ERIC H. HOLDER, JR.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
CONCERNING THE PROBLEM OF YOUTH VIOLENCE
PRESENTED ON SEPTEMBER 14, 1999
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
It is my pleasure to be here today to discuss the problem of youth violence and how the Department of Justice is working to address the issue through a comprehensive, collaborative approach. I will begin by briefly describing the overall trends we are observing in recent rates of juvenile crime and victimization. Then, I will talk about several of the programs the Department is sponsoring to combat juvenile violence and delinquency and to improve the lives of our Nation's youth, especially those programs that focus on prevention and early intervention. I'll close by commenting on the youth violence prevention initiative currently under consideration by this subcommittee, linking our current work with that which is proposed.
Before I begin, I want to express the appreciation of the Department of Justice to Chairman Specter, Ranking Member Harkin, and the other Members of the Subcommittee with whom we work closely, particularly Senators Stevens, Byrd, Gregg, and Hollings, for your commitment to working with the Department to find solutions to the problem of youth violence. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in this important effort.
Trends in Juvenile Arrest Rates
Youth crime remains a serious problem for this country. However, recent data show that we are moving in the right direction. After steady increases from 1989 to 1994, the juvenile arrest rate for Part I violent crimes has dropped for three straight years, falling 23% from 1994 to 1997. We have also seen significant declines in every type of violent crime index offense, including a 43% drop in the juvenile murder arrest rate from 1993 to 1997. It is important to note that in 1997, as has been true for the previous twenty years, less than one-half of one percent of juveniles age 10 to 17 were arrested for a violent crime.
Although juvenile arrest rates are falling, we cannot rest because the rate is still 23 percent above the 1988 level. Arrest rates for many violent and nonviolent offenses remain at unacceptably high levels. Drug abuse and weapons offenses arrests, for example, are up 125 percent and 44 percent respectively. Also the trends for female juvenile violent crime arrest rates, which have risen faster and fallen slower than for males, are cause for concern, as are the disproportionately high arrest rates for minorities.
We are also concerned about the alarming rates of juvenile victimization. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, juveniles were twice as likely as adults to be victims of serious violent crime and three times as likely to be victims of sexual assault in 1995 and 1996. Many of these children were victimized by people they trusted the most - their caretakers. The number of children identified as abused or neglected almost doubled between 1986 and 1993. In 1993, 92% of those victims were victimized by a parent.
In addition to being victimized by crime and child abuse and neglect, many children struggle with a host of other problems which put them at risk of becoming delinquent. The social transformation of inner cities in recent decades has resulted in the concentration of the most disadvantaged segments of society, particularly in urban African-American communities. Recent research indicates that the disproportionate level of violence many urban areas are experiencing stems from a combination of macro risk factors, such as poverty and joblessness, and individual level risk factors, particularly family disruption. The studies have also taught us that many of the children about whom we have the greatest concern have multiple risk factors in multiple domains (for example, family, school, community, peers) in their lives. This makes our work even more complicated and challenging.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
The Department of Justice's activities to prevent and respond appropriately to youth crime, violence, and victimization are centered in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). OJJDP is a component of the Department's Office of Justice Programs and is the Federal agency responsible for addressing the issues of juvenile delinquency, victimization, and the problem of missing and exploited children. OJJDP achieves its mission by providing national leadership, coordination, and resources to help States and local communities develop, implement and support programs tailored to their specific problems and needs. OJJDP also funds research and demonstration programs; provides technical assistance and training to help communities and practitioners implement promising and effective programs and practices; produces and distributes publications and other materials that contain the most up-to-date juvenile justice-related information available; and provides funds to States to help improve their juvenile justice systems.
Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
In addition, OJJDP is responsible for staffing the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (Coordinating Council), an independent body within the Executive Branch of the Federal Government established by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. The Council's primary functions are to coordinate all Federal juvenile delinquency prevention programs, all programs and activities that detain or care for unaccompanied juveniles, and all programs relating to missing and exploited children.
