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JDAI in General
What is involved in replicating the JDAI model?
JDAI is comprehensive model and true replication involves full-blown detention system reform. That means that (1) policy makers will establish an inter-agency collaborative to plan and assess reform strategies, (2) rely on accurate, timely data for policy, program and practice decisions, (3) develop and utilize objective criteria and screening instruments to guide admission decisions, (4) implement new or enhanced non-secure alternatives to detention, (5) introduce case processing changes to reduce length of stay and expedite the resolution of cases, (6) develop strategies to deal with warrant, VOP and "awaiting placement" cases that often end up in detention, (7) assess, improve and continuously monitor conditions of confinement in your secure facility, and (8) develop approaches to reduce racial disparities in the use of secure detention. Details regarding all of these strategies can be found in the Pathways to Juvenile Detention Reform.
Why would a jurisdiction be interested in pursuing JDAI?
Jurisdictions undertake detention reform for many reasons: to save money, to avoid building new beds, to reduce DMC, and because "it's the right thing to do". Regardless of starting point, no JDAI site has ever been successful in safely reducing its detention use without coming to embrace the notions that (a) kids do better when they are at home or in the most home-like setting possible, and (b) jj systems should always use the least restrictive alternative needed to ensure appearance in court and minimal risk of re-offending.
Is the Annie E. Casey Foundation continuing to create replication sites?
AECF is doing JDAI replication in multiple places now, often on a statewide scale. While they are open to working with individual jurisdictions, it is simply more efficient and has a greater impact for more youth if they can increase the scale by working in multiple states rather than in a single site. If you would like more information on becoming a site, please contact the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 701 Saint Paul Street, Baltimore, MD, 21202, (410) 547-6600 [please ask to speak to someone about JDAI ].
What can sites expect from the Annie E. Casey Foundation if they become a replication site?
First, the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides modest cash grants, primarily for detention reform coordination, travel to model sites, and attendance at inter-site meetings and conferences. Second, they provide intensive and sustained technical assistance on all of the strategies noted above. Third, sites become part of a network of places doing cutting edge work and get to rely on and learn from each other.
How does this complicated relationship develop?
Some sites take the initiative and visit one of the four JDAI model sites, which will provide sites with some sense of what is meant by detention reform. The next step would be someone from the Foundation to visit the prospective site to talk in detail about the various visions and aspirations. This visit would provide opportunities for each to take the other's temperature. If anything has been learned from doing JDAI for over a decade, it is that success is unlikely if the sites and the Foundation don't see things similarly. Justice system policy is complicated and politically charged. There is little point in banging heads over such matters. If similar interests and ambitions are sensed, the site and the Foundation might join together in the effort.
How can I find out if my county is a part of the JDAI network?
Visit this link
to view the list of current JDAI sites.
Can this site provide help for me with my child's individual case?
The JDAI Help Desk is an on-line resource for people and organizations interested in juvenile detention reform efforts. We do not provide direct services nor arrange for services to be provided. We also do not become involved in individual legal matters. We recommend you work directly with your assigned probation officer or defense counsel to best resolve your concerns.
Is JDAI an evidence-based practice?
Although JDAI is not an evidence-based practice, it has been replicated in well over 100 places and 85% have achieved similar results. There is a substantial amount of evidence that JDAI works but evidence based implies a rigorous and random assignment experimentation in multiple places, which has not been done with JDAI.
Juvenile Detention in General
What is meant by "inappropriate and unnecessary" detention?
Inappropriate and unnecessary are certainly judgment calls, though they should not be completely subjective. Places do differ, for example, in terms of how they rate the seriousness of particular offenses, and other places differ on how long cases should take to get processed (which is really what unnecessary is about). But that is exactly why JDAI calls for a collaborative, data-driven process, so policy makers and practioners can actually weigh these decisions and make judgments about inappropriate and unnecessary. "Inappropriate detention" is that which occurs for reasons other than detention's two authorized purposes –1) to ensure appearance in court and 2) minimize risk of re-offending prior to adjudication. "Unnecessary detention" is that which occurs when either lengths of stay are longer than needed or alternative policies and practices would obviate the need for continued holding in a secure facility.
