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Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon Delivers Remark at the Meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Liz Ryan. And thank you, Julie Herr.

Good afternoon. It’s great to see everyone again. I’m excited for today’s meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. We’ve got a great conversation in store this afternoon. We’ll be talking about trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches, and I want to thank our federal colleagues who will take part in today’s panel.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the council for all the work you’ve been doing over the last two years. This, I am sad to say, will be my last council meeting. I’ve made the very difficult decision to step down from my post as Assistant Attorney General, effective July 19. This was not an easy decision, but it’s one that I feel is right for the moment. We’ve been able to generate some incredible momentum together in our work to support communities and secure better outcomes for justice-involved individuals, and this council has helped to lead the way.

You’ve put evidence-informed strategies at the center of your discussions. You’ve lifted up the voices of people with lived experience and of youth themselves. You’ve worked hard to identify a path toward a fair, effective and humane juvenile justice system. You’ve even taken your deliberations out to the field so that you could showcase promising programs that point to the future of juvenile justice in America.

These are impressive accomplishments that I know will open up opportunities for our young people and help justice-involved youth find their path, succeed in their communities and thrive. You should be very proud of the progress you are making, and I know that Liz and her team will continue to lean on your expertise to guide us into this new era of youth justice reform. You should also know that Department of Justice leadership deeply values your contributions — and you will hear directly from our Associate Attorney General, Ben Mizer, in just a moment.

And while I leave the Office of Justice Programs with no small sense of sadness, I go with absolutely no reservations about our leadership and its commitment to the mission of this body. Brent Cohen, who is the current Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, will be stepping forward as Acting Assistant Attorney General after my departure.

Brent has dedicated his career to supporting youth and young adults who come into contact with the system. He led groundbreaking efforts in New York to reduce the number of youth in secure care and connect young people on probation to community resources. He’s also an OJP veteran who knows how to keep our interests and priorities front and center at the department.

And of course, it goes without saying that you are in the very best of hands with Liz and her amazing team. I cannot say enough how much Liz has meant to me as an advisor, leader and friend. She impresses me, every day, with her incredible knowledge and passion for the issues affecting youth, and I know she will continue to be the champion that we need.

So, while I leave with a host of conflicting emotions, I remain not just optimistic, but truly excited about the future of juvenile justice and the work of this council.

In the meantime, we’re forging ahead, getting closer to the finish line on the report to Congress — and we continue to explore evidence-informed strategies for supporting youth. And I’m really pleased that today, you’ll be talking about trauma-informed and healing-centered approaches to serving youth.

As I mentioned earlier, we’re working across OJP to bring trauma-informed services to people across the justice system, on both the youth and adult side. I know Liz plans to say a few words about the great work OJJDP is doing to bring this approach to scale in the juvenile system. I’d just like to take a couple of minutes to highlight how we’re applying it across the community safety spectrum — in our approach to victim services, in our work to reduce community violence and in our strategies to address behavioral health issues in the justice system.

First, we know that trauma affects many people. Research shows that over 60 percent of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Trauma can lead to numerous long-term effects, but there are also serious immediate consequences. Victims of violent crime suffer physical injuries, emotional distress, financial burdens and profound disruptions in social support systems, all of which pose significant barriers to services and healing. These obstacles are even more imposing in historically marginalized and underserved communities, where distrust of government and healthcare systems might prevent people from seeking help.

Our Office for Victims of Crime is taking a huge step toward helping communities build their capacity to support victims in the aftermath of trauma. They have just launched a solicitation for a Trauma Recovery Center Demonstration Project, to provide one-stop, individualized services for victims, from counseling and therapy, to peer support, to basic necessities like groceries and medication.

Another example of our focus on trauma-informed services is in our work to support community violence intervention. Over the last two years, our Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative has invested almost $200 million in community-driven strategies aimed at mitigating trauma and disrupting patterns of violence.

A critical element of our efforts in this space is addressing the vicarious trauma and healing and wellness needs of the people who do this important work. CVI professionals are regularly exposed to violence, but are too often left on their own to deal with the consequences.

We need to create an environment where these professionals get the support, care and healing that they need and deserve — not unlike the steps that many law enforcement agencies have taken to support the health and wellness of their officers. I’m really pleased that we’ll be making up to $2.5 million later this year to support trauma-informed services for CVI professionals.

And one final example focuses on bringing trauma-informed and healing-centered services to those with behavioral health issues in the justice system. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance has supported hundreds of cross-system collaborations that pair behavioral health specialists with law enforcement and other justice system professionals to better serve the treatment needs of people who come into contact with the system.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program and the Connect and Protect initiative are two programs that help communities bring trained healthcare professionals to the scene of crises. Their involvement helps to de-escalate potentially volatile encounters, it averts unnecessary arrests, and — most important — it allows trained specialists to assess behavioral health needs and direct people to much-needed treatment and recovery services.

In all of these efforts, we are looking to community organizations, to health and behavioral health professionals, to educators and community leaders, and to people with lived experience, including young people. These stakeholders are key to sustainable community solutions and to the long-term success of those who come into contact with the system.

This is what we mean when we say in our mission statement that we’re strengthening the role of community as co-producer of safety and justice. Community partners are in a strong position to address the root causes and symptoms of trauma and victimization. They have credibility and trust — and unique expertise — that can help facilitate individual and community healing.

Needless to say, I am so pleased that you are dedicating this meeting to a discussion of these trauma informed and healing strategies – focusing on our youth — and I am so proud that we have visionary and compassionate leaders like Liz Ryan and our colleagues across the federal government, as well as distinguished partners across the country, to strengthen and expand our capacity to meet the needs of our youth.

It has been a privilege to be part of these deliberations and to work with all of you as we march toward our shared goal of safer communities and healthy, thriving youth. I wish you all the very best in your efforts, and I look forward to following the success that I know you will achieve and hearing about the difference I know you will make.

I’m now pleased to turn it back over to Liz. I’ve already said how much her guidance and support have meant to me and to the Office of Justice Programs. When Liz joined OJP a little more than two years ago, I knew we were getting one of the top minds in juvenile justice, but she has truly helped us and the field re-envision a juvenile justice system that puts the needs of our young people first.

Our nation’s youth, and the system that serves them, have been truly well served by Liz Ryan. I am so proud of the momentum she and her team have generated, and so excited about the great things that lie ahead for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and for youth across the country.

Updated June 27, 2024