Blog Submitted By: Jon Rubin, Deputy Secretary, Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families, www.dhs.pa.gov
In November 2019, leaders of Pennsylvania’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches requested the technical assistance of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project (Pew) to support the state as Pennsylvania sought to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the juvenile justice system. I was proud to serve as a member of this task force. You can read our final report and recommendations here on our website, which includes a two-page executive summary of the report as well as the extensive collection of materials we reviewed in our assessment.
The charge from the interbranch leadership was to develop data-driven policy recommendations through stakeholder consensus with the goals of protecting public safety, ensuring accountability, containing costs, and improving outcomes for youth, families, and communities. Pew accepted the challenge of supporting our state on this important journey and the PA Juvenile Justice Task Force was initiated.
Over the course of the next 18 months, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the staff at Pew under the leadership of Principal Associate Noah Bein provided Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Task Force with tremendous support in multiple ways.
Noah and his team worked with the chairs of the Task Force to facilitate meetings and ensure stakeholder engagement throughout the process. Pew provided the Task Force with research and analysis of PA’s current juvenile justice system and provided evaluation and explanation to members of relevant state statutes and administrative policies. Pew also provided members with a vision of what could be by bringing in examples and stories from other states who had walked this same path with their juvenile justice systems and found success!
One of the key elements of the work of the Task Force was the planning and facilitation of roundtable discussions with key stakeholders so that members could hear first-hand from those with lived experience in the juvenile justice system as well as those involved in the day-to-day work with youth. Pew staff not only assured the roundtables occurred but supported everyone’s learning by taking notes and sharing the information with task force members who were unable to attend.
Following months of information gathering and sharing of ideas, the Pew team facilitated the development and drafting of policy recommendations to be voted on by members of the Task Force that will help the state achieve the goals listed above.
As Pennsylvania approached the release of the recommendations, the support from Pew continued as they assisted in helping develop a communications plan and continued to provide feedback and support for moving forward with implementation efforts for key recommendations.
As a member of the Task Force, most notable for me was the number of calls and contacts available to members even between meetings to assure that the process remained on track and meaningful for all involved.
Like any group effort such as Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, there are a lot of parties responsible for the success or failure of the effort. In particular, the state’s leaders who initiated the work and the Task Force Chairs who maintained the commitment to the project deserve recognition for inspiring the group to complete this enormous task. However, without the technical support and behind the scenes management of the process by the Pew team, Pennsylvania never would have fully found their voice to support such system change for youth in our state.