Why is addressing case processing so important to detention reform?
Detention centers are designed for short-term holding of kids while their cases are adjudicated. They are typically shallow in terms of program services and virtually no one would claim they have any rehabilitative value. Reducing length of stay means that kids who need treatment or long-term confinement can get into the right kind of facility for those services, as opposed to languishing in a facility that was not designed for them. Finally, if the question is read to imply that longer stays have greater deterrent impact, the response is simple: there is absolutely zero empirical evidence that longer stays deter delinquency. In fact, the evidence available all suggests that confining kids in these institutions makes them more likely to have long and troubled delinquency/criminal careers. Additional thoughts to ponder:
A) Adolescent development:
How many parents with teenage children tell them—after they've misbehaved—that "we'll deal with this in 120 days"? Delaying cases unnecessarily is simply inconsistent with what we know about adolescent development and teaching "lessons".
B) System efficiency:
Do you want cops to have to come to court repeatedly because policy regarding continuances is so lax? Do you want assistant prosecutors making multiple appearances only to have cases postponed? How about victims?
C) Length of stay:
Reducing case processing times for detained cases reduces lengths of stay and, therefore, is an effective way to reduce average daily population, especially because it does not involve taking any "risks" (insofar as the youth are not at liberty, just confined for shorter periods). There are lots of bed days that can be saved typically.
D) Fast case processing expands your Alternative-To-Detention (ATD) program capacities:
If cases languish in ATD programs unnecessarily, then the program slots are filled and fewer kids can be placed in them. This means detention use will be greater than needed. Excessive time in ATD programs also means that program failure rates will be higher, which translates into less confidence in the programs and, therefore, less utilization.
E) Fast case processing increases kids' chances of success and reduces risk of future detention:
When out-of-custody cases take forever to reach disposition, kids are more likely to fail to appear in court and/or get re-arrested. That means they will certainly be detained next time they get picked up.
F) Case processing reforms can help reduce racial disparities in use of detention:
Case processing times do vary by race/ethnicity, with kids of color typically staying longer in detention than white kids. Sometimes that's because of lack of dispositional resources for specific youth; other times it may be because of representation issues. Regardless of the reasons, if we can identify where cases get delayed and introduce changes to speed the process, it is likely that we can reduce LOS for kids of color and, therefore, reduce disparities in populations.
Can JDAI reduce the confinement of status offenders?
JDAI reduces confinement of status offenders both by developing objective admissions policies that often preclude their admission and by establishing reasonable alternatives to secure custody. And, since virtually every place in the country has already succeeded in this task, it is clearly possible to implement alternatives that are more effective and less costly than detention. The processes of detention reform can be invaluable in helping officials see these realities and implementing these changes.
Is it true that JDAI could reduce confinement levels without changing fundamentally the distribution of detainees by race and ethnicity?
It is correct that JDAI could reduce confinement levels without changing fundamentally the distribution of detainees by race and ethnicity. That's because JDAI, as a general rule, does not require addressing the decisions that cops make. So, if the cops continue to bring disproportionate numbers of kids of color to the facility, it is likely that the best the system can do is to not exacerbate those disparities. (By the way, most jurisdictions do make the disparities worse; the deeper kids go in the system.) Second, even if the relative proportions remain disparate, JDAI will undoubtedly mean that fewer kids of color are inappropriately or unnecessarily detained. That is a good outcome. For example, if a facility had 100 kids in it, 60 of whom were kids of color, and if it reduced its population to 50, with 30 kids of color, the disparity in overall distribution is the same, but 30 fewer kids of color are detained at any given time. That's good relative to the DMC issue. It isn't complete success, but it's a great starting point.
What is the best procedure when youth are charged with a misdemeanor offense?