Since 1992, the Coordinating Council has been chaired by the Attorney General and includes four other cabinet secretaries, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and three sub-Cabinet officials. Nine non-Federal juvenile justice practitioners appointed by the President, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House also sit on the Council.
In 1996, the Coordinating Council published Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan (Action Plan), an eight-point statement of objectives and corresponding strategies designed to strengthen State and local initiatives to address and reduce the impact of juvenile violence and delinquency.
These objectives are as follows:
The Action Plan is regularly used by Federal agencies and States in shaping their programmatic responses to juvenile delinquency and violence.
In addition, in an ambitious effort to coordinate one of the Federal government's most valuable contributions to community safety - research about what works - the Council facilitated joint funding by several agencies for “Early Alliance,” a research study designed to promote positive development and reduce risk for adverse outcomes in children attending schools located in at-risk neighborhoods. Other interdepartmental collaborations spurred by the Coordinating Council are addressing such critical efforts as nurse home visitation programs; career enrichment for inner city youth; mental health needs of at-risk youth; treatment for children with learning disabilities; drug awareness, education, and prevention; a national replication of the Child Development - Community Policing program; the multiple needs of families with substance abuse problems; and international child abduction. I will describe many of these programs later in my testimony today.
In February 1999, following the approach advocated by the Council, the Administration announced a major new collaboration by the Departments of Education (through its Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program), Health and Human Services (through its Center for Mental Health Services), and Justice (through OJJDP and the COPS Office) to commit at least $100 million dollars to the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. Accessed through a consolidated application process, this grant program will provide students with enhanced comprehensive mental health, law enforcement, and, as appropriate, juvenile justice system services designed to reduce drug use and violent behavior and to ensure the creation of safe, disciplined, and drug-free schools. Awards for up to three years are being made to successful applicants, with grants up to $3 million annually for urban school districts, $2 million for suburban districts, and $1 million for rural districts and tribal schools designated as local education agencies. Importantly, the agencies are collaborating on both funding and oversight, in order to ensure continued cooperative management of this unprecedented multi-agency initiative, which will be expanded to include the Department of Labor.
We are proud of the Coordinating Council's accomplishments and believe its work is critical to creating and implementing a comprehensive, streamlined, and coordinated Federal juvenile justice program under the Attorney General's leadership. We were, therefore, disappointed to learn that the two juvenile justice reauthorization bills recently passed by the Senate and the House and now in conference committee, S. 254 and H.R. 1501, do not provide for a Coordinating Council. We were surprised by this omission, given the abundance of new funding streams, initiatives, and programs that the two bills propose. As conference proceeds on the bills and they return to the Senate and House floors for a vote, we urge you to retain the Council as a statutorily established entity. The Coordinating Council has served us well for the last twenty-five years and, at a cost of $200,000 annually, we believe its continuation is a sound investment. We are confident that, if reauthorized, the Council will continue to play an essential role in the effective coordination of a broad-based and comprehensive Federal juvenile justice strategy.
The foundation of effective delinquency prevention and control practice is built upon solid empirical research findings. To that end, OJJDP collaborates with a number of other Federal agencies to co-fund and oversee research related to juvenile delinquency and victimization. This enables the office to use its funds most effectively and to ensure that efforts are not duplicated across agencies. For example, OJJDP is currently working on interagency efforts with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce (Bureau of the Census), Labor, and Health and Human Services (Administration for Children and Families, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Partners within the Department of Justice include the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Violence Against Women Office, the Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
The research projects we have supported have significantly contributed to what is known about juvenile crime and delinquency and the effective approaches to prevent it. Of note, OJJDP is funding three on-going research efforts that are providing ground-breaking knowledge and understanding about the developmental pathways to juvenile crime and delinquency and that are helping to bridge the gap between research and practice, by providing information that has direct implications for prevention programming. They are:
Since 1986, the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Juvenile Delinquency -- which includes three coordinated, longitudinal research projects that constitute the largest shared-measurement approach ever achieved in delinquency research -- has produced important findings about the factors that predict juvenile delinquency and the development pathways that juvenile offenders follow in becoming delinquents and career criminals. Among the many important and relevant findings of this program of research, we have learned that:
These and other research findings have a number of important implications for delinquency prevention programming. Most importantly, we know that preventing delinquency requires early identification of the risk and protective factors that affect youth development. Because prevention efforts are more successful and cost-effective if the child has not already persistently performed a negative behavior or penetrated the more serious stages of a pathway to delinquency, we must identify and address the early warning signs of problem behaviors as they emerge, from birth to adulthood.
