time Dollar store. Students and parents
spent a semester deciding what they wanted in the
store and what kinds of activities would earn Time
Dollars. Violence plummeted, attendance rose, and
there were dramatic improvements in academic
achievement. Time Dollars are earned both by
tutoring and mentoring other students and by helping
both teachers and administration to keep the school
looking spotless, cheerful, and friendly.
• In Chicago’s notorious Englewood neighborhood,
low-achieving schools utilized a Time Dollar peer
tutoring program with older students tutoring
younger students to improve academic achievement
and attendance and to reduce violence. Parents and
children work together to earn a recycled computer;
parents had to earn 10 Time Dollars and students 100
Time Dollars to secure a recycled computer. Over
5,600 families have now gained recycled computers.

3. Reciprocity: Self-Esteem Programs
Human service projects and “do-good” charitable activities
provide free services in order to reduce suffering and address
social problems. The focus is on “helping” and on “fixing”
people with problems. Helping professionals and volunteers
rarely ask, encourage, or require any “pay back” by the
recipient—and in the process, they unwittingly send two
messages that undermine their mission. The first is: We have
something you need, but you have nothing we need, want,
or value. The second message is: The way you get more of
our help is by having more problems. To secure the kind of
engagement from youth and community that is critical, a
different message needs to be sent: We need each other—to
build the kind of world we all want. Reciprocity is central.
That does not mean that a youth must help the same person
or agency that helped her or him. It can take the form of
“pay it forward.” But organizations are now beginning to
appreciate that “giving back” in some way is essential to
building self-esteem and establishing a partnership based on
mutual respect.

• From its inception in 1995, the Time Dollar Youth
Court in Washington, D.C. has enabled jurors
(including respondents) to secure recycled computers
by spending 50 hours each on the jury. (Respondents
do not earn Time Dollars for the community service
part of their sentence, but they do earn Time Dollars
as jurors.) An “alumni club,” which was funded for
one year for Youth Court respondents who completed
their jury duty and sentence, awarded Time Dollars
for community service that enabled the “alumni” to
go on trips, secure grocery gift cards for their families,
and go bowling.
• In San Diego, an organization providing therapy to
young women returning from prison and trying to
get their children back from foster care charged Time
Dollars for the therapy and the transitional housing.
The women earned the Time Dollars teaching teenage
young women about AIDS, HIV, and sexual abuse,
as well as by performing assigned roles in the therapy

Youth Advocate Program
The Youth Advocate Project (a neighborhood-based wraparound program described below) has just added “pay back”
as one of its core practices in fulfilling its mission to provide
an alternative to compulsory institution for youth who are
deeply embedded in the criminal justice system. After an
internal review, it undertook to change its mission statement:

• One of the poorest counties in West Virginia has
a small community populated by the descendants of
escaped slaves and Native Americans who escaped the
Trail of Tears. A church partnering with community

Our mission is to provide individuals who are, have
been or may be subject to compulsory care with the


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued
as assets so that communities have safe, proven,
effective and economical alternatives to institutional
The Individual Service Plan that YAP develops for each
youth includes an appropriate opportunity to “pay back” by
engaging in a project that redefines the youth as a community
asset. Examples include working with Habitat for Humanity
to renovate housing and a project with the Houston police
demolishing crack houses. The following example illustrates
this new contribution-centered approach:
Youth worked with the local fire fighters to conduct
fire safety assessments in the neighborhood. They
became trained to go door to door to assess fire safety
readiness. They also conducted public demonstrations
of fire safety at town fairs with the fire fighters. They
assisted their parents in fundraising activities. Both the
parent and the youth groups convened at least twice per
week for a total of six hours per week. An educational
and a social skills development activity occurred at least
once a month. The project ended with a celebratory
event in the community where a check for over $1,000
was presented to the local parks and recreational
department to improve the local skate park. The prime
reward for the youth was the realization that they
contributed to their community. YAP also used its flex
fund to pay for a local bike shop to rehab six bicycles
for the youth as a concrete additional reward for the 96
hours of service that they provided. Parents working
together on this project began to know each other well.
One family decided to continue the project past the 16
weeks. YAP helped them continue and is now working
with them on establishing a neighbor-to-neighbor time
dollar exchange system for them and their neighbors.
Manna is a community development corporation that builds
and renovates affordable housing in some of Washington,
D.C.’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.208 Manna sought
legal help to close crack houses in those neighborhoods it
was seeking to rebuild. The law firm of Holland & Knight
offered the legal services on condition that every hour the
lawyers gave is paid back by the community in one of three
ways: providing tutoring, cleaning up the neighborhood, and
campaigning for decent street lighting. That reciprocal effort
generated a major investment by the law firm, time that had a
market value of over $240,000.209
East Capitol Center for Change
This grassroots organization in Washington, D.C. operates
a re-entry program for young men returning from prison.

In return for providing job references and help preparing
a resume, a payback is required. Staff members try to find
a role that excites and engages these young men. Some
coach sports teams at public housing complexes plagued
by violence. Others serve as school monitors who are able
to clear the halls and get students out of bathrooms, and
keep them from skipping class or doing drugs, where school
officials have long failed.210

4. Social Networks: Family and Community
Support Programs
Sooner or later, services end. Evenings and weekends come
and there may be no staff available. Sometimes one simply
needs a friend; a ride; help with an algebra assignment; a hair
cut or dress alteration; or some simple home repair that an
agency is not authorized or equipped to provide. This is what
families, especially extended families and neighbors, used to
provide. Now, many families are fragile, headed by a single
adult. And these families do not know whom to trust or
whom they can turn to. Even confidentiality and privacy laws
operate to prevent clients from getting to know each other.
And when formal services are terminated or taper off, the
absence of informal support systems leaves those families or
those youth as isolated, fragile, and vulnerable as they were at
the outset.
This is where programmatic investments in engaging and
strengthening the family, building new kinds of extended
family, and creating social networks become critically
important. It is also where recent research on reducing
violence becomes relevant. A $51 million study extending
over 10 years by renowned researchers from Harvard,
Columbia, and the University of Michigan finally pinned
down the critical factor. They called it “collective efficacy,”
which turns out to mean neighbors stopping kids from
painting graffiti, having fights, and hanging out on street
corners. It is an invisible local culture that boils down to
looking after each others’ kids.
4a. Investment in Family and “Wrap-Around” Services
Youth Advocate Program (YAP)
This national organization operates programs as an
alternative to institutionalization in 65 communities. They
hire neighborhood residents and train them as advocates
who function as a kind of extended family for youth who
would otherwise have to remain institutionalized. For the
past 25 years, the program has been able to maintain an 80
percent success rate in keeping those youth from re-entering
the juvenile justice system. The Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention, in its aforementioned study
in alternatives to secure detention and confinement, singled


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
3.	 Walk-in and prevention services for all
neighborhood residents.

out YAP’s Tarrant County, Texas, program as an exemplary
An example of a successful intensive probation
program that includes a wide range of services and
programs for youth and their families is the Tarrant
County Advocate Program-North (TCAP) in Texas.
Started in November 1994, TCAP is funded by
Tarrant County Juvenile Services. Approximately 50
youth at a time participate in the four- to six-month
program, which serves an average of 210 youth per
year. Most are male (95 percent) and Hispanic (49
percent) or white (47 percent), and approximately
80 percent are involved with gangs. TCAP uses paid
mentors or advocates to link youth and their families
with community-based services. These advocates
contact the families three or four times per week,
tailoring the program to fit individual family needs.
Program activities include counseling, job training,
subsidized youth employment, vocational training,
anger management classes, tutoring, community service
restitution projects, character development courses, and
parent education classes. During 2002, TCAP served
527 youth and their families; 385 families completed the
program. Of these youth, 96 percent were successfully
maintained in the community or were diverted from
out-of-home placement or commitment to the Texas
Youth Commission.211

Although many of Loisaida’s residents lack adequate health
resources and often suffer from the shame and stigma of
criminal justice involvement, the Loisaida community also
offers abundant resources. Community- and faith-based
organizations, settlement houses, schools, health care
facilities, and close-knit families provide a web of support
through good and bad times.213
Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is devoted to fostering
public policies, human service reforms, and community
supports for disadvantaged families and children, including
programs designed to help foster families. One of these
programs is Casey Family Services (CFS), a nonprofit child
welfare agency program sponsored by the foundation. CFS
provides comprehensive services to disadvantaged children,
including foster care, post-adoptive programs, reunification,
and special programs designed to strengthen families and
inform parents.214
4b. Investment in Reducing Violence by Creating
Collective Efficacy
Since 1997, when Robert J. Sampson, Stephen W.
Raudenbush, and Felton Earls published their classic study,
Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective
Efficacy in Science, it has been known that collective efficacy,
defined as social cohesion among neighbors combined with
their willingness to intervene on behalf of the common
good, is linked to reduced violence. Violence associated
with concentrated disadvantaged and residential instability is
largely mediated by collective efficacy. While we know that
neighborhoods that have collective efficacy are safer, no one
had undertaken efforts to figure out how to create it where it
was absent.

