OJJDP Abruptly Terminates National Center for Youth In Custody; More Projects Could Be Stopped

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention ended funding this week for the National Center for Youth in Custody (NCYC), and the termination of other grants is possible as the agency simultaneously handles budget cuts and new internal priorities.

OJJDP informed the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS) – the organization that oversees NCYC – that it would stop funding the project one year into a three-year grant period.

The decision effectively ends the center, and jeopardizes the future of NPJS, a small umbrella organization that relies on OJJDP for a substantial amount of its revenue.

“It’s sad, because as far as I know…we’re the only grantee that services custody facilities,” said Carol Cramer-Brooks, president of NPJS, in a phone call with the Chronicle.  “When you shut us down, you shut down all [OJJDP] services to detention, juvenile corrections, and adult facilities serving youthful offenders.”

OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee, in a statement sent to The Imprint, said his agency “identified the need to increase coordination of projects delivering training and technical assistance” due to “funding reductions in fiscal year 2014.”

He also said the agency is in the process of “reconfiguring the services and resources that OJJDP provides to the field to better address priorities such as increasing public safety, holding all youth appropriately accountable, and providing developmentally appropriate services to youth, particularly those exposed to violence and other trauma.”

NCYC was established to provide technical assistance to administrators of juvenile justice facilities and other places that house juvenile offenders. NPJS co-managed the center in its first three years of existence, and was awarded a grant of $375,000 per year to do so for fiscal years 2013 through 2015.

Most of NCYC’s assistance came in the form of webinars; more than 30 in three years, with an average of 650 attendees. The webinars included at least ten sessions on conditions of confinement, three on engaging families, along with 11 onsite and online sessions for local jurisdictions.

While there isn’t competition for grants during continuation years, the budgetary amount for the grant is annually reviewed by OJJDP. It is rare for that review process to result in complete termination.

“I got an e-mail on Tuesday, that’s the first I knew anything about it,” said Cramer-Brooks. “In my experience, I have never known them to do this. In all our grants from OJJDP before, they have never done this.”

OJJDP established the National Center for Youth in Custody in 2010. The agency was led at the time by Jeff Slowikowski, who served as acting administrator while the Obama administration struggled to appoint a permanent person to lead the office.

The president appointed Listenbee to run OJJDP in January of 2013. Cramer Brooks said she had heard from others that Listenbee “isn’t a real fan” of training and technical assistance centers.

“The center doesn’t fit into any of the director’s priority areas,” she said. “I guess he has about 14 priority areas he’d shared with internal staff.”

The decision to end the center was not discussed with the working group on youth in custody established by OJJDP.

The end of the center is “inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s new focus under the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative on boys and young men of color,” said Liz Ryan, a member of the working group, in an interview with The Imprint. “Issues such as youth in solitary confinement in the justice system are making news headlines and are the subject of congressional hearings, and [NCYC] has and could continue to play an important role in addressing these issues. “

Ryan, the former head of the Campaign for Youth Justice, said she was “concerned that OJJDP did not reach out to me or other members of the Working Group to discuss this possibility.”

NPJS is a collective formed that was formed 2004 to house and unite the members of four more niche groups:

  •  Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquency
  •  Council for Juvenile Detention
  •  Council for Juvenile Corrections
  •  Council for Juvenile Justice Trainers

The NPJS board of directors approved a healthy audit for the organization in the fall, but Cramer Brooks acknowledged that the grant for the National Center for Youth in Custody was a “significant portion of our revenue.”

The grant fully funded three NPJS staff and parts of the salaries for two other employees.

“It’s too soon to tell what it means,” she said, when asked if NPJS was in jeopardy.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint.

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