Obama Administration to Name Bob Listenbee to Lead Juvenile Justice Agency

by John Kelly and Marion Mattingly

The Obama Administration plans to appoint Robert Listenbee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at the Department of Justice, sources at and close to the agency confirmed on Wednesday.

Listenbee is currently chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and recently co-chaired Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.

Listenbee is currently a primary member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, which is tasked with advising the president, Congress and the OJJDP administrator on federal policies related to juvenile justice.

“Assuming this is true…I have high hopes for his leadership there,” said Marsha Levick, deputy director of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. Bob “has provided strong leadership in the juvenile defender community both in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. He is deeply committed to promoting fairness for kids, working to improve the juvenile justice system, and achieving better outcomes for the kids we represent.”

The administrator position at OJJDP has not been filled by a permanent appointee since J. Robert Flores stepped down in 2008. President George W. Bush appointed Jeff Slowikowski to serve as acting administrator in January of 2009. He stayed on the job until January 2012, when he was replaced as acting administrator by then-deputy administrator of policy, Melodee Hanes.

Hanes will remain with the agency in another role, said a source at OJJDP.

During President Barack Obama’s first term in office, the Justice Department vetted a number of candidates for the OJJDP job, including former Atlanta Juvenile Judge Karen Baynes and former Texas Juvenile Probation Commissioner Vicki Spriggs. Both women withdrew from consideration shortly before a nomination was to be made.

Listenbee would inherit an agency that has shrunk in stature amid federal budget battles in fiscal 2011 and 2012. OJJDP took a $148 million cut in 2011, and experienced further cuts in the 2012 appropriations deal (see chart below story).

The true budget for fiscal 2013 until Congress deals with “sequestration,” the forced domestic and defense cuts forced by the failure of Congress to reach a long-term deal on spending last year. Federal agencies are currently operating under a continuing resolution until March.

Listenbee is also the first appointed administrator not to be confirmed by the Senate. The OJJDP job was stripped of confirmation requirement in August when President Obama signed the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, which removed confirmation requirements from scores of appointments that heretofore had required Senate blessing.

Listenbee did not return a call for comment from The Chronicle.

OJJDP spokeswoman Starr Stepp, in an email to The Chronicle, said: “Melodee Hanes is the appointed Acting Administrator for OJJDP. As soon as an Administrator is appointed, an announcement will be made.”

Marion Mattingly is the Washington Editor for Juvenile Justice Update. John Kelly is the Editor-in-Chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

OJJDP Funding in Recent Years

Community-Based Violence Prevention
2012: $8 million
2011: $8.3 million
2010: $10 million

Mentoring
2012: $78 million
2011: $83 million
2010: $100 million

Missing and Exploited Children
2012: $65 million
2011: $58.1 million
2010: $70 million

Title II Formula Grants to States
2012: $40 million
2011: $62 million
2010: $75 million

Title V Grants
2012: $20 million
2011: $54 million
2010: $65 million

Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG)
2012: $30 million
2011: $45.65 million\
2010: $55 million

Victims of Child Abuse
2012: $18 million
2011: $18.68 million
2010: $22.5 million

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.