Justice Dept. Finalizes New Rules for Juvenile Justice Compliance

The Justice Department announced this week that the rules for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) compliance, finalized by the Obama Administration in January, will take effect.

From the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:

Yesterday, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) notified states that the partial final rule amending OJJDP’s Formula Grants Program regulations is approved and now in effect. The Department of Justice approved the partial final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 17, 2017.  OJJDP will use the rule to make compliance determinations for the deinstitutionalization of status offenders, separation, and jail removal core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Shortly after inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order that put 60-day delays on most rule-making that had been finalized, but had not yet taken effect. Because the JJDPA rules were not set to take effect until mid-February, they were delayed.

Earlier in the week, OJJDP spokesman Jim Goodwin told Youth Services Insider that after the 60-day delay, the department had decided to review the rules, which meant they were indefinitely held. But it appears now that OJJDP was close to a decision to move the rules as the Obama administration drafted them.

Those rules offer significant changes to the compliance process for states when it comes to three of the four core requirements of the JJDPA: deinstitutionalization of status offenders, separation and jail removal. They are the product of a rule-making process that began last August with a proposal that drew dozens of critical comments from state agencies, and ended in January with rules that clearly reflected compromises based on that feedback.

Among the changes:

  • A compliance calculation based on a standard distribution process. This replaces the old “de minimis” standards, by which most states were compliant; and the initially proposed “best practice” standard, by which almost every state would have been out of compliance on at least one requirement.
  • States would be responsible for monitoring 100 percent of their juvenile facilities each year. The final rules included a slight easement in that 15 percent of that monitoring could be “extrapolated.”
  • Established that, with a few significant exceptions, a youth was considered to be detained in any circumstance that they didn’t feel free to walk away from.

There is no word yet on what the Trump Justice Department will do on the fourth core requirement of JJDPA, addressing disproportionate minority contact (DMC). The previous administration punted rule-making on that area and several procedural aspects of the law.

The original Obama administration proposal in August codified an already-used, five-phased reduction framework for gauging state progress on identifying, addressing and tracking the presence of DMC.

In a public comment submitted after the proposal was published, the W. Haywood Burns Institute and Center for Children’s Law and Policy – two nonprofits that contract with the Justice Department contractors to assist local systems with DMC issues  ­– said the new rules should “do much more to incorporate what we know about effective efforts to reduce justice system involvement for youth of color and racial and ethnic disparities.”

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1212 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.