YSI: National Partnership for Juvenile Services, Day Two

Day Two of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services annual symposium. It’s Youth Services Insider’s last day in Louisville, the city that bourbon built.

As a UConn basketball fan, it’s been painful to walk by the home court of our rival and current national champion on the walk to the conference every day from our room at the EconoLodge.

There were lots of great, feel-good presentations on the docket for Tuesday, including such themes as starting a book club for incarcerated youths, animal therapy in juvenile justice, a session called “Digits in Detention!!!”

So what did we choose to uplift with? None of those, sir! YSI was on hand for both two-hour sessions on the audit process for Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) compliance.

It was a no-brainer, really, because PREA compliance is very much on the minds of juvenile justice leaders at many levels. YSI will be going into more detail about what we picked up next week, but for now we will just say the following: The prospect of PREA compliance for most juvenile facilities is a dubious one during the year 2014, anno domini. We’d suspect that the same is true for adult jails and prisons, some of which house juveniles that have been transferred to the adult system.

August of 2014 is the deadline for ALL juvenile facilities to have undergone their first PREA compliance audit. To determine how many facilities still have not is simple. Just find the number of juvenile facilities there are, and subtract one, because Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center is the only one.

A lot more coming on PREA next week. A few parting tidbits from The ‘Ville:

A lot of times, the vendors at conferences are in some far-flung room, not really in the middle of the action. NPJS put attendees in front of vendors and exhibitors without really forcing the subject. A cocktail reception was held in the vendor area on Monday, breakfast on Tuesday, and both coffee breaks today are there. Basically, all the free food and drinks were placed there.

OJJDP has handed the reins over to NPJS to lead the National Center for Youth in Custody. It used to be co-directed by the partnership and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, a Massachusetts-based group that represents state juvenile justice system directors. But the only grant given out in the fiscal 2013 competition went to NPJS, which will receive $375,000.

Solid presentation at the end of the day by University of Texas researcher Michelle Deitch about “kids in cages,” a 30-minute takedown of the placement of juveniles into adult jails and prisons. She hit on three themes that merit more attention:

1) The biggest myth about transfers into adult court and facilities is that it’s a public safety necessity. Transfers are a part of local jurisprudence culture; one huge county transfers a slew of juveniles while another handles those same offenders in juvenile justice, with no discernable difference in public safety.

2) Most jail and prison administrators can’t stand housing juveniles, and they can serve as critical allies in any campaign to curb the use of transfers.

3) The biggest obstacle to decreasing the number of juveniles in adult facilities is poorly run juvenile facilities. Without a successful and development-minded local juvenile justice system in place, it is hard to make the case that juveniles are missing out on anything when placed in adult lockup.

“Juvenile justice has to demonstrate it can handle the challenging kids,” Deitch said.

Click here to look at some of Deitch’s ground-breaking work into the incarceration conditions for juveniles in Texas jails and prisons. Click here for Huffington Post reporter Chris Kirkham’s expose on Florida’s reliance on a questionable private prison provider to house juveniles, the exact thing Deitch warned about in her talk.

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly

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