JUVENILE JUSTICE CURRENT WORK
For over 20 years, we have collaborated with local, state and national experts to advocate for a juvenile justice system that is more supportive and responsive to the needs of youth and their families. During this time, we have had the privilege of being involved with numerous projects to improve the juvenile justice system here in San Diego County and throughout the nation. The following are some of the current projects we are working on:
System Improvement Project – Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform is currently working with the Children’s Initiative and the San Diego County Probation Department to design a Disposition Decision Making Matrix (DDMM) for San Diego County as part of the System Improvement Project (SIP). The DDMM model has proven to be effective in the states of Florida and Arizona as well as other jurisdictions by reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for youth involved in the justice system. Currently, each probation officer and juvenile court judge develops court recommendations, service plans and sentences based on their own experiences and preferences, not on validated tools or proven practices. Each juvenile court room is different and there is not consistency in sentencing, length of probation, frequency of court hearings, probation extensions, or services provided. The DDMM developed specifically for San Diego County will utilize our risk assessment tool to better align services for youth in a consistent manner.
The SIP goes beyond the creation of a DDMM, which is only one component of the project. Another key element of the project will be to evaluate institutional and community-based programs serving the juvenile justice population in San Diego County. The Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol, created at Vanderbilt University, will be utilized to better align service programs with youth needs.
Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities – Through research, The Children’s Initiative along with the County of San Diego and juvenile justice partner’s remain committed to identifying and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system. The Children’s Initiative convenes and chairs a Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities committee to research and identify disparities in the juvenile justice system and develop recommendations to eliminate and reduce the identified disparities. The Children’s Initiative holds Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities committee meetings quarterly to develop and implement data driven recommendations for improvement in this area of the juvenile justice system. We remain committed to ending inequities in our juvenile justice system and as such, this project will remain ongoing until all disparities have been identified and addressed.
Transforming Juvenile Probation – San Diego County was recently selected to participate in Georgetown University’s Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program. This program is facilitated by Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, the Council of State Governments, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Children’s Initiative is part of San Diego’s juvenile justice system partner’s team that was selected to be a part of this project. Our juvenile justice system partner’s team consist of the Chief of Probation, Chief of the Juvenile Division of the District Attorney’s Office, Chief of the Juvenile Division of the Public Defender’s Office, Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Bench, Chief Operations Officer of the Public Safety Group, and CEO of the Children’s Initiative. As a partner in this project, we are working to provide community intervention efforts to keep youth from contact with our formal juvenile justice system. In addition, for those youth who do come in contact with our justice system we are focused on ensuring that probation staffs are well trained in national best practices, utilizing strength-based assessments and case plans and consistently providing supportive, rehabilitative services to ensure youth are better prepared for success.
Youth in Custody Practice Model – The Children’s Initiative has played a key role in the implementation of the Youth in Custody Practice Model. This model is the result of a Technical Assistant award from Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators. The model focuses on four key areas of the juvenile justice system for transformation. These four areas are (1) case planning; (2) facility-based services (e.g. education, behavioral health, behavioral management, rehabilitative programing); (3) transition/reentry; and (4) community-based services. The Children’s Initiative continues to work with the Probation Department and national experts to implement the practices of the model.