La Bodega de la Familia
La Bodega de la Familia is a partnership between New York
parole and probation officers that turned an abandoned
grocery store in Loisaida, New York, into a hub for family
support. The organization has, in fewer than 10 years, earned
an “Innovations in the American Government Award”
honoring imaginative and effective programs that meet
urgent economic and social challenges. The organization is
further described by its informational Web site as follows:
By working in partnership with New York State parole
and probation officers, it is improving community
justice supervision outcomes by tapping the natural
support of families. Serving over 1000 families, La
Bodega’s bilingual staff provides three core services:

Alameda County Public Health Department
In 2004, the Alameda County Public Health Department
began developing a Neighborhood Empowerment model
for West Oakland and Sobrante Park. This was the first
systematic attempt to find out how to create collective
efficacy in violence-prone neighborhoods that clearly lacked
collective efficacy. Resources included funding, staffing, and
in-kind support. Partners brought in by the Alameda County
Public Health Department included residents, communitybased organizations, schools, churches, the City of Oakland
Neighborhood services, the police, and public works. That
partnership undertook a number of actions, including

1.	 Family Case Management, practiced through
Family Justice’s Bodega Model, for families with
a loved one involved with the criminal justice
system and struggling with addiction or drug
abuse, mental illness, or both.
2.	 24-hour support for families experiencing a drugor family-related emergency.


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
surveys and forums; leadership training; building and
strengthening Resident Action Council and Neighborhood
Committees; and launching youth employment and
development programs.
Time Bank training was provided to resident leaders and
staff with a view toward utilizing this tool to empower
residents, increase leadership, generate social capital, support
positive growth for youth, and foster healthier behavior.
Time Banking was introduced as a way to enable resident
groups to come to the table as contributors so that power
could be shared and public agencies could become more
responsive to community needs. Evaluation systems are
in place that should enable policymakers to know whether
this multi-year investment pays off in realizing specific
outcomes such as renovated parks, decreased drugs, safer
neighborhoods, reduced violence, reduced inequities, and
improved health and well-being.215

5. Respect
5a. A Fresh Listen toThose Who Go Unheard and Ignored
While Providing Formal Vehicles and Advocates to
Amplify Their Voices and Assert Their Rights
The source of this core principle of respect is our own
Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to
be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that we are
endowed with certain inalienable rights—to life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness. Right to counsel is surely one of
those “inalienable rights” guaranteed to all youth when the
juvenile justice system takes action that may jeopardize their
life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. It is clear that there
are exemplary programs that seek to make good on that
Every element of the system requires a major upgrade to
honor the constitutional rights of juveniles. This is only
possible if the number of cases that require appointment
of counsel is radically reduced by institutional reforms that
divert youth from the system and that provide them the
choice of non-stigmatized alternatives that are attractive and
Access to Justice Commissions, just established in several
states, can become a vehicle to ensure that states are actively
addressing the need to provide access to well-trained,
experienced, and dedicated defense attorneys for indigent
youth in the juvenile justice system. The elements needing
radical upgrading have been identified previously:
• Access to counsel prior to arraignment—at the
earliest possible moment;

• Ensuring meaningful informed consent to any waiver
of counsel;
• Counsel competent in the practice of juvenile law and
in youth development;
• Full determination of a juvenile’s competence to
stand trial;
• Adequate attorney training; and
• Integrating legal services with social services.
The case for investing in raising the standard for juvenile
defense is clear, as indicated in John Spratt’s 2005 analysis
of the President’s budget. The President’s 2005 budget cut
JJDPA grants, $151 million dollars below the 2004 enacted
level, and $155 million cut below the amount needed to
maintain purchasing power at the already under-funded 2004
Before describing some of the exemplary programs that
have tried to honor the promise of equal access to justice,
it is important to describe certain efforts that have been
undertaken to amplify the voice of youth directly as a vehicle
for changing the juvenile justice system and empowering
youth to have a say in how that system operates and how it
affects them.
5b. A Voice for Youth
Time Dollar Youth Grand Jury
In 2002, the Time Dollar Institute convened a Youth Grand
Jury in response to proposals from youth court jurors at
multi-session community meetings, known as charettes,
convened to map a future for the Youth Court. The intent
was to undertake an investigation of the systemic problems
that produce the cases seen in Youth Court. The 15 youth
jurors who volunteered for the Youth Grand Jury decided
that they wanted to investigate what the District government
was doing about substance abuse and teenagers. A law
professor guided the inquiry; law students helped to identify
and secure witnesses. Every other Saturday for nearly six
months, the Youth Grand Jury met. The result was a report
and indictment entitled Youth Speaking Truth to Power, What
the District of Columbia Is and Isn’t Doing about Teen Substance
Use and Abuse and What Teens Can Do to Help Prevent and
Treat Teen Substance Use and Abuse in the District of Columbia.
The members of the Grand Jury presented their report
to an audience composed mainly of District officials. The
indictment produced numerous results:


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
• Funding was mandated by the D.C. Council of teen
drug treatment programs.

San Francisco Bay Area) learned about Alameda County’s
plans to build an enormous “super-jail for kids” in remote
Dublin. Despite the fact that juvenile crime in Alameda
County had been declining for years, the county board
wanted to replace its 299-bed juvenile hall with one nearly
twice as large—540 beds. It wanted to build this gigantic
jail in Dublin all the way across the county from Oakland,
the county’s largest city and home to most of the youth in
juvenile hall (and to most of their families). A 540-bed hall
would have been among the nation’s largest.

• $2 million was committed by the mayor for drug
prevention and treatment programs specifically for
youth (compared with zero dollars in prior years) as a
direct result of the Youth Grand Jury indictment.
• The District’s Substance Abuse Strategic Plan
was changed, identifying treatment and prevention
programs for youth as of highest priority and
specifically calling for involvement of “youth as partners
and co-workers in the design and implementation of prevention
initiatives and the shaping of District policy.”

Bit by bit, these youth chipped away at the super-jail with an
avalanche of “hip-hop”-style protests. In May 2001, their
campaign persuaded state officials to withdraw more than
$2 million from the project. By July, two of the five county
supervisors (Keith Carson and Nate Miley) had come out
firmly against the super-jail. Also in July, the county agreed
to begin a comprehensive study of its juvenile justice
system. And, slowly but surely, the planned dimensions of
the super-jail shrank. In spring of 2002, Books Not Bars
and four nationally renowned juvenile justice policy groups
published Alameda County at the Crossroads,218 a devastating
report critiquing the super-jail plans. Later that year, the
County began searching for alternate locations. In 2004,
environmentalists and Dublin homeowners threatened the
county with a barrage of lawsuits. After being pummeled
for two years in the press, in Sacramento, in their meeting
rooms, and everywhere else, this was the final straw for the
supervisors. On May 6, the super-jail plans finally died. The
board voted unanimously to meet the community’s demands.
The supervisors reduced the proposed expansion by 75
percent from 241 new beds to only 33 new beds. And the
new hall will be in the center of the county, where families
can more easily visit and support their children.219

• A Time Dollar Drug Free Club for youth
recommended by the Youth Grand Jury was created.
• From the District’s substance abuse agency, APRA,
$25,000 was secured to create a youth-designed and
-operated web page addressing teen substance abuse
and related issues.
• The Youth Grand Jury was given responsibility for
a workshop and presentation on drug prevention and
treatment at the Mayor’s Youth Summit.
• Two Youth Court jurors were appointed to the
Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission, two to the APRA
Advisory Council, and three youth court members
were appointed to the Juvenile Justice Advisory
• The D.C. Coalition Against Drugs and Violence
designated Time Dollar Institute as Lead Agency,
securing $100,000 on a proposal committing the
Coalition to create a Youth Division.

Juvenile Justice Advisory Boards
The JJDPA provides federal grants to states and communities
for “planning, establishing, operating, coordinating, and
evaluating projects … for the development of more
effective education, training, research, prevention, diversion,
treatment, and rehabilitation programs in the area of juvenile
delinquency and programs to improve the juvenile justice
system.”220 The express intent of the act is to divert youth
from the traditional juvenile justice system and to provide
critically needed alternatives to institutionalization.

In 2006, funding was received to convene a second Youth
Grand Jury to revisit the findings of the first Youth Grand
Jury and assess what progress had been made and what
remains to be done.217
Books Not Bars and the Youth Force Coalition
In early 2001, it was a foregone conclusion that a new
super-jail for youth would be built in Alameda County. Opposition came from youth groups, but no one thought the
youth had a prayer. Nevertheless, from 2001 to 2003, Books
Not Bars—along with the Youth Force Coalition and other
allies—stopped Alameda County from building one of the
biggest juvenile halls in the country.