Alternatives to Detention
As with any practice, it is important to develop procedures based on factors and needs which define your own site. It is also important to know what the local laws establish as a requirement for referral to the juvenile courts. Below are samples of procedures other sites have implemented when youth are charged with misdemeanor offenses.
- In San Francisco, youth are directed to a Community Assessment and Referral Center for possible diversion by a probation officer.
- In Washington State, youth may be diverted for up to two misdemeanors or certain class C felonies. Diversion requires a meeting of the youth and parents with a diversion board. Washington State does not send letters on misdemeanor cases.
- In Nevada, there might be a limited place for some misdemeanors to be dismissed by letter but most are handled by some other non-detention option that addresses the issue. They believe that it would be hard for law enforcement and district attorneys to accept a simple letter dismissing an action without ever seeing the child and his family.
- Missouri has a system of informal referral, where anyone can contact the court and say that they saw a particular youth commit an offense. Probation will transmit a letter to the youth and "request" that he/she come to Probation for an interview. If the youth fails to respond, Probation has the authority to issue a summons (enforceable) by the police for the youth to appear. In the majority of these informal referral cases the youth and family appear and after a conference, the youth signs an agreement to perform some type of community service in lieu of referral to court. Virtually all cases handled in the informal process are misdemeanors and few are forwarded to the prosecutor for review.
- In Santa Cruz, CA, all youth are seen who have a citation for misdemeanors unless the case is clearly not a provable case.
- In Bernalillo County, NM, they have several Diversion Classes offered to misdemeanor clients, approximately 4,000 per year. After screening for appropriateness, they have the option to directly refer the client to the class that best fits their needs:
The youth and family are advised of their rights at the class and all clients are given the option to speak with an individual probation officer if the family feels that the class/program is not enough and further services are requested.
- Shoplifting Awareness Class- one night, 2 hours, parents included
- Drug Awareness Class- one night, 2 hours, parents included
- Adolescent Intervention Program- 6 weeks, one night per week, parents included
- Alternatives to Violence Program 5 week class to include mediation and Restorative Justice Component, one night, orientation- parents included
- Minor in Possession of Alcohol Class- one night, 2 hours, parents included
- Multnomah County, OR, sends out warning/resource letters. View the Multnomah County, OR Data Services Warning Letter Criteria and the Multnomah County, OR Warning-Resource Letter Sample.
How can I find out if there are juvenile detention alternatives where I live?
Most county juvenile justice departments have websites. You can search for your county's site and read to see if there are pre-adjudication detention alternatives listed. Another way to check is to ask your assigned public defender or retained defense counsel - they should know the system and what's available for your child.
How can community-based organizations be involved in detention alternatives?
Typically, community-based organizations serve as detention alternative providers when a county has issued a Request for Proposals. Community-based organizations can also serve as catalysts in jurisdictions to push for detention reform and offering to provide a network of alternatives to detention.
How can I make sure my son or daughter is considered for detention alternatives?
Conditions of Confinement
A) Parents and family members are advised to work closely with their defense counsel. Families should engage as soon as possible after the arrest with the defender (public or private) and consider the following questions, which are based upon principles for effective defense/legal representation in the juvenile justice system related to advocacy for detention alternatives.
- Has the defender met with your child? Did they explain what's happening?
- Did the defender ensure the child is being well treated? That they are not hurt in any way?
- Has the defender reviewed the material related to the allegations against your child?
- Has the defender challenged probable cause in this case?
- Before the hearing happens, who are they going to interview? The school? His doctors? His friends and neighbors?
- Has the defender determined which alternatives to detention are available?
- Have they discussed those alternatives with your child? Which, if any, was he/she agreeable to?
- If a detention alternative is ordered, have they explained the conditions of this release to you and your child in a way that you and he/she understand?
- If an alternative is not ordered, has the defender appealed that decision?
