Tucson, Arizona (Pop. 526,116)
Tucson sought to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in youth arrests by implementing an objective decision-making instrument for use by law enforcement before arrest. This innovation was part of the local Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Intervention Model Project. Partners on the project include the juvenile court, community organizations, schools, law enforcement, a behavioral health agency and community members, with expert assistance from the W. Haywood Burns Institute.
A review of data revealed a pattern of decisions by patrol officers to arrest instead of divert youth of color. In response, the partners developed a validated risk assessment instrument for officers to administer before arresting youth. At the scene of arrest, officers in Tucson call a juvenile probation officer, who checks the youth’s juvenile record and administers the first three questions of the instrument. The outcome of this call dictates whether the officer issues a paper referral to diversion services or takes the youth into custody. The project has not only resulted in individual arrest decisions being better informed, but has also resulted in culture change across the local law enforcement agency. The police department is also able to better direct scarce resources that were previously wasted on transporting youth who were immediately released by probation intake officers.
The city manager and police chief in Gainesville assessed local arrest data and implemented a revised arrest protocol as well as officer training to reduce racial disparities at arrest. Florida’s statewide juvenile civil citation diversion tool allows police to cite eligible youth, primarily those charged for the first time with minor offenses, rather than arrest them. Data revealed that officers in the Gainesville Police Department regularly arrested youth of color who were eligible for citations, while only citing white youth in similar circumstances. In response, the department now requires an officer arresting a citation-eligible youth to contact a supervising officer for approval and to document the reason for denying the citation in writing. The department has quickly seen civil citation numbers rise as a result.
Leadership in Gainesville also noted strained relationships among youth and law enforcement officers. In response, the department added the Pennsylvania Minority Youth-Law Enforcement Curriculum to its required training. Developed in Pennsylvania through the Models for Change initiative and tested in local departments throughout that state, the curriculum brings together officers and youth to learn from each other about how best to communicate and build community. Gainesville has established the goal that every officer on the force will complete the training.
Minneapolis offers a leading example of the Juvenile Assessment and Service Center model in its Juvenile Supervision Center (JSC). An MOU between the city, Hennepin County and the local school district governs shared funding, oversight and access for youth to the JSC. The original city representatives on the JSC’s work team include a representative from each of three offices: the mayor’s office, neighborhood services and the police department. The partnership contracts for day-to-day operations of the JSC with a local nonprofit agency. Youth charged with misdemeanors and status offenses, specifically truancy and curfew violations, receive referral to the JSC. Agency staff complete risk and needs assessments, refer to services and, as needed, provide extended case management for up to six months. The JSC is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The JSC served over 2,500 youth in 2013 and provided extended case management to 500 youth. Among youth receiving extended services, results included a low recidivism rate (20 percent), as well as a high rate of school reengagement and improved school attendance.
A partnership between Baltimore City’s Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the Baltimore City Police Department and local prosecutors demonstrates how city leadership can divert youth from court prosecution to community-based behavioral health services. The MOCJ facilitates diversion from juvenile court prosecution to community-based services for about 425 children and youth annually. If successful in the community-based program, a youth no longer faces prosecution in juvenile court. In 2012, only 25 youth failed to complete the program and faced prosecution.
The head of the MOCJ created the grant-funded position of Diversion Program Coordinator in 2010 to support a shift toward a therapeutically-focused system, which holds youth accountable for their actions and connects them with community-based services designed to meet the underlying needs triggering problem behaviors. Youth arrested in Baltimore and charged with most misdemeanors become eligible for diversion through this initiative. Based on the results of a holistic family-inclusive assessment, the program coordinator determines which community-based service best fits the child. Available services include in-home mental health services, substance abuse treatment, restorative justice community conferencing, community service (usually reserved for youth already engaged in other positive activities like school or job training) and youth court.