City-Led Efforts Key to Moving the Needle on Juvenile Justice Reform

March 13, 2014

By Laura Furr

NLC Releases RFP for Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform Leadership Academy.

Despite substantial decreases in juvenile crime rates during the past decade, state and local juvenile justice systems remain in need of fundamental reforms. The availability of high-quality, community-based alternatives to incarceration for youth and support systems for reentry are uneven, and racial and ethnic disparities continue to be a persistent problem in juvenile justice systems across the country.

Mayors and other city officials have unique opportunities to drive improvements in their local juvenile justice systems. Local leaders and their community- and faith-based partners can explore new roles and resources in collaboration with the courts and juvenile probation. City agencies may also stand to benefit financially from the adoption of promising juvenile justice reinvestment strategies.  

As part of a strategic partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will host a Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform Leadership Academy on June 11-13, 2014 in Washington, DC. This convening will provide city officials with the skills and knowledge they need to take up leadership roles in juvenile justice reform, and will give participants access to national experts, promising practice examples, peer sharing and local action planning. Click on the RFP for more information. Applications to participate are due April 4, 2014.

The Models for Change initiative supports reforms to the treatment of young people who are charged with crimes and is playing a key role in reshaping the juvenile justice system. The initiative is grounded in the core principles of fundamental fairness, developmental differences between youth and adults, individual strengths and needs, youth potential, responsibility and safety.  

Local officials report that Models for Change has helped them improve public safety and support youth in their communities, even as they grapple with tight budgets and tough fiscal decisions. As a systems reform initiative, Models for Change is working comprehensively on juvenile justice reform in 35 states, and providing resources on the issues of status offenders, mental health services, juvenile indigent defense, and dual status youth through newly-established  Resource Centers.

A number of states and local jurisdictions are making important progress in improving these systems, relying on evidence-based models that hold youth accountable for their actions in developmentally appropriate ways. In some states, cities are assuming greater responsibility for community-based treatment, diversion programs and re-entry. These promising developments provide the basis for new and expanded city-led efforts to improve outcomes for young people and communities across the nation.  

The Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform Leadership Academy will provide city officials and local partners the opportunity to build on existing city-focused and city-led efforts and learn about new opportunities to engage in and lead juvenile justice reform efforts.

For more information please contact Laura Furr at furr@nlc.org.