Replacing Bart Lubow No Easy Task

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative without Bart Lubow? Not quite. Lubow used the occasion of his retirement announcement to also make clear he isn’t completely leaving the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Still, seeing someone else introduced as leader at next year’s national conference will be akin to New England Patriots fans meeting the guy who replaces Tom Brady. Whatever success the extended JDAI fan base has experienced, Lubow quarterbacked it.

It is never easy to replace a founder, or senior executive, who is on the job as long as Lubow has been. He was there in 1992 for the first JDAI conference, held with 40 attendees from five sites. He was there for the 2013 meeting, with 800 people from 250 sites.

In a field with few big personalities on the national level, you could make the argument to Youth Services Insider that Lubow, as eloquent as he is prickly, is the most influential person in juvenile justice over the past ten years.

“I certainly hope he or she has a different personality; I hope they’re much nicer,” said Lubow. 

He acknowledged one conundrum that is bound to come up in Casey’s effort to find a new leader for the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group: veteran credibility and know-how versus younger fidelity and energy.

There’s “real tension” between “wanting to have someone with stature and wanting to have someone who can continue to guide through work already laid out,” Lubow said. “Put another way, the higher up the food chain you go in terms of hierarchy, the more you will end up with people who want freedom and opportunity to craft their own program.”

The reality, he said, is that “Casey has a very particular niche in the world of juvenile justice, and a set of skills and capacities. My guess is we will want to continue to build that rather than forge a new direction.”

The niche to which he refers is JDAI, the effort to use risk assessments and alternatives to reduce the number of juveniles who are placed in detention. Less in the niche camp is Casey’s relatively new interest in “deep-end” incarceration, and its goal of halving the number of juveniles who are placed in secure confinement after adjudication.

Two cents from YSI: Lubow does not “intend to go quietly into the night,” as he put it in his letter to colleagues and friends. Adding two and two there: He’s sticking around, and he sees the mission of the group as defined.

Putting in a high-profile veteran person while Lubow still looms large at Casey seems like a gamble, especially if the foundation can field a group of strong young candidates.

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly

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