Juvenile justice efforts here
December 04, 2006
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WASHINGTON -- A report on juvenile
justice being released today touts Pennsylvania and Allegheny County
as models for national standards in the use of innovative strategies
for keeping young people out of the court system.
Both are part of Models for Change,
a project that will receive a $60 million boost this week from the
Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, on top
of $40 million already pledged by the foundation. The money will
help state and local governments and advocacy groups across the
Pennsylvania so far has received
about $7.5 million. Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington also are
"We want to accelerate the process
and hold them up as models for other states to emulate," said Laurie
Garduque, an educational psychologist who directs the MacArthur
Foundation's program on human and community development.
Models for Change focuses on giving
juveniles better access to mental health services and addressing the
high number of black and Hispanic children caught in the justice
system. It also emphasizes the need for programs that keep children
from repeating crimes after they've passed through the system.
Allegheny County is considered a
trendsetter in all of these areas, especially "aftercare" efforts to
help juvenile lawbreakers reintegrate into their communities.
"The kid coming back from a
residential placement needs to be welcomed back," said Jim Rieland,
director of probation for the county Common Pleas Court. "That may
be a new concept for some people."
Using a three-year, $600,000 grant
from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the
county has hired three "education specialists" who help ensure that
children returning to their home schools after a pass through the
juvenile court have all necessary documents in place, access to
transportation and the right class schedules.
The education specialists, for
instance, would coordinate the exchange of information between
George Junior Republic, a Mercer County residential treatment
facility that receives many Allegheny County teenagers, and
Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Allegheny County also uses the
Community Intensive Supervision Program, an after-school and weekend
program that enables teens to complete community service work
ordered by judges.
At any given time, the county's
juvenile court system usually has about 400 children in out-of-home
placements, Mr. Rieland said.
Last year, Mr. Rieland joined
several high-ranking state officials in signing the "Joint Policy
Statement on Aftercare," which calls on every county to develop
comprehensive aftercare programs by 2010.
Bob Schwartz, executive director of
the Juvenile Law Center, said 20 of the state's 67 counties already
have volunteered to try to meet that goal. His Philadelphia-based
advocacy group is overseeing the distribution of the MacArthur funds
The MacArthur Foundation has
committed about $10 million to the state over the course of the
project. It has given $50,000 directly to Allegheny County to fund
the hiring of a mental health specialist on juvenile justice.
A major focus is an effort to
reduce the number of black and Hispanic children in treatment
facilities. Black children make up 15 percent of Pennsylvania's
youth population, but they are nearly half of all children in
out-of-home placements, the Models for Change report says. Last
year, in Allegheny County, 66 percent of all referral cases involved
The MacArthur Foundation first
became involved in juvenile justice issues in the mid-1990s, when
many policy makers across the country were focused on treating young
criminals as adults.
Pennsylvania was one of the few
states that avoided a punishment-focused approach to juvenile crime,
she said, making it a logical first participant when MacArthur
started a selection process for its Models for Change program in
"Pennsylvania just stood head and
shoulders above the rest of the state," Dr. Garduque said.
Estelle Richman, secretary of the
state Department of Public Welfare, said she pushed heavily to
participate in the project. She, Mr. Rieland, and other state
officials will join their counterparts from other states in
Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the progress of Models for
"I'm looking for things that I can
do differently in Pennsylvania," she said.