B) You may find the National Juvenile Defenders Center to be a helpful resource. Their web address is www.njdc.info
, phone number is 202-452-0010 and inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Are detention facilities required to have female staff?
There is strong evidence within case law and statutes that would support the requirement of having at least one female and one male staff member present at all times within a facility that houses both genders. If there are girls in the facility, female staff are needed to perform a variety of day-to-day functions. If the facility has girls in it and no female staff on duty, the facility is vulnerable to being sued for failure to appropriately provide those functions. In terms of standards, the JDAI Facility Self-Assessment instrument states that female staff be present whenever there are girls in the facility. ACA Standards for Juvenile Detention Facilities 3-JDF-3A-07 also requires at least one male and one female staff member in the facility when both genders are housed there:
There also has been a lot of litigation on this issue, including the following cases:
- Clarence M. v. Yakima Co., No. C-78-166, 3;VI (E.D. Wash. 1982). "Detention officers of the same sex shall perform the duties of body searches and pat-down searches."
- Jordan v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1521 (9th Cir. 1993): Prison policy requiring male guards to conduct random, nonemergency, suspicionless clothed body searches on female prisoners was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment.
- Doe v. Younger, Civil Action 91-187 (E.D. Kentucky), amended judgment filed July 26, 1996. (which resulted in a ruling requiring female staff at all times.)
- Cornwell v. Dahlberg, 963 F.2d 912 (6th Cir. 1992): Prisoner raised valid privacy claim in challenging conditions of an outdoor strip search before several correctional officers of the opposite sex.
- Stewart v. Lyles, 66 Fed. Appx. 18 (C.A.7 Ill. 2003): "… a [strip] search [conducted in front of members of the opposite sex, or performed by members of the opposite sex] may offend the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against the wanton infliction of psychological pain even if it does not cause physical injury.".
- D.B. v. Tewksbury (1982) 545 F.Supp. 896, Particular needs of girls for privacy (e.g., discomfort at having to ask male staff for sanitary napkins).
What are the policies for shackling youth in public?
The best practice is to only shackle kids for whom there is a specific and immediate concern about escape or assaultive behavior. This standard is included in the JDAI Detention Facility Self-Assessment Practice Guide, under section VII: RESTRAINTS (page 79).
"During transportation (inside or outside of the facility), staff may use handcuffs to prevent injury or escape. In the rare instances that staff need additional restraints during transportation, such as belly belts/chains or leg shackles, staff must provide particularized reasons for their use and obtain approval by the facility administrator. Staff do not use belly belts/chains on pregnant girls. Staff do not handcuff youth together during transportation, or restrain youth to the vehicle."
A recent case in California, Tiffany A. v. Superior Court, dealt with all youth at the Lancaster courthouse being shackled because of staffing issues and the physical plant of the courthouse. The opinion stated: (p. 366) "the Juvenile Delinquency Court may not, as it did here, justify the use of shackles solely on the inadequacy of the courtroom facilities or the lack of available security personnel to monitor them." The appellate court was also influenced in its decision by the fact that those being shackled are juveniles: (p. 374) The objectives of the juvenile justice system differ from those of the adult criminal justice system, and thus justify a less punitive approach to those who stand accused (and not yet to be found criminally culpable) before the court. The United States Supreme Court has acknowledged the objectives of the juvenile justice system "are to provide measures of guidance and rehabilitation for the child ... not to fix criminal responsibility, guilt and punishment." (Kent v. United States (1966) 383 U.S. 541, 554, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84.)
Additionally, courts have consistently ruled that routine shackling is not permitted within juvenile facilities. The following cases provide some insight on how courts view the issue of shackling:
- "... shall not routinely restrain youth during transportation..., but may restrain youth...when staff have reasonable grounds to believe that use of restraint devices is necessary to protect the safety of the youth or others." Johnson v. Upchurch, No. CIV 86-195, 24;E (D. Ariz. 1993) (training school).
