A new website is introducing powerful tools to help policy makers, advocates, researchers and the media to chart nationwide change in juvenile justice policy, practices, and statistics. The Juvenile Justice GPS (JJGPS – Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics) site monitors juvenile justice system change by examining state laws and juvenile justice practice, combined with the most relevant state and national statistics.
The sponsors say that never before has this information been collected and made so accessible, allowing a better national and historical overview.
The JJGPS site is designed to increase clarity on critical issues and encourage reform. It is a project of the National Center for Juvenile Justice funded through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative.
“In the highly decentralized and ever-shifting landscape, JJGPS provides an invaluable resource for those wanting to see where their juvenile justice system stands in order to design improvement strategies,” said Melissa Sickmund, Director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ).
“We hope that policy makers will use the information to see where they stand, and when they realize what other states have accomplished, be inspired to make improvements in their own systems.”
JJGPS is organized in six main sections that will be rolled out in sequence. The first to be launched is the section on jurisdictional boundaries—laws that transfer juvenile offenders to criminal court to be tried as adults.
Later this summer two other sections will roll out: juvenile defense and system integration. Juvenile defense will deal with issues like the right to counsel and representation for youth with no financial resources. The systems integration section will describe the varied ways that state juvenile justice and child protection systems collaborate and integrate resources.
“Reforms are sweeping the juvenile justice field, but it is hard for anyone to grasp the policy changes and opportunities at hand,” said Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Reform at the MacArthur Foundation.
“The JJGPS empowers all interested parties with real benchmarks that can help us move toward a more evidence-based and developmentally-appropriate justice system that better serves young people and communities.”
The remaining three areas that will roll out in the fall or early winter are racial/ethnic fairness, status offense issues, and juvenile justice services.
These areas will deal with how states deal with minority youths' disproportionate contact with the justice system; behavior that is illegal only for youth of juvenile age; and how delinquency services are provided and evidence-based practice is advanced from state to state.
Hunter Hurst, JJGPS project director, said, “The JJGPS project involves legal research, scanning the practice landscape through interviews with juvenile justice stakeholders, searching the web for data published by state agencies, and developing statistical displays that help tell the stories or at least begin telling them when new information is brought to bear.”
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.