For example, the researchers recommend that intervention programs begin as early as elementary school, since by the time many serious offenders reach high school their characters are well established and since older youth are resistant to changing their delinquent behaviors. Also, because delinquency progresses along a pathway from less serious to more serious forms of behavior, if we can identify a juvenile's position on a given pathway, we can attempt to short-circuit the progression. The focus should be on preventing young people from entering pathways in the first place. Failing this, we should intercept them from a negative pathway before the delinquent behavior becomes ingrained.
The second example I mentioned of our commitment to the importance of research-based prevention programming is the Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile (SVJ) Offenders. This Study Group conducted ground-breaking research that links risk-factors for serious and violent juvenile crime to successful prevention and intervention programs. Its goal was to provide up-to-date, detailed information about:
The Study Group was made up of 29 leading juvenile justice and criminology scholars, including lead researchers from the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency. Under the direction of Doctors Rolf Loeber and David Farrington, the research team spent nearly two years synthesizing decades of research on factors that affect SVJ crime rates and strategies that aim to prevent and/or reduce SVJ offending. The Study Group published its findings in a report that integrates the growing body of knowledge about risk and protective factors and the developmental pathways that lead to SVJ crime with knowledge about effective delinquency prevention and intervention programs.
From its analysis of SVJ crime data, the Study Group concluded that:
An outgrowth of the Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders is the Study Group on the Very Young Offender. Its creation was prompted by concern about how well the juvenile justice system, in its current form, is suited to deal with the youngest serious violent juvenile offenders. Since a very large proportion of the eventual serious violent juvenile offenders start offending as children under age 10, the SVJ Study Group felt that a much closer look was needed at the very young serious offender. This second Study Group was constituted as a result. Specific areas being examined include whether such offending predicts future delinquent or criminal careers, how these juveniles are handled by various systems (juvenile justice, mental health, social services), and what the best methods are for preventing very young offending and persistence of offending. A report will be issued in 2000.
Together, the “Causes and Correlated” and “SVJ Study Group” research projects have greatly increased our understanding of the factors associated with juvenile delinquency and violence, the characteristics and developmental pathways of serious and violent juvenile offenders, and effective and promising approaches for preventing and intervening in juvenile delinquency. In sum, the research shows that if you catch delinquency early and address the source of the problem, you are much less likely to be dealing with a crime - and possibly a violent criminal - later. Achieving this formula, however, requires a comprehensive coordinated effort at critical times in a child's life with a range of services, supports, and opportunities - a continuum of care. It means we must get the right service to the right youth at the right time.
The Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders
Based on the research on what causes juvenile delinquency and what works to address it, OJJDP developed the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Offenders (the Comprehensive Strategy). Since 1993, the Comprehensive Strategy has served as the foundation for OJJDP's programming. Based on three decades of research in the fields of criminal justice, public health, and related disciplines, the strategy emphasizes six key principles:
The Comprehensive Strategy promotes a systematic approach to crime reduction that draws on the basic principles of the public health model. According to this model, we must first identify the root causes of juvenile crime and then implement a range of programs and services designed to prevent delinquency from occurring in the first place. However, when offending behavior does occur, it needs to be met with immediate interventions designed to deal with the causes while sending a message that law violating behavior will not be tolerated. This is the first tier in a system of graduated sanctions designed to respond appropriately to each offense and offender based on the risks the offender presents to the community and the needs of the offender. By coming at the problem of juvenile crime and delinquency from the perspectives of public safety, accountability, and care and concern for every child - through both prevention and delinquency control -- we can achieve the greatest success in enhancing positive youth development and reducing juvenile crime.