- "Handcuffs may be used in transit to or from a youth's facility. [They] may be used where a youth becomes physically violent and they are need to transport a youth from his room, but they shall only be used if it is clear that less restrictive methods of control are not feasible. When handcuffs are used in this manner, they shall be removed as soon as the youth regains  control." Jerry M. v. District of Columbia, C.A. No. 1519-85 (IFP), 30;C(1-2) (Super. Ct. D.C. 1986) (training school); Doe v. Holladay, CV-77-74-BLG, 34;42 (D. Mont. 1982) (training school).
- "Metal handcuffs may be used only when necessary to preserve custody while preparing for and transporting a juvenile outside of the detention center." Clarence M. v. Yakima Co., No. C-78-166, 10(XII)(E)(3) (E.D. Wash. 1982).
- Handcuffs may be used also "while transporting a youth  to location outside the facility." Shaw v. San Francisco, No. 915763, 8;17 (Super. Ct. 1993).
Do juveniles with disabilities have a right to education?
While the right to education is a universal human right under international conventions, many do view it as a "privilege" in the United States. The US Supreme Court has specifically stated that education is a privilege and not a right. However, that was only in reference to the federal constitution. Since there is no reference to the right to education in the US Constitution, it was then left to each state to include such rights within their own laws – and luckily for all the youth in this nation – every state has specifically included the right to education within their state constitution. So it IS a right and NOT a privilege within each state.
Additionally, even though education is not a right at the federal level, specific federal laws were implemented to ensure that specific groups such as the disabled and homeless receive the same level of education as other students. When specifically addressing students, one should turn to the federal laws under IDEA and Section 504. Under IDEA, every youth with a disability is entitled to free appropriate public education (FAPE). This entitlement includes those involved in the juvenile justice system, ". . . between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school." The only exception to such rights is for those age 18-21 who are in the adult correctional system. IDEA also requires that, "to the maximum extent appropriate," youth with disabilities, including those in public and private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with youth who are not disabled.
to see a good explanation of having both IDEA and Section 504 – but the overall sentiment is that if a youth is covered by IDEA, they will be covered by everything under section 504 plus more. To learn more about Section 504 requirements and qualifications visit this site from the Scottsdale Unified School district.
Is it a violation of Section 504 if a juvenile detention center disciplines youth for behavior related to their disability?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap by any recipient of federal financial assistance and it does apply to the provision of educational services to incarcerated juveniles. (Donnell C. v. Illinois State Board of Education, 829 F. Supp. 1016 (N.D. Ill. 1993).) Under Section 504, students with disabilities in juvenile detention cannot be excluded from appropriate education services or school for misbehavior that may be related to the students' disability, or to the failure of the school program to meet the students' needs. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) or "504 plan" should be developed that specifies accommodations that will be provided to enable the student to participate in the general curriculum. Moreover, behavior problems might be a sign to adjust the 504 plan or IEP. Section 504 defines persons with handicaps as (a) having a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (b) having a record of such an impairment or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment. While there is a great deal of overlap with IDEA, section 504 sometimes protects people with disabilities that do not meet the definition of disability under IDEA.
Of note, learning is identified as a major life activity subject to Section 504 protections for eligible youth. Juvenile detention personnel (both educators and treatment providers) need to be aware of academic and behavioral problems (i.e, attention deficit disorder) that suggest a student may be eligible for program modifications under Section 504. But as a practical matter most students will be amply covered under IDEA. The rules on suspension and expulsion under IDEA apply in the detention setting. This means facilities have to comply with the due process requirements of IDEA. On the issue of making children excluded from school perform work and punishment, these are impermissible sanctions for school misbehavior. If a child is excluded from school, the facility still needs to provide them with education and special education services.
Can juveniles in detention be denied education while in isolation or work detail?
To deny youth from education while in isolation or work detail definitely would be a violation under IDEA and probably a violation of Section 504. A student cannot be denied his/her right to education – and specifically the adequate education specified for the individual if they have a disability – even if they are removed from the detention's normal classroom.
