Published August 14, 2013

Resource Center Partnership seeks to continue the wave of juvenile justice reform in U.S. by helping practitioners, policymakers tackle issues central to improving outcomes for kids and communities.

Building on its nearly 20-year, $150 million investment in supporting juvenile justice reform, MacArthur announced an additional commitment of $15 million to the field, in part to establish the new Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. The Partnership will provide judges, prosecutors, defenders, policymakers, advocates, probation officers, and mental health and social service agencies with much needed technical assistance, trainings, tools, and resources to help advance juvenile justice reform across the country.

“Reforms like the elimination of life without parole for juveniles and raising the age at which people are tried as juveniles are examples of progress toward a system that is fair, just, and humane in its treatment of our nation’s youth,” said Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Reform for the MacArthur Foundation. “There has been so much progress made over the past decade toward better outcomes for kids, their families, and their communities. But there is so much more to do and juvenile justice reform must continue.”

The Partnership is based on nearly twenty years of research, practice, and reform efforts that have reached more than 35 states, much of which was made possible by the Foundation’s Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice initiative. MacArthur’s juvenile justice work is grounded in the seminal research funded by the Foundation that showed that adolescents are fundamentally different from adults, and that treating juvenile offenders as adults, relying on incarceration, and failing to commit resources to rehabilitation and treatment is expensive, jeopardizes public safety, and compromises future life chances for young people in contact with the law. This latest round of funding by the Foundation will also support development of the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub, a comprehensive source of information on leading-edge juvenile justice issues and reform trends, among other initiatives.

The Resource Center Partnership will further the Foundation’s goal of protecting kids while making communities safer and improving the effectiveness, performance, and outcomes of the juvenile justice system. The new Partnership consists of four Resource Centers that will be fully operational by the end of 2013. The Centers will focus on areas critical to continued change in juvenile justice:

  • response to mental health needs
  • stronger legal defense for indigent youth
  • interventions for youth charged with status offenses (activities that are criminalized for those under 18, e.g., truancy, running away, curfew violations)
  • coordination of practices and policies for youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and enhancement of probation system practices  

The newly launched Resource Centers include:

  • The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change: A Training, Technical Assistance and Education Center: Led by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Inc., the Center will be a training, technical assistance, and education center designed to promote and support the adoption of new resources, tools, and program models to help those in the field better respond to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.
  • The National Juvenile Defender Center: The Center will improve access to counsel and quality of representation for children in the justice system and will bolster juvenile defense by replicating field-driven innovations, facilitating adoption of new juvenile justice defense standards, and developing a corps of certified juvenile indigent defense trainers.
  • The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice: Led by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, the Center will use proven models, frameworks, tools, resources, and the best available research to serve local, state, and national leaders, practitioners, and youth-serving agencies to improve system performance and outcomes for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. The Center will focus primarily on youth with prior or current involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems (known as dually-involved youth) and on the review and improvement of juvenile probation systems.
  • The Status Offense Reform Center: Led by the Vera Institute of Justice, the Center will serve as a resource clearinghouse and assistance center for practitioners and policymakers in juvenile justice, with a focus on encouraging and showcasing strategies to safely and effectively divert non-delinquent youth and their families from the formal juvenile justice system.

To help further enrich the tools and trainings offered by the Centers, as well as ensure that practitioners and policymakers who may benefit from the resources receive them, the Partnership also includes a strategic alliance of national experts and organizations. These strategic allies, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Center for State Courts, among others, represent state leaders, local elected officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, corrections professionals, judges, court personnel, and justice reform advocates, whose willingness to coordinate and work with diverse partners on juvenile justice issues has been and will continue to be critical to advancing reforms.  

“State lawmakers across the country are actively working to improve the quality of juvenile justice systems and outcomes for youth,” said Sarah Brown, Program Director of Criminal Justice for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “The MacArthur Foundation has been a strong partner with NCSL and state lawmakers to assist in these efforts, and the new Resource Center Partnership will provide legislators and practitioners in the field with enhanced resources, research, technical assistance, and support for effective implementation of juvenile justice reforms.”

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