The Department is currently providing training and technical assistance to six States to implement the Comprehensive Strategy - Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas - with each site implementing the strategy in up to six jurisdictions. In addition, three pilot sites - Jacksonville (Duval County) and Fort Myers (Lee County), Florida and San Diego, California - are engaged in implementing the Comprehensive Strategy.
As noted previously, the principles of the Comprehensive Strategy are the basis for many of our programmatic efforts. For example, we know that the best way to combat juvenile crime is to prevent it from happening. In 1992, Congress enacted a new Title V of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974 and established the “Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs,” more commonly known as the “Community Prevention Grants Program.” This program is the only Federal funding source solely dedicated to delinquency prevention. It uses a community-initiated planning process that leads to implementation funding for communities nationwide.
The Community Prevention Grants Program is founded on a research-based framework that focuses on reducing risks and enhancing protective factors to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system. It offers a funding incentive to encourage community leaders across disciplines, bridging public health and community justice approaches, to engage in multi-disciplinary assessments of risks and resources specific to their communities and to develop comprehensive and collaborative plans to prevent delinquency. Such programs maximize the chances of preventing juvenile crime, delinquency, and other related problems.
To enhance the capacity of communities to formulate, implement and evaluate comprehensive delinquency prevention plans, OJJDP sponsors orientation training for community leaders and training on developing risk and resource assessment while providing technical assistance at no cost to the recipients. Since 1994, OJJDP has provided training to nearly 6,000 community leaders.
With training and technical assistance to develop local plans and seed funding to begin to implement plans over a 3-year period, communities are empowered to develop and implement delinquency prevention programs that best suit their unique needs and circumstances. In the past five years, 620 communities have received subgrants to mobilize resources and implement delinquency prevention programs. Over $40 million in matching funds have been leveraged from State and local resources.
As a consequence of OJJDP's support, we are seeing some encouraging results. For example, the Clinton, Iowa Families and Schools Together program has produced a 37 percent decrease in school behavior problems in the first program year and a 31 percent decrease in the second year. The Clark County, Washington School Reentry program showed a 39 percent decline in gang involvement in participating students from 1995 to 1998.
Prevention - Child Protection Programs
In addition to the Community Prevention Grants Program, we support the Strengthening America's Families Project. Through this program, OJJDP provides free training and technical assistance to family services organizations and administrators to enable them to improve or establish effective family strengthening programs nationwide by disseminating information on 34 model family strengthening approaches, providing training and technical assistance on implementation barriers and issues, and helping communities to select and evaluate family programs. With OJJDP's commitment, dozens of these promising or effective models are being implemented in more than 150 communities. As a result, we have seen programs improve the quality of parents' relationships with their children and achieve significant and sustained reductions in delinquency and dependency.
Recognizing that minority children are over represented in the dependency system, we have also provided funds to support the national Parents Anonymous organizations' comprehensive model of neighborhood-based, shared leadership with families in low-income, high-crime areas. Through this effort, parents are given the opportunity to observe, practice, and learn skills in parenting, communication, conflict resolution, and other related life skills.
Another family strengthening program we support, the Nurse Home Visitation Program, sends nurses to visit low-income, first-time mothers during their pregnancies and until their babies reach two years of age. The nurses help women improve their health, making it more likely that their children will be born free of neurological problems. Parents also learn to care for their children and to provide a positive home environment. Recent reports indicate that the Nurse Home Visitation program reduced State-verified cases of child abuse and neglect by 79 percent among mothers who were poor and unmarried and resulted in 44 percent fewer behavioral problems because of their use of drugs or alcohol. Adolescents whose mothers received nurse home visitation services over a decade earlier were 60 percent less likely than adolescents whose mothers had not received such service to have run away, 55 percent less likely to have been arrested, and 80 percent less likely to have been convicted of a crime.