As noted in the July 2000 OJJDP bulletin "Special Education and the Juvenile Justice System", when youth with disabilities are removed to lockdown units or other restricted settings, facilities must still provide special education services required by the IEP.
There are no exemptions under IDEA for juvenile facilities. Therefore, the normal rules for implementing and modifying IEP's should apply. If misbehavior is school related, placement in lockdown or other restricted settings where youth with disabilities are unable to attend the regular institutional school may constitute a change of placement. A change of placement triggers additional disciplinary procedural safeguards, including review of behavioral intervention plans, functional behavioral assessments, manifestation determinations, and time limits on exclusion. Under any setting, students and parents have the right to challenge changes in placement or modifications to their IEP's. As the OJJDP report further states:
"the practical difficulties in providing services to youth in lockdown and restricted settings should prompt institutional and educational administrators to work to reduce the length of time spent in such settings. To reduce the need for lockdown, institutional educators also should pay close attention to behavior intervention strategies when developing the initial IEP. Finally, staff development should include training institutional staff on IDEA mandates and on problems youth with disabilities may experience in institutional settings. In many ways, behavior intervention prescribed through IDEA's mandates overlaps with the mission of the greater juvenile institution to intervene in and prevent inappropriate behavior. Institutional staff and educators should work together to meet the behavioral needs of incarcerated youth with disabilities."
The bottom line is that youth are entitled to the same number of mandatory school hours, the same level of education (or special education), the same development and implementation of IEPs, whether they are segregated from the general population or not.
What is a detention center's responsibility when it comes to accessing a youth's education needs?
Juvenile facilities do have certain obligations when it comes to the screening and assessment of a youth's education. The IDEA "child find" requirements for identifying youth with disabilities also apply in detention, and such requirements would be laid out in state education laws. The JDAI standards call for a series of screening and assessment measures (see section III.A. Education) The ADA also requires a self-evaluation conducted by detention centers to determine whether policies and practices prevent equal access for the participation of persons with disabilities in the facility's services.
In general, all schools, including those in detention centers, are required to implement a referral process to locate, screen, and assess youth suspected of having a disability within prescribed timelines. This requirement includes identifying youth without a prior history of receiving special education, as well as youth who received services from prior school systems but who do not have a current IEP.
One of the biggest barriers in ensuring that youth are properly assessed is the frequent lack of coordination between the local school system and detention centers, which often results in delayed receipt of a student's IEP and therefore a delay in providing for the student's special needs. And even if the detention center does receive a student's IEP, the student often does not receive the same level of services that he/she received in their previous school. These inadequate services do not meet IDEA requirements.
Moreover, in accordance with the requirement to plan and deliver individualized services in the least restrictive environment, decisions about the type and amount of services, and the setting in which services will be provided, should be made before the development of the IEP. However, in many juvenile detention education programs, this decision-making process is modified, and the intent of the IEP as a meaningful service delivery plan is lost. Such intent is derailed when detention centers develop standardized IEP documents that specify generic instructional goals and objectives; and also by specifying services that match the model of service delivery available in the facility rather than the student's educational needs. Such practices contradict the intent of IDEA requirements and result in the development of IEPs that specify identical instructional objectives, educational placements, and amount of special education for students with very different academic profiles.
It is recommended that screening should include the opportunity for self, parent, and staff referral; interviews with the youth to determine receipt of special education from previous school systems; and sufficient review of all available records to determine the possible presence of disabilities that affect educational performance. Screening activities should be coordinated among the school psychologist and the medical and mental health and educational units of the facility. In addition, training should be provided so that all staff can recognize student behaviors that trigger the need for screening for special education, and can use referral procedures for special education. Strategies should also be developed to promote parent, guardian, and parent surrogate participation in IEP development. These procedures could include using a speakerphone during the IEP conference when parents cannot attend, involving parents directly by scheduling the IEP conference to coincide with scheduled family visitation, and implementing parent surrogate procedures.