To be eligible for these grants, each applicant state must
submit a plan for carrying out its purposes and create
an advisory group to prepare, implement, supervise, and
ensure compliance with this plan. This advisory group
must “have training, experience, or special knowledge
concerning the prevention and treatment of juvenile
delinquency, the administration of juvenile justice, or the
reduction of juvenile delinquency 221… At least one-fifth of

In spring 2001, Books Not Bars and the Youth Force
Coalition (a coalition of youth organizations throughout the


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
(this group’s) members shall be under the age of 24 at the
time of appointment and at least three members who have
been or are currently under the jurisdiction of the juvenile
justice system.”222 Additionally, the advisory group must
“contact and seek regular input from juveniles currently
under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system.”223 In
addition, the group must include representatives of nonprofit
agencies that specialize in family strengthening and youth

consultation over the phone. They also go to the police
station if an individual is being subjected to custodial
interrogation, as youth often do not understand their
rights and may unwittingly make statements against
their interests as a result of coercion, intimidation, or
confusion. FDLA attorneys also ensure that clients’
special needs (such as receiving medical attention or
prescribed medications while in police custody) are
being met. In addition, they document and report any
violations of procedural or legal rights that may occur
while clients are in police custody.

This author knows from experience that present methods
for securing meaningful youth participation have been
ineffective. But the requirement to involve youth and
youthful offenders could provide an opportunity for existing
youth groups specifically organized to address youth
problems and issues. Those groups, in turn, could designate
spokespeople and press for their appointment to the state
advisory group. These state advisory groups actually exercise
de facto authority over the establishment of priorities, the
allocation of funds and, in many instances, the actual award
of specific grants. An investment in youth groups that took
advantage of this vehicle for empowerment might provide an
important corrective and an ongoing voice for youth of color
whose life options have been limited by the way in which the
juvenile justice system currently operates.

FDLA offers legal advice and educates the public about
the criminal and juvenile justice systems. It conducts
outreach through street law programs, public service
announcements, social workers, and various agencies.
With the addition of an education coordinator to the
staff, FDLA expanded its education and outreach
capabilities considerably. During the first half of 2001,
FDLA made 190 public education presentations at
area high schools, elementary schools, social services
agencies, halfway houses, and churches. By providing
peer educator training in more than half of Chicago’s
public schools, FDLA has been able to increase the
juvenile population it serves. FDLA emphasizes
its “train the trainers” initiative, which identifies
community leaders and shows them how to present
FDLA’s public education program. In this way, basic
“know your rights” information is communicated
regularly to staff and clientele of a variety of
educational and social services agencies. The FDLA
staff also conducts training on specific legal issues such
as search and seizure, “criminalization” of youth, and
juvenile rights.

First Defense Legal Aid
The 2004 OJJDP bulletin on access to counsel focuses
on First Defense Legal Aid (FLDA) as an effective legal
advocacy program for youth and gives a detailed description
of the program, excerpted below:

In September 2000, FDLA opened an office in
Chicago’s Englewood community. A National
Association for Public Interest Law staff attorney
assigned to the Englewood office provides earlyintervention legal representation and public education
to community residents. FDLA’s Project E.A.G.L.E.
(Englewood Access to Genuine Legal Empowerment)
was undertaken in response to a growing rift between
Englewood residents and Chicago police. Englewood
was in the national news in 1999 when detectives
claimed that two children, ages 7 and 8, confessed to
the murder of an 11-year-old. DNA evidence later
exonerated the children, bringing public attention to
the failure of police to properly investigate crimes
in this neighborhood. The way the police handled
the homicide investigation accentuated the need for
guaranteed free legal representation and legal education
in Chicago’s poor communities.

Since its formation in 1994, First Defense Legal Aid
(FDLA) has provided legal aid to adult and juvenile
residents of Chicago, IL. During this period, legal
representation for Chicago minors has increased from
11 percent annually to 22 percent. In Illinois (and
many other states), police can question a suspect for
up to 72 hours without the presence of legal counsel.
Public defenders cannot be appointed until a defendant
appears in court and indigence is determined. FDLA
bridges this gap in legal representation, intervening at
the outset of all cases involving juveniles. This early
intervention is especially important for juveniles, who,
because of their youth and inexperience with the legal
system, can easily be intimidated into making false
FDLA attorneys respond to an average of 25 to 50 calls
per day, 700 to 1,500 calls per month. They provide


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
FDLA’s role expanded further in 2001 with the passage
of Illinois Public Act 91–0915. This law requires early
access to legal counsel for children younger than 13
who are in police custody and who have been accused
of homicide or sexual assault.224

Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
For the District of Columbia, the OJJDP report on access to
counsel highlights the efforts of the Public Defender Service
(PDS) to provide quality legal representation for juveniles
and describes PDS as follows:

Mesa County Partners

The Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District
of Columbia was created in 1960. In 1970, the
organization expanded and assumed its current name.
The mission of PDS is to provide and promote quality
legal representation for indigent adults and children
who become involved in court proceedings in the
District. PDS seeks to protect society’s interest in the
fair administration of justice. Although a major portion
of the agency’s work is devoted to ensuring that no
innocent person is wrongfully convicted of a crime,
PDS also provides legal representation for individuals
who are facing involuntary civil commitment in
the mental health system and for children in the
delinquency system who have disabilities. The strength
of PDS has always been the quality of the legal
services it delivers. PDS concentrates its resources
on complex and serious cases and has developed
considerable institutional knowledge and expertise that
it leverages to the legal community through training and

The 2004 OJJDP report on access to counsel also describes
a legal advocacy program in Colorado, the Mesa County
Mesa County Partners in Grand Junction, CO,
has shown considerable promise in tackling
overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice
system. Mesa County’s chief judge was aware of
the county’s disproportionate minority confinement
problem as early as 1993, when court data revealed that
minority (predominantly Hispanic) youth constituted 60
percent of all youth in the juvenile justice system, but
just 12 percent of all youth in the general population.
Analysis of the data found little difference between
minority and non-minority youth with regard to
seriousness of crimes committed or number of police
contacts. The overrepresentation of minorities emerged
at the commitment stage because minority juveniles
often did not have an attorney, did not understand or
trust the system, and had not appeared in court for
previous offenses (with the result that these offenses,
which usually were minor, accumulated until the judge
ordered incarceration).

Since its creation in 2002, the Family Court of the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia has
had jurisdiction over children who are charged with
delinquent acts, as well as all proceedings involving
neglect, divorce, custody, adoption, and other familyrelated matters. Under the “one family, one judge”
requirement of the Family Court, the same judge is
assigned to all such matters involving the same child
whenever it is practical, feasible, and lawful to do so.
This system provides continuity for juvenile public
defenders. The Family Court judges become more
familiar with the cases, and the defenders are likely
to have better access to guardians ad litem, education
advocates, social workers, and others assigned to a case.
In general, the system is intended to provide a more
team-like, family-oriented approach to child welfare and
juvenile justice.

Mesa County Partners formed its Minority Family
Advocacy Project in 1995 to work with minority
youth who become involved with the juvenile justice
system. The program uses two staff advocates and
12 bilingual volunteer family advocates who walk
juveniles through the system, help them obtain defense
counsel, and make sure the juveniles know their rights.
The staff advocates attend all detention hearings, see
that paperwork reaches the public defender or courtappointed attorney, and help youth understand the
status of their case—work that public defenders often
do not have time to do. The staff advocates, who
work with approximately 100 youth at any given time,
pair with 40 volunteer advocates, who spend three to
four hours per week with the juveniles, as mentors,
tutors, and friends. The program is funded with OJJDP
Formula Grant funds through the Colorado Division
of Criminal Justice and matching county funds.
Stipends for the volunteers come from WRAP, an
agency supported by the county’s Division of Human
Services and the local school system.225

PDS has incorporated many effective elements in
its juvenile defense activities on behalf of individual
clients and brings about system change largely by
training non-PDS lawyers who represent juvenile
clients. PDS has developed a specialty curriculum
on juvenile defense and periodically conducts
comprehensive training for attorneys who practice in
delinquency court. PDS also offers training sessions


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
and conferences on special education advocacy
and disability law as they relate to juveniles in the
delinquency system. For example, in 2002, PDS
conducted a training series on Hot Topics in Education
and Community-Based Services for Children with
Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System. Participants
in these training events include defense and special
education attorneys who practice in the delinquency
and neglect courts, as well as civil legal services
lawyers, paralegals, law students, social workers, and
youth advocates from local universities and nonprofit