To help break the cycle of violence, OJJDP supports the Child Development - Community Policing program, developed in 1993 by Yale University in partnership with the New Haven Police Department. The program model trains police officers and mental health professionals to work in collaboration to provide direct intervention and treatment to youth who are victims or witnesses of violent crime. The partnership assists children, families, and the community in dealing with the psychological effects of community violence by ensuring that children receive appropriate mental health services. Building on the success of the Yale-New Haven project, the Department, in an initiative called Safe Start, is providing financial and technical assistance to approximately 12 additional communities to implement similar partnerships that reach into schools, courts, and child protection services.
In December, the Department took the lead on the President's Children Exposed to Violence Initiative, which focuses public attention on the abuse and violence that affects the lives of too many children, and challenges Federal, State, and local law enforcement - in partnership with families, communities, social service agencies, child protective services, mental and physical health care providers, schools, courts, the private sector, and Federal, State, and. local government leaders - to improve prevention, intervention, and accountability efforts addressing children exposed to violence.
As part of the initiative and with support from the Department, the Yale Child Study Center will serve as a national center on children exposed to violence and on law enforcement partnerships. The center will provide training and technical assistance, devoting special attention to the link between early victimization and later juvenile and adult criminality. This new center will serve as an important resource for all communities that are in need of assistance and support in developing programs focusing on children exposed to violence.
Our child protection efforts also include activities to combat child abduction and exploitation. OJJDP has worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) since 1984 and has recently expanded its joint efforts to protect children from Internet exploitation. With support from OJJDP, NCMEC has provided training and technical assistance to law enforcement to address Internet crimes against children and is conducting a national survey on Internet pornography. NCMEC also operates a Cyber Tipline that collects information from citizens regarding computer related sexual exploitation of children and forwards it to appropriate law enforcement agencies. In addition, OJJDP has provided assistance to 10 State and local law enforcement agencies through its Internet Crimes Against Children program to establish “cyber units” to investigate these crimes.
Prevention - Programs Providing Positive Opportunities for Youth
OJJDP also supports a number of programs that provide more positive opportunities for youth, such as mentoring, after-school activities, and conflict resolution programs. Among the goals of such programs are to help children develop positive life skills, give them support and direction, and create opportunities for community involvement and service, all of which are believed to provide a good defense against involvement in delinquent behavior.
For example, the Juvenile Mentoring Program (called JUMP) is designed to provide one-to-one mentoring for youth at risk of delinquency, gang involvement, educational failure, or dropping out of school. Mentors provide youth with personal connectedness, supervision, and guidance; skills training; career or cultural enrichment opportunities; a sense of self-worth; and goals and hope for the future. Since 1995, OJJDP has awarded more than $39 million to support local mentoring efforts through JUMP and currently funds 166 JUMP sites in over 40 States.
Probably the best known mentoring program in the United States is Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. An extensive evaluation of this program by Public/Private Ventures and OJJDP's 2-year experience with JUMP show that mentoring programs improve school performance and reduce antisocial behavior, including alcohol and drug abuse. Youth involved in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentoring programs were 46 percent less likely to experiment with drugs, 27 percent less likely to experiment with alcohol, and almost 33 percent less likely to hit someone than youth not participating in the program. Participating youth also skipped school less often than youth not participating in the program and showed a modest grade improvement in academic performance.
To strengthen local mentoring projects, OJJDP is establishing a National Mentoring Center. The center will develop and field-test a core curriculum for training mentoring project staff and volunteers in specified program areas; design and conduct a set of interrelated training events that help mentoring projects to improve; and develop and disseminate technical assistance packages, publications, and other resource materials and facilitate the sharing of information across sites.
The National Youth Network, funded by OJJDP, provides opportunities for youth leadership. The Network serves as a catalyst for youth across the country to prevent crime and victimization and make a difference in their communities by collaborating among youth-focused national, State, and community organizations; distributing information on successful programs and strategies; advocating youth perspectives to policy makers; promoting the need for positive youth activities through the media; and reaching out to non-affiliated youth, especially those in the juvenile justice system.
