Listenbee: OJJDP “Concentrating our Resources” on Racial Disparities

Obama’s top official on juvenile justice suggested that his office has made addressing racial fairness its priority, which had to make at least one candidate feel good about its chances to win a big training and technical assistance grant from the Justice Department.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Bob Listenbee, testifying at a Congressional field hearing this week, said he is directing the agency’s attention to disproportionate minority contact (DMC). That is the political phrasing used to describe the fact that black, Native American and in some places Latino youth are arrested and incarcerated at rates far exceeding white youth.

Addressing DMC is a core requirement of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquent Prevention Act (JJDPA), and advocates have long pushed for more teeth to that requirement, which really just commands an adoration of the question.

Said Listenbee of the core requirements:

“The one we have made the least success with is DMC. I think there are a lot of new and innovative approaches that are available now through OJJDP, we’re concentrating our resources, our training and technical assistance on this particular requirement.”

That comment caught the ear of Youth Services Insider because OJJDP had an exclusive DMC project funded for fiscal 2014. That project was a one-year conjuring, pieced together with unspent funds from 2011 and 2012. But last month, OJJDP halted most of its training and technical assistance projects and issued one big T/TA (training/technical assistance) solicitation called “Coordinated Assistance to States.”

The recipient could receive up to $10 million over five years to serve as OJJDP’s lead T/TA provider. Listenbee’s comments suggest that if an organization is interested in the Coordinated Assistance to States grant, it better have some expertise on DMC or team up with an organization that does.

Listenbee’s comment has to be music to the ears of one possible player in the training/technical assistance mix: the D.C.-based Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP).

The nonprofit, started in 2006 by former Youth Law Center President Mark Soler, received the $250,000 cobbled together by OJJDP for the 2014 racial disparities project. CCLP is also tied into the DMC juvenile justice work done by both the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

On top of this, Soler has a long history as a litigator on conditions of confinement in juvenile facilities. Another component of the Coordinated Assistance to States grant will be training and assistance on youth in custody, which for the next few months will be handled by the National Partnership for Juvenile Services.

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

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