In regard to the Response to Intervention model, the IDEA applies in juvenile detentions centers, so unless and until there is authority exempting them from Response to Intervention, the facility must comply – recognizing that in some instances the child will be released before the process takes its course.
Several states have specific policies related to education rights and procedures for youth in detention. Examples include Tennessee's
Are there any policies or programs to prevent "School to Prison Pipeline" cases?
There have been several programs which have seen success in diverting juveniles from being sent straight to court on minor offenses.
1) Citing vs arresting: One county worked with law enforcement to cite or refer youth for misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors in lieu of arresting them. This met some initial resistance by the Police Department, who expressed that an arrest was a much more timely option in their mind, because the juvenile entered the system immediately and the parents then had someone they could contact for assistance. However, a negotiating point in the development of their new referral form was the priority box on the referral request itself. If law enforcement marked the priority box, it was guaranteed that juvenile services would contact the family within 72 hours of receiving the referral. This practice of citing youth versus taking them into custody and subsequently being sent to detention for processing deceases the chances of youth being improperly held after being processed. The new referral request form, which is for felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor cases, includes the following procedures.
- Be sure to fill out all the requested information.
- If the case is of urgent matter, the priority status box will need to be checked and Juvenile Services will respond to the a priority referral within 72 hours.
- A police report (thoroughly filled out) will need to be attached to the referral form.
- If an old form is used for the referral or the police report is incomplete, there will be an immediate kickback procedure to get the correct form filled out.
You can access the referral form here.
2) Community Collaboration: Advocates in Clayton County, Georgia initiated a plan where a panel of youth experts and citizen volunteers convene three mornings a week to review cases headed to detention and then recommend a course of action to the judge. The initial strategy to involve stakeholders worked so well that court officials decided to take it further in regards to reducing the number of minor offenses. The Juvenile Court invited educators to join the effort to reduce school-based referrals, identifying when court intervention was appropriate and when the school should be responsible for disciplinary matters. In the process court staff met with local education officials to provide context and information on the consequences of zero tolerance to court processes and the potential hazards of criminalizing behavior that might be more appropriate for diversion. A neutral moderator was identified, principles and guidelines were agreed upon and training for school resource officers, counselors and juvenile intake was provided. The strategy resulted in reducing school-based referrals of African Americans by 46 percent and school-based referrals overall are down by 52 percent. Referrals for affrays are down by 87 percent. Misdemeanor offenses against public order do not result in complaints alleging delinquency unless it constituted the youth's third offense. The maximum response to a first offense is a warning; a second offense requires that the student and parent participate in a school diversion program; and a third offense becomes a court complaint. Stakeholders also agreed not to refer elementary school students to juvenile court.
3) Using state law: The Marion County Juvenile Court in Indiana started to rely on a little-known state law in reviewing all delinquency petitions to determine if the filing of the petition itself is in the best interest of the child or the public. The law provides a two-prong determination for the filing of a delinquency petition by juvenile court. After consideration of the preliminary inquiry and a review of the evidence of probable cause, the court shall also consider if the petition is in the best interests of the child or the public. Over a six-month period in 2007, the Marion County Juvenile Court rejected 289 of 1,803 petitions filed for its approval. Although probable cause for a delinquency was found, the petitions were rejected because the court did not think they were in the best interest of the child or the public. Of those 289 cases, approximately 40 percent were school-related referrals.
Part of the new process included the establishment of an Initial Hearing Court to review delinquency petitions, where the Court examines a child's history and family situation, and reviews the preliminary inquiry by probation as well as the child's juvenile record. While school referrals for fighting and disorderly conduct are not uncommon, many times a child who was suspended for the incident in question had returned to school by the time the Initial Hearing Court reviews the petitions. Therefore, the judge did not believe in filing a delinquency petition when the school has resolved the matter in the best interest of the child.
For more information on "school to prison pipeline" issues, visit our Education page.