In 1982, in response to concerns about incarcerated
youth in need of legal guidance and access to counsel,
PDS created the Juvenile Services Program (JSP)
at Oak Hill Youth Center, the District’s juvenile
corrections facility. In 1999, JSP became a component
of the PDS Community Defender Program. The
JSP coordinator and staff attorney develop services
beyond the gates of Oak Hill to help divert youth
from the facility and meet the needs of youth who
leave the facility for distant residential placements. JSP
also works to facilitate reentry into the community
for youth at Oak Hill and for children in any of
the District’s shelters. Under the JSP coordinator’s
supervision, the staff attorney trains and supervises law
clerks, who work to ensure that the due process rights
of incarcerated youth are protected at disciplinary
hearings. Over the years, JSP has worked with
thousands of incarcerated youth, but no definitive
research has been conducted on the eventual outcomes
for these youth. Recently, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon
Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice voted
to demolish Oak Hill and replace it with new facilities
and more community-based programs for delinquents.
PDS is monitoring these developments as it continues
to offer legal services to preadjudicated, detained,
incarcerated, and committed youth.226

The materials from these training events include
practice tips, copies of pertinent laws and regulations,
checklists, forms, sample correspondence and
pleadings, and information on resources and local
contacts. The resulting “tool box” provides a practical
“how to” approach to assist attorneys—particularly
education advocates—in working collaboratively with
the school system and other agencies responsible for
delivering services to children with special needs.
PDS also compiles a Youth Resource Directory of
services for youth involved with the juvenile justice
system. Public defenders, guardians ad litem, social
workers, and other practitioners can use the directory
to find services for youth in their care. The directory
is organized by type of service: acute psychiatric
care, alternative living, drug education and treatment,
educational and vocational training, medical and mental
health services, monitoring programs, after school
and mentoring programs, and other services. Three
members of the PDS Offender Rehabilitation Division
staff are experts in juvenile mental health and are
available for consultation. Consultation is also available
through the Division’s Duty Day services.

New York Legal Aid Society
The 2004 OJJDP report also includes a description of
the New York Legal Aid Society, and a discussion of the
two means by which the Society provides legal counsel for
Founded in 1876, the New York Legal Aid Society in
New York City is the nation’s oldest and largest legal
services organization. The society has two components
that deal with legal counsel for juveniles: the Juvenile
Rights Division (JRD) and the Criminal Defense Division

In addition to the eight to twelve defense attorneys in
the PDS Juvenile Division, two PDS social workers
focus exclusively on juvenile cases and assist with
pretrial detention alternatives and long-term program
development. PDS attorneys also represent juveniles
in special education, child disability, and other civil
matters that are related to (or collateral consequences
of) delinquency proceedings. Two of the PDS special
education attorney positions are funded through an
award under OJJDP’s Juvenile Accountability Block
Grants (JABG) program. Thus, PDS has developed
a “team defense” approach to ensure that juveniles
receive quality defense, that education needs are
recognized and responded to as available resources
permit, and that children with special needs receive
public benefits, social services, and community-based
treatment services where appropriate.

Juvenile Rights Division
JRD represents 90 percent of the youth who appear
before the Family Court in New York City in cases
involving abuse and neglect, delinquency, and personsin-need-of-supervision status offenses. The division
represented more than 36,000 youth in 2002; child
protection cases far outnumbered delinquency cases.
JRD’s delinquency teams represent children younger
than 16 who are charged as delinquents in family
court. Initiated a few years ago, delinquency teams now
operate in four New York City boroughs: the Bronx,
Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Teams consist of a
supervising attorney and staff attorneys, a social worker,


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
and an educational consultant from PEAK (Providing
Educational Assistance to Kids), a JRD project that
addresses education-related issues of delinquency clients.
The teams also have access to paralegals, investigators, and
interns. Social workers and PEAK educational specialists
become involved in cases early in the process so they can
prepare a dispositional plan and testify for an alternative
to incarceration. If a youth is involved in both a child
protection matter and a delinquency matter, a special
team is created to coordinate the youth’s representation.
Team attorneys and educational consultants represent
youth in any school suspension or other school-related
proceeding. Team members meet regularly to discuss cases
and strategies. JRD also has a delinquency practice group
consisting of representatives from the four boroughs
who meet to discuss citywide trends and legal issues. This
group and the individual delinquency teams identify issues,
such as conditions of confinement, to be addressed by
JRD’s special litigation unit.

and program referrals. Team members also share their
specialized knowledge in case consultations with CDD
attorneys and social workers who represent older

JRD maintains a shared online directory, which includes
a practice manual, recent case law, and a motions bank.
The division also conducts ongoing training for unit
staff, including specialized instruction for child protective
services and delinquency matters. These specialized
resources, together with the opportunity to focus
exclusively on delinquency cases, enable team attorneys
to gain greater expertise in legal and dispositional issues
relevant to delinquency matters.228

CDD’s juvenile offender team also works with special
litigation units in CDD and JRD and with the Legal
Aid Society’s prisoner rights project to address, through
litigation and legislation, issues facing incarcerated youth.
The team also collaborates with JRD attorneys and social
workers to coordinate advocacy for clients appearing
in both family court and criminal court. Additionally,
CDD juvenile offender team attorneys represent clients
in school suspension and school placement matters.
The team has also formed working relationships with
education advocacy and youth services groups in the
community and overall has significantly improved the level
of advocacy provided to young people in New York City’s
adult criminal system.229

CDD’s team model emphasizes early case analysis to
explore trial and sentencing strategies. Team members
collect social, education, and mental health histories to
enhance case advocacy. This approach results in speedier
dispositions, fewer and shorter incarcerations, and greater
use of alternatives to incarceration. In the majority of
cases, the team secures placements in community-based
programs that offer alternatives to incarceration. The
team’s therapeutic social worker, whose position is funded
by grants, works onsite at a community-based program
and in clients’ homes, providing counseling and services
to clients and their families. The therapeutic social worker
intervenes in family crises and focuses on improving
family members’ communication and self-esteem.

Criminal Defense Division
The Criminal Defense Division (CDD) represents
juveniles charged as adults (youth ages 13–15 who are
charged with serious felony offenses and youth 16 and
older, who are considered adults under New York law).
In 1996, CDD created a juvenile offender team in its
Manhattan trial office to represent youth ages 13–15 who
were charged in adult criminal court with violent felony
offenses. These cases, which are prosecuted under New
York’s juvenile offender law, constitute a small percentage
of CDD’s total caseload yet require a great deal of time
and attention. CDD formed a specialized team to handle
juvenile offender cases because it recognized that effective
legal representation for these youth requires specific
expertise in child and adolescent development, psychiatric
diagnoses prevalent among youth, and the effects of
child abuse and neglect—areas not ordinarily familiar to
attorneys trained to represent adults.

Youth Advocacy Project
The OJJDP’s “Access to Counsel” report also describes the
efforts of the Youth Advocacy Program in Massachusetts:
The Youth Advocacy Project (YAP) was founded in
1992 by the Committee for Public Counsel Services
and the public defender office for the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts. YAP’s initial mission was limited
to defending indigent juveniles charged with serious
criminal offenses and who faced the possibility of
incarceration in an adult facility. The mission was later
broadened to encompass the underlying issues that
contribute to juvenile offending. In 1993, YAP began
to represent youth charged with lesser offenses and
to offer expanded advocacy and other intervention

The multidisciplinary juvenile offender team consists of
a director, seven experienced attorneys, an investigator,
a forensic social worker, and a therapeutic social worker.
The team meets biweekly to confer on cases, discuss
case strategy, and share experiences from the courtroom

YAP’s primary function is to provide comprehensive
legal representation and advocacy for youth charged as


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
delinquent and youthful offenders in Boston’s juvenile
courts. In 1999–2000, YAP attorneys handled 820
delinquency and youthful offender cases involving
525 youth. YAP offers clinical assessments, service
planning, referrals, and social services consultation
to high-risk youth. It also works with youth in
disciplinary and administrative proceedings, including
school suspension and expulsion hearings, special
education meetings, and Department of Youth Services
conferences. Although YAP services are available to
youth ages 7–21 throughout Boston, its constituency
comes primarily from the predominantly African
American neighborhoods of Dorchester and Roxbury.
Most youth receiving direct legal services are boys, yet
equal numbers of boys and girls receive prevention
The Committee for Public Counsel Services’ 15person oversight committee, which is appointed
by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court,
oversees YAP. The YAP staff includes a director,
one supervising attorney, two social workers, a
psychologist, a community liaison, a Know the Law
workshop coordinator, and an administrative assistant.
Staff members are often assisted by law students,
graduate students of social work and public health, and
undergraduate interns.
YAP is intensively involved in community efforts
and outreach. It has offered several hundred training
sessions on a variety of juvenile justice issues for
attorneys and youth services professionals and has
conducted 700 Know the Law workshops for more
than 10,000 participants. The Roxbury Network
and the Dudley Outreach Workers Network are
partnerships between YAP and more than a dozen
Roxbury youth-serving agencies. The goals of the
networks are to maximize the use of existing resources,
work collaboratively to improve existing services
and implement new ones, and develop a strategy
for long-term systemic change. YAP also publishes
a Community Notebook designed to assist lawyers,
probation officers, staff in the Department of Youth
Services and Department of Social Services, and other
youth workers in understanding the needs of their
clients and identifying community resources available to
meet those needs.
In 2003, YAP created the Juvenile Defender Support
Network. With the assistance of a JABG grant, YAP
added two staff members to train and support the 375
solo practitioners who provide the bulk of the indigent
defense services to court-involved children throughout