OJJDP funds after-school activities at Boys and Girls Clubs that provide young people with appealing alternatives to drug use, drug dealing, violence, and crime. Funds were also provided by OJJDP for Boys and Girls Clubs to expand in public housing to keep youth from becoming involved with gangs or to intervene with those in the early stages of gang involvement. Boys and Girls Clubs have reached out to 6,000 youth at risk of gang involvement in 93 sites. The Department of Labor is working with us on this effort and is providing additional funding for workforce development activities. Portland University studied the program and found that 90 percent of potential gang members have maintained regular contact with the club, 48 percent improved their school behavior, more than 33 percent improved their grades, and as many as 33 percent improved their school attendance. According to a Columbia University outcome study, the OJJDP supported Boys and Girls Clubs in public housing programs reduced the juvenile crime rate by 13 percent, increased rates of school attendance, and improved academic performance.
OJJDP is also working with the Department of Labor (DOL) to increase job training and employment opportunities for high-risk youth. Specifically, we have been actively engaged in the development and implementation of the Concentrated Services for Youth Offenders Demonstration program (which Senator Specter supported and we will be evaluating for DOL), providing technical assistance for the Youth Opportunity Grants program, and evaluating the Quantum Opportunities program and the TEEN Supreme life skills program. We soon expect to finalize an agreement with DOL to build on our current efforts to create a comprehensive strategy to serve youth who are at risk or who have been under the supervision of the criminal justice system.
In the area of drug abuse prevention, one of the most promising approaches we have observed is the Life Skills Training (LST) program developed by Dr. Gilbert Botvin at the Institute for Prevention Research at Cornell University Medical College. The LST program targets the psycho-social factors associated with the onset of drug involvement, providing general life skills training and social resistance skills training to junior high school students.
One promising approach for reducing conflict and violence in the schools is bullying prevention. For example, a program to reduce bullying among school children was launched in Norway in the early 1980's. This program involves interventions at multiple levels (e.g. school-wide, classroom, and individual) designed to establish norms within the school environment that support pro-social and inclusive behavior among children and that discourage bullying and other antisocial behavior. Reductions in bullying, victimization, and antisocial behavior were observed as a result of a bullying prevention program implemented in Norwegian schools. Specifically, there were strong reductions in self-reports of vandalism, fighting, theft, alcohol use, and truancy.
Until recently, there have been few attempts to establish antibullying initiative in American schools. The South Carolina Bullying Prevention study, funded by OJJDP, evaluated a bullying prevention program implemented in the State's middle schools. Preliminary findings indicate that the program reduced self-reported delinquency after 1 year.
Conflict resolution training has also proven to be effective in resolving the schoolyard problems of bullying, teasing, and fighting. However, in addition to improving children's behavior in the classroom, the culture of the school must be changed. OJJDP and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program of the U.S. Department of Education have recently tripled their commitment to increase the number of conflict resolution programs available through schools, juvenile facilities, and community-based organizations. To support this work, OJJDP provides funding to the National Center for Conflict Resolution Education. The Center's mission is to build partnerstips with national, State, and local organizations to develop conflict resolution programs, including those in school districts and local communities.
School violence, truancy, drugs, and gangs are problems confronting many communities. To address these issues, OJJDP funded the development of the Hamilton Fish National Institute on School and Community Violence at George Washington University to test the effectiveness of violence prevention methods and to develop more effective strategies. A consortium of seven universities work directly with local school systems to implement and test school-wide interventions that promote safety by reducing fighting and bullying, truancy, and drug use and by enhancing positive student interaction. The Institute is identifying programs that can be replicated to reduce violence in America's schools and their immediate communities.
The work of Hamilton Fish in school violence is complemented by the activities of the National Resource Center for Safe Schools. This center, funded jointly by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and OJJDP, provides training and technical assistance to help schools and communities to create safe school environments.
Prevention programs and positive opportunities for at-risk youth represent just one part of the Comprehensive Strategy. It is also critically important that the juvenile justice system hold youth accountable for their behavior while, at the same time, providing appropriate rehabilitation services for youth who can benefit from them - services involving both social control and treatment. The system must have the capacity to appropriately assess a child's needs when they first enter or become known to the system. Delinquents who come into the juvenile justice system have often had previous contact with the system, for example as victims of child abuse or runaways. It is important to assess the needs of children and provide appropriate interventions as early as possible.
