Washington is one of four states participating in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s multi-state Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative created to accelerate promising models for juvenile justice system reform. Working in partnership with other public and private entities in six counties, the Center is helping to advance local efforts to ensure that the juvenile justice system not only holds young offenders accountable for their actions, but keeps them from harm, provides for their rehabilitation and increases their chances to succeed in life. We believe the way in which young people are treated in criminal justice systems often does not reflect what research has taught us about how and when humans develop mature moral, psychological and cognitive thinking. The Center’s work will build on the progress our state has made in implementing risk-assessment tools, using evidence-based programs, integrating the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, addressing the over-representation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, and improving mental health services for juvenile offenders. If we can save young people from making poor choices early on, and help those in trouble get back on the right track, we will have invested wisely in our future.
Early work on the Models for Change initiative focused on developing a work plan to guide the reform effort. The Center worked with juvenile justice system professionals, youth and parents, and state and local policymakers to complete the work plan in March 2007. The plan focuses on several specific areas including disproportionate minority contact, mental health, alternatives to formal processing and secure confinement, multi-system collaboration and coordination, juvenile indigent defense, and balanced and restorative justice.
To date, partners in the project who have received grant funds include Benton/Franklin, Clark, King, Pierce and Spokane counties and the University of Washington, TeamChild, Washington State University, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in support of the Becca Task Force.