YAP also hosts the Equal Justice Partnership (EJP),
which consists of upper-level managers from most of
the Commonwealth agencies involved in Massachusetts’
juvenile justice system. The primary goal of EJP
is to enhance the capacity of the juvenile court to
promote healthy outcomes for court-involved youth by
improving communication and collaboration among
juvenile justice system stakeholders. EJP is developing
a model job-readiness program for youth on probation,
piloting a youth development assessment tool, and
developing Youth Development Approach training
curriculums for agencies that work with court-involved

1. Services for Juveniles in Incarceration
For juveniles who commit the most heinous crimes where
incarceration is appropriate, the JJDP has emphasized the
importance of rehabilitation as a top priority. Education
is an essential component of reducing recidivism and
rehabilitating young offenders. A significant number of
juveniles incarcerated are in need of educational assistance.
In the U.S. Department of Education’s Twenty-First
Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it was
noted that “IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act] ensures that students with disabilities will receive a Free
Appropriate Public Education, and these assurances clearly
extend to students in correctional facilities. In the landmark
case Green v. Johnson, the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts
ruled that students with disabilities do not forfeit their rights
to an appropriate education because of incarceration.”231
The report also stated the following: “IDEA requires
that States identify, locate, and evaluate all children with
disabilities residing in the State who need special education
and related services. Education agencies are responsible for
conducting a full, individual evaluation to determine whether
a child is eligible for services under IDEA and to determine
the educational needs of the child. This requirement
generally applies to youths in correctional facilities as well as
those in more typical educational settings.”232 Nevertheless,
this “child find” policy often results in schools failing to
identify children-in-need in the school system, and once they
enter the justice system, jails find it even more difficult to
identify them—although at the same time, it is even more
Even when children are properly identified as in need of
special services, the failures in communication between
schools and correctional facilities can result in a denial of
appropriate services during the child’s time in incarceration.
It is uncommon for youths identified with disabilities


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
prior to entering correctional facilities and those identified
upon entering incarceration to have their school records
transferred between the two facilities in a timely manner.
The exchange of information between public schools
and correctional facilities can be so problematic that
school officials sometimes must learn about a youth’s
incarceration through informal means of communication.
“Staff in correctional facilities reported that some school
districts refused to release student records without parental
permission, delaying the identification of students with
disabilities and the provision of appropriate services. In
fact, [researchers found] it was not uncommon for youths to
have exited the correctional system by the time their school
records arrived.”233

Individualized Education Plan, so adult-style curriculum and
methods for teaching the subject matter often fail to meet
the IDEA requirements and fail to meet students’ needs. As
the Board’s report further remarked:
Researchers suggest that the components of an
effective corrections special education program
include: (1) a functional assessment that uses ongoing
measurement to identify discrepancies between a
predetermined curriculum or program standard
and the youth’s level of educational achievement,
social/vocational adjustment, and ability to function
independently; (2) a functional curriculum that meets
a student’s individual needs, including social, daily
living, and vocational skills; (3) functional instruction
that uses positive and direct instructional strategies; (4)
vocational training opportunities; (5) transition services;
(6) a full range of educational and related services;
and (7) professional development for educators and
staff. Further, research suggests that effective and
ineffective rehabilitation programs differ in a variety of
ways. Effective programs are distinctive in the types of
intervention they provide, their duration and intensity,
the characteristics of staff, the relationship between
the staff and offenders, and the extent to which the
programs address the social and economic factors
affecting offenders. By identifying changeable behavior
characteristics, the conceptualization of delinquent
behavior is also a critical factor driving the development
and implementation of rehabilitation programs. In
addition to addressing the offender’s environment,
feelings, behavior, and vocational skills, effective
programs also use a cognitive behavioral and social
learning approach. They include techniques to improve
reasoning skills, empathy, and awareness of behavioral

Failure to implement the IDEA’s child find provision has
resulted in a number of class action suits against correctional
facilities failing to properly identify and assess juveniles. The
same Department of Education report also describes a series
of cases concerning the failure of schools and detention
facilities to comply with the IDEA:
In Andre H. v. Sobol, the plaintiffs claimed that
the detention holding facility did not conduct any
screening or child find activities, did not convene any
multidisciplinary team meetings, and did not make
any attempts to get records from youths’ previous
schools. The case was settled out of court 7 years
after initiation. In Smith v. Wheaton, a school was
accused of failing to meet timelines for evaluating
youths for special education eligibility or developing
Individualized Education Plans (IEPS). The plaintiffs
also asserted that major components of IDEA were
not being followed, such as providing related services
(e.g., counseling, occupational therapy) and creating
transition plans. After an 11-year legal battle, the
courts ruled that juvenile detention facilities must
provide a broad array of educational and rehabilitative
services. Furthermore, school districts must promptly
release school records to the facility when a child is
incarcerated, as well as ensure appropriate special
education placements upon the child’s release. These
cases demonstrate the nature of the difficulties in
identifying and assessing the special education needs of
students with disabilities in correctional facilities.234

The report also makes the following key points:
Much attention has been given to the interpretation
of the IDEA Amendments of 1997 requirement
that students with disabilities be served in the least
restrictive environment. The law holds that:
To the maximum extent appropriate, children with
disabilities, including children in public or private
institutions or other care facilities, are educated with
children who are not disabled, and special classes,
separate schooling, or other removal of children
with disabilities from the general educational
environment occurs only when the nature or severity
of the disability of a child is such that education
in general classes with the use of supplementary
aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

2. Providing Effective Education and
Rehabilitation Services
The Board of Education’s report also remarked that “The
curriculum used in juvenile facilities often parallels that used
in local school districts; curriculums in adult facilities are
usually modeled on adult education programs, with the GED
or high school equivalency as the credential earned.”235 But
children who fall under the IDEA are required to have an


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
Interpreting the application of this mandate within the
confines of a correctional facility is particularly difficult.
Some researchers have labeled correctional facilities the most
restrictive environment. Nonetheless, youths with disabilities in
correctional facilities may receive educational services with
non-disabled, incarcerated peers.237

The professional development needs of the academic
staff in correctional facilities are well-documented,
most specifically in the area of special education.
Teachers need specialized training to work with offender populations. Because relatively few prospective
teachers enter corrections education, institutions of
higher education cannot justify pre-service programs
geared toward this particular subspecialty. Consequently, in-service training is essential. A State or regional
comprehensive personnel development program that is
aligned with State standards is required for enhancing
the skills of correctional special educators.

3. Transitional Skills
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also requires
that between the ages of 14 and 16 transitional services
be made available for juveniles to begin “preparing for
such post-school outcomes as employment, postsecondary
education, adult services, independent living, and community

Finally, to better assess the adequacy of corrections
special education programs, State and local agencies
should consider conducting results-based evaluations
of their programs. These evaluations might include
data on an array of results for youths with disabilities,
including successful transition to community-based
education programs, high school completion, mastery
of State content standards, postsecondary employment,
social adjustment, enrollment in postsecondary
education programs, and recidivism. The evaluations
could be linked with State standards so evaluation
results can be used to inform professional development
activities, guide reforms in curriculum and instruction,
and generally improve corrections special education
programs. 240

“Correctional facilities often stress employment in
corrections industry rather than vocational education,
providing further evidence of the relatively low priority
afforded to education. Very few correctional facilities have
formal vocational education programs that provide offenders
with marketable skills and assistance in employment planning.
Furthermore, the existing vocational education programs
often exclude youths with disabilities because they do not
have a high school diploma, adequate reading skills, or other
prerequisite skills.” 239

4. Improving Incarceration Special Education
A number of methods for improving the special education
requirements for children falling under the IDEA have been
identified. The aforementioned Twenty-First Annual Report to
Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act does an excellent job of presenting them, as
State, regional, or national efforts are required to
provide standards of best practice and resources for
technical assistance. Given the relatively small number
of special educators within correctional facilities
and the broad scope of their responsibilities, these
individuals cannot be expected to design, implement,
and evaluate their own special education programs.
Rather, this is an area in which State education agency
personnel or regional staff might provide assistance
and leadership. Technical assistance to correctional
facilities could be provided to design educational
programs that comply with curriculum standards and
graduation requirements, as well as meet the unique
needs of the students with disabilities. Furthermore,
coordination among State agencies that work with
incarcerated youths could be enhanced through new
channels of communication and timely exchange of

The juvenile justice system is broken. It was built around
two principles: (1) youth are not adults and therefore,
youthful offenders need a system appropriate to their stage
of development; and (2) youth, when faced with possible
loss of liberty, are entitled to effective assistance of counsel
guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights,
particularly the 6th Amendment.
In practice, neither of those principles is being honored,
and minority youth are being subjected disproportionately
to disregard of both their developmental needs and their
constitutional right to counsel. Accordingly, a system has
developed that expends vast sums of money institutionalizing
youth who should not be institutionalized; who may not even
have committed an offense; who may not even have been
competent to stand trial; who have waived rights they never
should have waived; who have been represented by counsel
that is neither competent nor adequately trained, staffed, or
prepared to provide representation; who are accepting plea
arrangements that will stigmatize them; and who are being
confined in institutions that subject them to even greater
developmental damage.