OJJDP is encouraging the type intervention activities that are necessary through a new Community Assessment Center (CAC) project. CAC'S, which ideally will provide a 24-hour centralized point of intake and assessment, are designed to improve the assessment of children on a variety of needs the first time they come into contact with the juvenile justice system - as dependents, status offenders, or delinquents. Juvenile justice and community-based youth service providers co-locate at the CAC to make both basic and in-depth assessments of the juvenile's circumstances and treatment needs, arrange for detention or release to a safe and appropriate setting, develop recommendations, facilitate access to services, and manage, or monitor appropriate treatment services.
Once the justice system has completed an assessment, it must have in place a range of programs to successfully deal with the issues that have been identified. This requires implementing programs that have proven to be effective. Two examples of effective programs that we are supporting include the Multisystemic Therapy program and Treatment Foster Care.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a non-residential delinquency treatment/family strengthening program developed by Dr. Scott Henggeler of the Medical University of South Carolina. This program views individuals as being “nested” within a complex of interconnected systems, including the family, community, school, and peers. MST targets problems in any of these systems for change and builds the capacity of the family and individual to work within these systems to effect that change. Several evaluations of the programs have demonstrated that juveniles receiving MST have substantially lower recidivism rates than those receiving traditional services.
Treatment Foster Care (TFC) was developed by the Oregon Social Learning Center in 1983 as an alternative to residential and group care placement for serious and chronic juvenile offenders. Four studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of the TFC approach and overall, the results showed that, compared with alternative residential treatment models, TFC was cost effective and led to better outcomes for children and families.
Although the prevalence of mental health and substance abuse disorders among youth in the juvenile justice system is largely unknown, recent research suggests that these problems are significantly greater for juvenile delinquents than for other youth. To effectively rehabilitate juveniles, there needs to be an increase in the number and quality of treatment programs in the community and in juvenile institutions. OJJDP is currently working with other Federal agencies to provide increased levels of funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs both in the community and in juvenile institutions. For example, OJJDP is contributing to a multi-year National Institute of Mental Health study on substance abuse, antisocial behavior, and the long-term efficacy of medication and behavioral and educational treatment for children with deficit/hyperactivity disorder. OJJDP funds will permit the study to focus on delinquent behavior and juvenile justice system interaction. OJJDP is also contributing to the National Institute of Corrections' training and technical assistance initiative with the GAINS Center. The Center helps court and juvenile justice leaders improve treatment and services for juvenile offenders with co-occurring disorders.
A strong system of intervention also requires effective partnerships between courts, services, and law enforcement. OJJDP is funding and evaluating the demonstration of this approach in three communities: Oakland, California; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Syracuse, New York. These communities are forming partnerships among community residents, faith organizations, law enforcement agencies, the media, schools, and families to reduce juvenile gun violence - focusing on strategies related to the access, possession, and use of guns by juveniles as three critical aspects to the problem.
Juvenile gang violence poses the same challenges and requires the same comprehensive approach as gun violence. There is general recognition among gang experts that the most effective strategies to deter gang involvement are likely to be comprehensive, multi-pronged approaches that incorporate prevention, intervention, and suppression activities while encouraging collaboration among various community agencies. The Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach to Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Program is an OJJDP demonstration initiative that is currently being implemented in five jurisdictions. This is a multi-year effort to implement and test a comprehensive model developed by Dr. Irving Spergel at the University of Chicago. The strategies in this model consist of a combination of community mobilization, social intervention and outreach, provision of social and economic opportunities for youth, suppression, and organizational change and development. The demonstrations are currently being evaluated.
OJJDP is committed to the support of all States that are focusing on the needs of at-risk girls and young females in the juvenile justice system. The Office recently published Guiding Principles for Promising Female Programming: An Inventory of Best Practices which highlights exemplary and effective gender-specific programing practices that State and local jurisdictions can use immediately. Gender-specific programs encourage healthy attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles, and promote social competence in girls. Elements which have proven vital to the development of promising gender-specific programming include: relationship building, responding to victimization, non-traditional vocational training, staff training, life skills development, parental skills training, and prenatal-postpartum care.
