Notes on the Reorganization of Federal Juvenile Justice Agency

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Bob Listenbee used an annual conference of state juvenile justice advisory groups last week to outline the new organizational structure of his agency, which has been in the works literally for years.

One of the biggest goals of the reorganization was to break up the old state relations process, in which the OJJDP staffer who served as a liaison to a state also monitoring that state’s compliance.

The idea, Deputy Administrator Jeff Slowikowski told The Chronicle of Social Change back in November, was to have those activities completely separated. It would appear that this has been achieved, along with other clustering of like ventures at the agency.

Here is a breakdown of the new divisions:

Office of the Administrator

Key Staff: Listenbee and three deputies: Melodee Hanes, Nancy Ayers and Marilyn Roberts. Hanes is the principal deputy administrator.

Notes: Greg Thompson, the most knowledgable person on OJJDP’s staff in terms of state relations, is also now in this office and serving as a senior advisor to the administrator.

The new organizational map lists a chief of staff to serve under Hanes, as well as a second advisor to Listenbee; on the current staff list, the chief of staff job appears not to be filled at the moment, and the second advisor is slotted within another division.


Budget and Administration

Key Staff: Ayers will oversee this office for Listenbee. Longtime OJJDP staffer Janet Chiancone is the person in charge of its day-to-day operation.

Key Programs: State compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

Notes: This division’s job is to manage the personnel and money. Within the agency, that means handling budget issues, administering the agency’s grants, and providing human resources for OJJDP employees.

The reorganization also includes auditing and monitoring of state compliance with federal juvenile justice standards. Every state other than Wyoming currently participates in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, meaning they must comply with the four core requirements of the act in exchange for federal formula grants.

States stand to lose 20 percent of their formula funds for each requirement they are out of compliance on. This has been a touchy subject of late between the states and OJJDP: the agency is deeming more states out of compliance than it has in the past, and at the same time the congressional appropriation for the formula funds has gone from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million in both 2012 and 2013.

Elissa Rumsey has overseen the compliance process for years, and will continue to coordinate those activities for this division.

Innovation and Research

Key Staff: Ayers will oversee this division as well. Catherine Doyle will run the day-to-day, and she has a number of OJJDP veteran staff underneath her, including: Program Manager Linda Rosen, and Cathy Pierce. Pierce is listed as a senior advisor to Listenbee, which the organization map is a position in the Office of the Administrator.

Key Programs: OJJDP Research; Training/Technical Assistance to tribes, states and communities; Communications.

Notes: This is a key aspect of OJJDP’s role in the field, especially now with lower sums of money going from the agency out to the juvenile justice field. This division is responsible for taking OJJDP-funded research and evaluation, and proliferating what is learned from those ventures, thus placing the credibility of a federal agency behind findings and data.

Juvenile Justice System Improvement

Key Staff: Marilyn Roberts is the deputy in charge of this division, which will be led by Kellie Dressler. Under Dressler are seven program managers.

Key Programs: National Juvenile Information Sharing Initiative, National Center for Youth in Custody, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

Notes: This is the staff that will work with law enforcement, courts, corrections, and oversee reform-minded ventures like the agency’s partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation on JDAI.

It’s also worth noting that this division shares a name with a strategy proposed, and quickly rescinded, in 2012 by the Obama administration. The idea was to take away most of the funding going to states for juvenile justice (formula and Juvenile Accountability Block Grants), and use those funds to create a Race-to-the-Top style competition that would seed big reform projects in a few winning states.

Whereas state funding is done in exchange for JJDPA compliance now, that compliance would simply be the ticket to get into competition under Obama’s 2012 plan. The administration quickly pulled that proposal back after sharp criticism from states and a number of prominent juvenile justice groups.

Not everyone disagreed with the concept. Casey’s juvenile justice director, Bart Lubow, suggested to the Chronicle recently that it might better address the current issues of the field.

“I know there’s a deep commitment with the state advisory groups to achieving those four core requirements, and they’re important,” Lubow said in a Q&A last February. “But it’s a 40 year-old agenda. I’m not sure the pressing problem in juvenile justice today is the de-institutionalization of status offenders.”

Were Congress to ever actually fund a Systems Improvement program at the expense of state funding, this division would immediately become the epicenter of the agency.

State and Community Development

Key Staff: Also overseen by Deputy Administrator Roberts, Robin Delany-Shabazz will run point on the division, assisted mostly by a slate of state program managers. Kathi Grasso, OJJDP’s director of the Concentration of Federal Efforts Program, is also attached to this division.

Key Programs: State formula and block grants, Defending Childhood, Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice

Notes: The scope of this division is perhaps the largest of any, at least in regard to the juvenile justice field. SCD will handle most of the agency’s relationship with states (except for compliance monitoring), and manage most of the agency’s smaller pet project, such as Defending Childhood and the Supportive School Discipline Initiative.

It also will convene three groups close to OJJDP:

  • Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which four times a year brings together delegates from other federal agencies with OJJDP staff and juvenile justice leaders.
  • Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice: A group of experts and state advisory group delegates who advise the agency, the president and Congress on juvenile justice matters.
  • National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention: An annual program started in 2010 that currently assists six regions (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, San Jose and Salinas, Calif.).

The division description also notes that SCD will be tasked with “development of working relationships with the philanthropic community.” That seems odd; It would seem like the system improvement division is a more natural fit for partnerships with foundations on juvenile reform, and that division’s portfolio already includes OJJDP’s work with Casey on JDAI.

Youth, Development, Prevention and Safety

Key Staff: Roberts is the deputy overseeing the division. Reporting to her will be Jeff Slowikowski, who spent most of Obama’s first term as the acting administrator for OJJDP. Slowikowski is assisted by his own deputies, James Antal and Jeffrey Gersh, along with ten program managers and Sarah Pearson, a fellow at the agency working on tribal issues.

Key Programs: Mentoring, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), Tribal Youth Program, National Girls Institute

Notes: This division will oversee most of the OJJDP programs that have very little to do with juvenile justice systems. ICAC, AMBER Alert, and Children’s Advocacy Centers all relate to the protection of youths from criminal adults. Mentoring has emerged as Congress’s favorite thing to fund at OJJDP, but it is decidedly a prevention pot: Few of the programs funded through OJJDP mentoring grants.

The division does include a few juvenile justice-related ventures. Tribal Youth is a $10 million program to help tribes implement and improve juvenile justice systems. The National Girls Institute is operated through a cooperative agreement with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), a small part of the OJJDP portfolio focused on an issue gaining traction in Washington.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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