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
Substantial reforms are needed just to honor the right to
effective counsel. But this report contends that fixing a
broken system of legal representation, while necessary,
cannot be the sole remedy for the devastating effect that
the juvenile justice system now has on the life options of
minority youth. This report contends that the primary
remedies must be: (1) keeping youth out of the system
altogether; (2) investing in their development; (3) enhancing
the capacity of home and family to provide developmental
support; (4) remedying the past failure of home and school
to aid development; (5) building safe neighborhoods; (6)
providing youth with opportunities to utilize their capacity to
help others; (7) honoring that contribution with meaningful
rewards and incentives; (8) creating a peer culture that is
based on and that rewards civic engagement; and (9) creating
vehicles whereby the voice of youth as a force for advancing

social justice can be amplified. We know how to do that.
There are ample pilot programs and exemplary programs
that demonstrate the value and cost effectiveness of these
alternatives to subjecting youth to the formal adjudicatory
But it is equally clear that there will remain a much smaller
number of youth for whom a formal judicial determination
of involvement is appropriate and obligatory. In those cases,
nothing short of effective assistance of counsel is tolerable.
Given the disproportionate contact that minority youth have
with the juvenile justice system, the life options of those
youth can only be preserved by a multi-pronged effort to
keep them out of the system and to honor their fundamental
constitutional and statutory rights.


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute


Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(OJJDP), “Access to Counsel,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin (June
2004), 1.


U.S Bureau of Census (n.d.),


OJJDP, Disproportionate Minority Confinement 2002
Update (2002), 1.




Melissa Sickmund, “Juveniles in Corrections,” National
Report Series Bulletin (OJJDP, 2004), 9.


U.S. 2000 Census (n.d.),


A. W. Tatum, “All ‘Degreed’ Up and Nowhere to Go: Black
Males and Literacy Education,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult
Literacy 46, no. 8 (2003): 620, 623.



J. G. Miller, Search and Destroy: African-American Males
in the Criminal Justice System (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 1996), 5; A. Blumstein and E. Graddy,
“Prevalence and Recidivism Index Arrests: A Feedback
Model,” Law and Society Review 16, no. 2 (1982): 265, 279-80.
Miller Search and Destroy, 7.


Ibid., 8.


42 U.S.C.A. § 5602(b).


Cruz v .Collazo, 84 F.R.D. 307, 313 (D.P.R. 1979).

P. E. Leon, C. A. Christle, M. C. Nelson, R. Skib, A. J. Frey,
and K. Jolivette, School Failure, Race, and Disability: Promoting
Positive Outcomes, Decreasing Vulnerability for Involvement with
the Juvenile Delinquency System (The National Center on
Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice, 2003), http://

The Civil Rights Project and the Advancement Project,
Opportunities Suspended: The Devastating Consequences of
Zero Tolerance and School Discipline (Cambridge: Harvard
University, 2000).


M. May, “Blacks Likely to Lose Out in School Crackdown,”
San Francisco Chronicle, December 18, 1999.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington: An
Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in
Delinquency Proceedings (2003), 47.



B. Albin, M. Albin, E. Gladden, S. Ropelato, and G. Stoll,
Montana: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of
Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (ABA Juvenile Justice
Center, 2003), 17.


National Mental Health Association, Prevalence of Mental
Disorders Among Children in the Juvenile Justice System, fact sheet



OJJDP, Quarterly Meeting Summary (September 10, 2004).



ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the New England Juvenile
Defender Center, Maine: An Assessment of Access to Counsel
and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (ABA
Juvenile Justice Center, 2003), 8.



Albin et al., Montana, 32.

D. J. Steinhart, “Status Offenses,” The Future of Children,
(Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, 1996),
information_show.htm?doc_id=77817, 3.



Who Is Responsible for Placing Police Officers in Our
Schools? (October 2, 2002),


J. A. Butts, H. N. Snyder, T. A. Finnegan et al., Juvenile
Court Statistics 1993 (Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for
Juvenile Justice, 1996), 33–51.




E. Cumming, M. Finley, S. Hall, A. Humphrey, I. P. Picou,
Maryland: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of
Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (ABA Juvenile Justice
Center, 2003), 58.


Steinhart, “Status Offenses.”

Drug Policy Alliance, Education vs. Incarceration (n.d.),
educationvsi (accessed February 14, 2006).


Human Rights Watch, Punishment and Prejudice: Racial
Disparities in the War on Drugs, vol. 12, no. 2 (May 2000).


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth


H. Snyder, T. Finnegan, A. Stahl, and R. Poole, Easy Access
to Juvenile Court Statistics: 1988-1997 (OJJDP, 1999).

R. DeComo, The Juveniles Taken into Custody Research
Program: Estimating the prevalence of juvenile custody rates by race
and gender (National Council on Crime and Delinquency,


K. J. Strom, Profile of State Prisoners Under Age 18, 198597 (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Statistics, February 2000), http://www.




P. Beatty, B. Holman, and V. Schiraldi, Poor Prescription:
The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States
(Washington, D.C.: The Justice Policy Institute, 2000).
M. Mauer, “Invisible Punishment: Block Housing,
Education, Voting,” Focus Magazine (Washington, D.C.: Joint
Center for Political and Economic Studies, 2003).




P. Puritz, M.A. Scali, and I. Picou, Virginia: An Assessment
of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency
Proceedings (ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the MidAtlantic Juvenile Defender Center, 2002), 3; ABA Juvenile
Justice Center et al., Washington, 69; Brooks and Kamine,
Justice Cut Short, 25.


G. Celeste and P. Puritz, The Children Left Behind:
An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation
in Delinquency Proceedings in Louisiana (ABA Juvenile Justice
Center, 2001), 60.


OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 5.




Albin et al., Montana, 21.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the New England Juvenile
Defender Center, Maine, 32.


OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 7.


IJA/ABA, Standards Relating to Interim Status: The
Release, Control and Detention of Accused Juvenile
Offenders Between Arrest and Disposition, Standard 4.7,
Juvenile Justice Standards Annotated (1996).


42 U.S.C.A. § 5602(b)(2).


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 12; L.O.W. v. District Court, 623
P.2d 1253 (1981).


IJA/ABA, Standards Relating to Interim Status: The
Release, Control and Detention of Accused Juvenile
Offenders Between Arrest and Disposition, Basic Principle
3.2, Juvenile Justice Standards Annotated (1996).

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193 (1996).
Pub. L. No. 104-120; § 110, Stat. 834 (March 28, 1996); 42
U.S.C. § 1437(d)(1)(5) (1997).




Cumming et al., Maryland, 26.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 69.





L. S. Miller-Wilson, Pennsylvania: An Assessment of Access to
Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings
(ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the Juvenile Law Center,
2003), 46; K. Brooks and D. Kamine, Justice Cut Short: An
Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in
Delinquency Proceedings in Ohio (ABA Juvenile Justice Center,
the Central Juvenile Defender Center, and the Juvenile
Justice Coalition, Inc., 2003), 24.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 28.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 26.


IJA/ABA, Standards Relating to Police Handling of
Juvenile Problems, Standard 3.2, Juvenile Justice Standards
Annotated (1996).


OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 8.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 17.

P. Puritz and T. Sun, Georgia: An Assessment of Access
to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings
(ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the Southern Center for
Human Rights, 2001), 22.


Ibid., 22.


Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 41.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 34.



Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute

Albin et al., Montana, 40.


Management Analysis and Research Administrative Office
of the Courts, The Annual Report of the Maryland Judiciary,
Table CSA-8 (2002).


Miller-Wilson, Pennsylvania, 61.


Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 71.