Coordination and Information Sharing
The impact of all of these activities - from research and evaluation to effective prevention and intervention programming - is enhanced by our concerted commitment to sharing information with the people who need it most. To that end, OJJDP funds a National Training and Technical Assistance center which coordinates our various training and technical assistance resources. We also support the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse), a component of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). NCJRS is one of the most extensive sources of information on criminal and juvenile justice in the world, providing services to an international community of policymakers and professionals. In 1998, the Clearinghouse distributed over 3.5 million copies of OJJDP's publications, a 45 percent increase from 1997; received over 44,000 requests for information, a 14 percent increase from 1997; and provided support to 136 national and local conferences. The OJJDP website was visited over 90,000 times in 1998. In addition, we sponsored six national satellite conferences, broadcasting to an average of over 450 viewing sites and over 13,000 people. Topics included serious and violent juvenile offenders, school safety, youth courts, and Internet crimes against children.
OJJDP is also supporting public education through the “Investing in Youth for a Safer Future” media campaign. This partnership with the National Crime Prevention Council and the Ad Council is broadcasting through radio, print, and billboards public service advertisements on proven actions and programs that prevent and reduce crime by and against youth and tested interventions that help young people turn their lives around when they have gotten into trouble. We have also joined with the Department of Education and MTV to reach out to young people through MTV's Fight for Your Rights: Take a Stand Against Violence initiative. Through this initiative, the Department of Justice is distributing: an interactive CD-ROM that walks viewers through a number of videotaped real-life situations and gives them the skills they need to resolve conflicts peacefully; and an Action Guide that provides young people with ways to reduce violence in their communities.
Youth Violence Initiative
I have described to you our comprehensive approach and just a few of our current activities designed to prevent juvenile crime and violence, improve the juvenile justice system, and address juvenile victimization. It is obvious that I am proud of this Department's accomplishments in juvenile justice. And, I believe that the positive trend we have observed in recent juvenile arrest rates is due, at least in part, to the balanced approach we have adopted in juvenile justice - one that combines prevention programs for at-risk youth with early intervention and sanctions that hold offenders accountable at every stage of the juvenile justice system. As a result of this approach, we have seen entire communities coming together - law enforcement, schools, businesses, youth services, and the faith community - to protect our children and steer them away from crime and drug abuse.
I am, therefore, pleased to appear before you today to discuss how the Department of Justice can work with you as you deliberate the next steps of a youth violence prevention initiative. I am in agreement with your analysis that youth violence has become a public health problem that requires a coordinated interagency approach to combat it. Continuing to pool the talents and resources of Justice with those of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and other interested parties will permit us to expand our endeavors to more communities and, ultimately, to help more juveniles at-risk of delinquency and victimization. For those youth who have already entered the system, we can provide more effective treatment and interventions to turn their lives around.
But, the key to achieving success is coordination. Only through coordination at the Federal level can we make the most efficient use of our increasingly limited resources. And you may be sure that we are working with other agencies and the White House to determine the most effective way to achieve this coordination. That is why it is critical that the programs you propose complement, support, and coordinate with those programs already in place and build on what the research tells us works. In general, I think we are in agreement on this, based on the outline of your youth violence initiative. It is, however, very difficult for us to respond to your proposals without knowing the overall level and content of the Subcommittee's Labor/Health and Human Services/Education appropriations bill. We need to work together to ensure that all the bill's priority programs are sufficiently funded.
I appreciate your commitment to this issue, and look forward to a strengthened and renewed partnership between the Federal agencies that share the mission of improving the lives of this Nation's youth by eliminating juvenile violence and delinquency. Let us work together to build on what we have accomplished so far and to expand the possibilities about what we can achieve in the future. Let's do it for the children, and reap the rewards of a better society for all. I would be pleased now to respond to any questions you may have.