CJJA Executive Director’s Report: Mike Dempsey


Newsletter, February 2020

As 2020 gets off to a busy start, the CJJA Board of Directors and staff invite you to celebrate a milestone with us.   CJJA is turning 25 this year. This is an occasion to reflect on the past and look to the future.  As part of this opportunity, CJJA changed its name to reflect a broader spectrum of membership growth and changes in the juvenile justice field. To launch and celebrate this milestone, Calamari Productions documents CJJA history and highlights our work in a video short CJJA 25 Years and Beyond. Produced by Karen Grau and her team, the video is a great tool to reach the juvenile justice field as we strive to strengthen our national network and the power of our advocacy in influencing positive and transformational change within the juvenile justice systems.  CJJA’s commitment to connect, develop and strengthen youth detention, corrections, and residential care to improve outcomes for youth, families and communities is also growing as we work to meet an increased demand for national conferences and trainings.  CJJA is dedicated to your success and future goals more than ever before.  This year will be a busy one, so stay connected to our website and event calendar for future membership and training opportunities.

CJJA continues to support national committees that conduct research that link facility safety and youth outcomes to staff performance and best practices.  Well-trained and well-informed direct care staff can form the foundation of healthy and safe facilities.  Given the significant shifts in the landscape of juvenile justice (JJ) (including raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, decreasing juvenile arrests and declining populations in juvenile facilities), new opportunities for staff to work directly with youth and engage youth in healthy, therapeutic and rehabilitative interactions are on the rise.

Two new papers make the case for quality canons of care for youth and the professional development of those who provide care and supervision to youth in care.

One paper makes the case for the acceptance of direct care staff in JJ treatment milieus by professionalizing the role of direct care staff in juvenile justice settings.  The paper, Effective Utilization of Juvenile Justice Direct Care Staff:   The Professionalization of an Essential Work Group in Juvenile Justice Systems authored by Joseph Tomassone, NYS Office of Children and Family Services, Peter Forbes, Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, Ines Nieves, NYS Office of Children and Family Services and Larome Myrick, Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, proposes professionalizing the role of direct care staff and makes suggestions for recruitment, training, supervision and professional development.  Strategies for elevating the preparation and training, role and responsibilities, and expectations for these staff are offered, as well as a possible title for this critical staff group, Youth Development Professional (YDP).  You can read the full version of the paper here.

Recognizing that there are no national standards for crisis intervention, violence and harm prevention or any type of universal behavior response training, CJJA and partner organizations have developed a Code of Practice paper to cultivate best practices and intervention strategies which are least restrictive and focus on reducing the use of all forms of restraint including physical, mechanical and chemical and eliminating the use of isolation as a safety response technique.   In brief, the code is developed to govern and guide the development of policies, procedures, and training programs for all behavior response intervention practices, throughout the continuum of care from education and community-based programs to both secure and non-secure juvenile justice residential facilities. The Code of Practice for Harm and Violence Prevention and Comprehensive Intervention Strategies for Secure Residential Treatment Programs can be accessed on CJJA.net/ Code of Practice.

And finally, in collaboration with CJJA, the Campaign for Youth Justice released a policy brief which examines factors that contribute to the numbers of youth who can remain in the juvenile system (vs. being transferred to adult court).  According to the brief entitled Keeping Youth Out of Adult Justice Systems: Opportunities for Juvenile Justice Agencies, contributing factors include legislative changes in many states, implementation of evidence-based interventions, development of alternatives to adult incarceration that include both residential and community-based alternatives, and community programs.  Read more here.