E. Poe-Yamagata and M. A. Jones, And Justice for
Some: Differential Treatment of Minority Youth in the Justice
System (Washington, D.C.: Building Blocks for Youth, 2000).


OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 9.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 41.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 46-47.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 25.


JJDP Act of 2002 § 223(a)(22).


Ibid., 35.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 47.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 41.


Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 5.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 25.


Annie E. Casey Foundation, Reducing Racial Disparities in
Juvenile Detention, #8 in the Pathways series (1999), 10-11.





Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 42.


Applied Research Services, Inc., Projecting Confined
Juvenile Populations in Georgia (September 2000), 16.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 42.




Cumming et al., Maryland, 35.
Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, Juvenile
Indigent Defense in Texas (October 2000), http://www.
pdf, 17.
Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 24.
ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the Children’s Law
Center, Inc., Kentucky: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and
Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (2002), 36.


Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 20.


Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 55.











Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 103.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 51.


Ibid., 53.

Cumming et al., Maryland, 30.
Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 64.
Brooks and Kamine, Justice Cut Short, 54.
Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 14.
Building Blocks for Youth, The Problem of
Overrepresentation of Minority Youth in the Justice System
overrepresentation.htm (accessed April 11, 2006).


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 24.


Miller-Wilson, Pennsylvania, 5.


Albin et al., Montana, 24.


Brooks and Kamine, Justice Cut Short, 46.


Albin et al., Montana, 31; Texas Appleseed et al.,
Selling Justice Short, 14.


Ibid., 47.

H. Snyder and M. Sickmund, Juvenile Offenders and Victims:
1999 National Report (Washington, DC: OJJPD, 1999), 189.


Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 64.



Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 8.

How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth
Building Blocks for Youth, The Problem of Overrepresentation
of Minority Youth in the Justice System.





Ibid., 48.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 39.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 15.


Grindall, North Carolina, 15.



Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 34.
Ibid., 5.

J. Schwarz, “Court Reports Often Blame Black Juvenile
Offenders More Than White Offender,” University Week,
February 25, 1999 (University of Washington).


ABA, Criminal Justice Section, Section of Family Law,
Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of
Children, Commission on Mental and Physical Disability,
Young Lawyers Division, Report to the House of
Delegates, Zero Tolerance Report (2000).


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Washington, 47.




Albin et al., Montana, 6.
Cumming et al., Maryland, 42; ABA Juvenile Justice
Center et al., Kentucky, 39.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 39.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Kentucky, 35.


Puritz and Sun, Georgia, 41.






ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Kentucky, 39.




Celeste and Puritz, The Children Left Behind, 85.

ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the New England
Juvenile Defender Center, Maine, 44.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 56, citing D. Krizan, Maryland
Children’s Action Network Public Policy Book (2002), 69.



Albin et al., Montana, 24.


Ibid., 3.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the New England
Juvenile Defender Center, Maine, 45.



Grindall, North Carolina, 17.


Ibid., 38.

Ibid., 34.

L. Grindall, North Carolina: An Assessment of Access
to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency Proceedings
(ABA Juvenile Justice Center and the Southern Juvenile
Defender Center, 2003), 6.



Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 33; E. Donohue, V.
Schiraldi, and J. Zeidenberg, School House Hype: The School
Shootings, and the Real Risks Kids Face in America (Washington,
D.C.: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 1998).


Ibid., 15.

Brooks and Kamine, Justice Cut Short, 43, citing L. M.
Rosado, Understanding Adolescents: A Juvenile Court Training
Curriculum, Module Five (ABA Juvenile Justice Center,
Juvenile Law Center, Youth Law Center, 2000).


Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 34.





Brooks and Kamine, Justice Cut Short, 44.


Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 22.


Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 4.


ABA Juvenile Justice Center, et al., Washington, 47.

J. Fagan, The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile Versus
Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent
Felony Offenders (unpublished 1996 manuscript, on file
with the ACLU),
10298res19960701.html.), 1, 21, 27.


D. M. Bishop et al., “The Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal
Court: Does It Make a Difference?” Crime and Delinquency
42 (1996), 171, 183.



Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
Fagan, The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile Versus
Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent
Felony Offenders; J. Fagan, M. Forst and T. Scott Vivona,
“Youth In Prisons and Training Schools: Perceptions and
Consequences of the Treatment-Custody Dichotomy,”
Juvenile and Family Court Journal 40 (1989), 1; J. Eisikovitz
and M. Baizerman, “Doin’ Time: Violent Youth in a
Juvenile Facility and in an Adult Prison,” Journal of Offender
Counseling, Services & Rehabilitation 6 (1983), 5.

Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” Juvenile
Justice Bulletin (September 2005),


Department of Health and Human Services, Youth
Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General (Washington, D.C.:
GPO, 2001), 117.



Ibid, 2.






Ibid., 2-3.

J. Tulman, “Role of the Probation Officer In Intake:
Stories From Before, During, and After the Delinquency
Initial Hearing,” D.C. L. Rev. 3 (1995).



Cumming et al., Maryland, 60.


Albin et al., Montana, 24.




Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 12.


Ibid., 5.


Ibid., 12-13.



ABA Juvenile Justice Center et al., Kentucky, 30-31.


Cumming et al., Maryland, 60.

Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 24-25; Texas
Criminal Justice Policy Council et al., An Overview of Juvenile
Certification in Texas (1999).



F. Orlando, “Controlling the Front Gates: Effective
Admissions Policies and Practices,” Pathways to Juvenile
Detention Reform (1999), 13.


Ibid., 17.


Orlando, “Controlling the Front Gates,” 11.

Astin, Johnson, and Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” 4.


Texas Appleseed et al., Selling Justice Short, 25.


Ibid., 6.

Ibid., 25.
OJJDP, National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court
Judges, Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice
in Juvenile Delinquency Cases (2005), 47.


Puritz, Scali, and Picou, Virginia, 38.




Ibid., 46.

Annie E. Casey Foundation, “The JDAI Story: Building a
Better Juvenile Detention System,” Overview of Pathways
series (2005), 18.


OJJDP, Mission Statement,


U.S. Department of Justice, Mission Statement, http:/


This paper is included in a Juvenile Justice series
published by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention, which “promotes reducing the court’s reliance
on detention and confinement through administrative
reforms and special program initiatives informed by an
objective assessment of a youth’s risk level.” J. Austin, K.
D. Johnson, and R. Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure


Orlando, “Controlling the Front Gates,” 14.




Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice, Reforming the
Juvenile Justice System (April 4, 2006),


C. Garcia, “Mental Health and Juvenile Justice: Promising
Practices in Texas,” Connect for Kids, May 23, 2005, http://



How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth

Ibid, 1.


Orlando, “Controlling the Front Gates,” 14.

E. Cahn, No More Throw Away People (Washington, D.C.:
Essential Books, 2004), 146-47.


“East Capitol Center for Change,” available at http:/; conversation between author and Curtis
Watkins, Executive Director of the East Capitol Center for


Ibid., 35.


Ibid., 14.


Ibid., 13-14.


Ibid., 14.

Austin, Johnson, and Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” 19.






Ibid., 5.

The report notes: “These categories have been
shown to have statistically significant relationships to
recidivism among juvenile offenders (see, e.g., Johnson,
Wagner, and Matthews, 2002; Hardyman, 1999).”

Annie E. Casey Foundation, available at http://www.aecf
org; Casey Family Services, available at



Phone conversation between author and Sheryl Walton
(the Alameda County Public Health Department), July
7, 2006, in preparation for proposal to provide technical
assistance to Alameda.


Austin, Johnson, and Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” 8.

Austin, Johnson, and Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders”; U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1999
NSDUH Prevention Report 1.1 (updated March 31, 2006),


John Spratt, Summary and Analysis of the President’s
2005 Budget,

“EdLaw Project,” available at



Final Report of the Second D.C. Youth Grand Jury: Youth
Speaking Truth to Power, October 10, 2006.


The report is available at



Ibid., 26-27.


OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 26.




District of Columbia Public Charter School Board,

42 U.S.C.A. § 5631(a).


Austin, Johnson, and Weitzer, “Alternatives to the Secure
Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders,” 15-16.



As stated in the act: “This group includes at least one
locally elected official representing general purpose local
government; (II) representatives of law enforcement and
juvenile justice agencies, including juvenile and family
court judges, prosecutors, counsel for children and youth,
and probation workers; (III) representatives of public
agencies concerned with delinquency prevention or
treatment, such as welfare, social services, mental health,
education, special education, recreation, and youth services;
(IV) representatives of private nonprofit organizations,
including persons with a special focus on preserving and
strengthening families, parent groups and parent self-help
groups, youth development, delinquency prevention and
treatment, neglected or dependent children, the quality of
juvenile justice, education, and social services for children;
(V) volunteers who work with delinquents or potential


Ibid., 17.

M. Chaiken, “Violent Neighborhoods, Violent Kids,”
Juvenile Justice Bulletin (March 2000), 13.


Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., Strategic Plan 2005-2009
(September, 2005), 3.


More information about Manna is available at http://www



Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
delinquents; (VI) youth workers involved with programs
that are alternatives to incarceration, including programs
providing organized recreation activities; (VII) persons with
special experience and competence in addressing problems
related to school violence and vandalism and alternatives to
suspension and expulsion; and (VIII) persons with special
experience and competence in addressing problems related
to learning disabilities, emotional difficulties, child abuse
and neglect, and youth violence.”






Ibid., 26-27.

Twenty-First Annual Report to Congress on the
Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,
chapii.pdf, 8.



Ibid., 9.


Ibid., 10.






Ibid., 11-12.


Ibid., 13.

42 U.S.C.A. § 5633(a)(3)(A).
42 U.S.C.A. § 5633(a)(3)(D)(iii).
OJJDP, “Access to Counsel,” 20-21.
Ibid., 21.
Ibid., 24-25.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C.
33 § 1401(a)(19).


Ibid., 22.




Ibid., 17.


Ibid., 23.


Ibid., 19-20.


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth



Dr. Cahn is founder and chairman of the Board at Time
Banks USA. He is the originator of Time Dollars and Time
Banking, creator of Co-Production, and president and
founder of the Time Dollar Institute. He is author of No
More Throw-Away People (Essential Books, 2004) and Time
Dollars (co-author, Jonathan Rowe, Rodale Press, 1992),
among other publications.

Margaret C. Simms, Interim President &
Chief Executive Officer
Brenda Watkins Noel, Vice President &
Chief Financial Officer
Gail C. Christopher, Vice President for
Health, Women & Families,
Director of the Health Policy Institute

In 1980, Dr. Cahn created Time Dollars, a local, tax-exempt
currency designed to validate and reward the work of
rebuilding communities. Prior to his work with Time Dollars,
he enjoyed a distinguished career as special counsel and
speechwriter for Attorney General Robert Kennedy; special
assistant to the Director, Office of Economic Opportunity;
co-founder of the National Legal Services Program during
the War on Poverty; and co-founder and co-dean of the
country’s first clinical law school (Antioch School of Law).
He was awarded a BA magna cum laude from Swarthmore
College, an MA and PhD from Yale University, a Fulbright
Scholar to Pembroke College, Cambridge University, and
a JD from Yale Law School. He was recently appointed
Distinguished Professor of Law, University of the District of
Columbia School of Law.

Christine A. Naylor, Vice President for
Corporate Relations &
Strategic Planning
Michael R. Wenger, Acting Vice President for


The Honorable Ronald Dellums
Dellum and Associates
Honorary Vice Chair

The mission of the Joint Center Health Policy Institute
(HPI) is to ignite a “Fair Health” movement that gives people
of color the inalienable right to equal opportunity for healthy
lives.  HPI’s goal is to help communities of color identify
short- and long-term policy objectives and related activities
in key areas.  The Joint Center for Political and Economic
Studies is a national, nonprofit research and public policy
institution. Founded in 1970 by black intellectuals and
professionals to provide training and technical assistance to
newly elected black officials, the Joint Center is recognized
today as one of the nation’s premier think tanks on a
broad range of public policy issues of concern to African
Americans and other communities of color.


Alvin Poussaint, MD
Professor of Psychiatry
Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Harvard Medical School, Boston
Senior Associate in Psychiatry
Children’s Hospital, Boston
Director, Media Center
Judge Baker Children’s Center
Commission Members
Estela Mara Bensimon, EdD
Professor and Director, Center for Urban Education
University of Southern California
Rossier School of Education
The Honorable Arthur L. Burnett, Sr.
Executive Director
National African American Drug Policy Coalition

Project Management: Carla Gullatt, Director of Operations
and Outreach, Joint Center Health Policy Institute

The Honorable Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore
Judge, Superior Court of Fulton County
Atlanta Judicial Circuit
Member, Joint Center Board of Directors

Editing: Marc DeFrancis, Consultant; Susanna Dilliplane,
General Editor
Proofreading: Kelli Gavant, Consultant
Cover and text design: Marco A. White, Manager of
Technology & Publications


Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute
Philip Dixon
Chairman, Journalism Department
Howard University
The Honorable George Flaggs
Mississippi House of Representatives
Reverend Dr. James A Forbes, Jr.
Senior Minister
Riverside Church
Badi Foster, PhD
Phelps-Stokes Fund
Frank Fountain
Senior Vice President,
Government Affairs
Daimler Chrysler Corporation
The Honorable Nancy Gist
Athlete Legacy Network
Former Director, U. S. Department of Justice
Bureau of Justice Assistance
Roger Goodman
Director, Drug Policy Project
King County Bar Association
Gloria Grantham, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Chester Upland School District of Pennsylvania
Norbert Hill
Executive Director
American Indian Graduate Center
Sherry Hirota
Chief Executive Officer
Asian Health Services
Loretta Jones, MA
Executive Director
Healthy African American Families
The Honorable Arthenia Joyner
Florida House of Representatives

Bob Knight
Former Mayor of Wichita
President, National League of Cities
Senior Consultant, People of America Foundation
The Honorable Alexander Lipsey, Esq.
Michigan State Representative
The Honorable John R. McCoy
38th Legislative District
Washington State Legislature
House of Representatives
Joseph McDonald, PhD
Salish Kootenai College
The Honorable Robert McEwen
The Honorable Felix W. Ortiz
Assembly Member
51st Assembly District
State of New York
The Honorable Bernadette M. Sanchez
District 26, Bernalillo County
New Mexico Legislature
Ronald Walters, PhD
Distinguished Leadership Scholar and Director
African American Leadership Institute
The Academy of Leadership
University of Maryland
Governor William F. Winter
Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis P.A.
Senior Consultants
Janie L. Jeffers
Silver Spring, MD
Pat Babcock
Public Policy Associates, Inc.
Lansing, MI
Williard Walker
PPA Policy Institute
Lansing, MI


How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of Minority Youth

Dellums Commission
Background Reports

The Impact of Waivers to Adult Court, Alternative
Sentencing, and Alternatives to Incarceration on Young
Men of Color, by Michael L. Lindsey

Men and Communities: African American Males and the
Well-Being of Children, Families, and Neighborhoods,
by James B. Hyman

This report examines the impact of transferring young
men of color from the juvenile justice system to adult
criminal courts and the impact of alternative sentences and
alternatives to incarceration on these youth

This report analyzes the extent to which, in what ways,
and through what mechanisms the condition, behavior,
and/or circumstances of men affect the well-being of poor

Correctional Policy — Reentry and Recidivism,
by Sandra Edmonds Crewe
This report discusses the causes of correctional reentry and
recidivism of young men of color and evaluates current
practices versus alternative approaches to reduce recidivism.

Young Men of Color in the Media: Images and Impacts,
by Robert M. Entman
This report assesses the media’s impacts on the life chances
of young men of color and offers potential paths to reform
and improvement.

Community Health Strategies to Better the Life Options of
Boys and Young Men of Color: Policy Issues and Solutions,
by Kay Randolph-Back

A New Generation of Native Sons: Men of Color and the
Prison-Industrial Complex, by Adolphus G. Belk, Jr.

This report addresses how the application of community
health strategies improves the life options of young men of
color and strengthen community.

This report evaluates the impact of the prison-industrial
complex on males of color, including the extent to which
the private corrections industry and intellectual and political
discourse have influenced criminal justice policy and

Indigenous Men in Higher Education,
by Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy
This report explores the issues that influence college
enrollment and completion rates among American Indian
and Alaska Native men.

Public Policies and Practices in Child Welfare Systems that
Affect Life Options for Children of Color,
by Ernestine F. Jones

State Public Education Policy and Life Pathways for Boys
and Young Men of Color, by Kay Randolph-Back

This report examines the impact of the child welfare system
on the ability of minority children to pursue positive life
options and presents promising practices to bring about

This report focuses on the barriers that are limiting the
educational and life paths of boys and young men of color,
such as zero-tolerance policies, and creates an action agenda
to remove these barriers.

Black Male Students at Public Flagship Universities in
the U.S. – Status, Trends, and Implications for Policy and
Practice, by Shaun R. Harper

Conditions that Affect the Participation and Success of
Latino Males in College, by Octavio Villalpando

This report examines racial disparities in college access,
graduation rates, degree attainment, and Division I athletics
at 50 public flagship across the nation.

This report analyzes the enrollment status and changes in
attainment rates among Latinos in postsecondary education.

How the Juvenile Justice System Reduces Life Options of
Minority Youth, by Edgar S. Cahn
This report reviews access to counsel and practices that
produce disparities in the juvenile justice system and provides
examples of how to prevent the system from reducing the
life options of minority youth.