The adolescent development research that underlies the current wave of juvenile justice reform should remain the foundation for future improvements, the MacArthur Foundation contends in a new report. As the foundation winds down its investment in juvenile justice reform this month, it is tracking how widely states have put developmentally appropriate policies in place, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. A survey found that every state has adopted at least one change MacArthur supports, such as limiting courtroom shackling or allowing an adult court transfer only at the court's discretion. Though more work needs to be done, the states' performance is a sign of “undeniable and widespread” progress, said the report.
The foundation cautioned that reforms could be undermined by economic, cultural or practical considerations; crime rates rise and fall, demographics change, and program implementation can be uneven. States and other reformers should remain true to the principles of developmentally appropriate and evidence-based practices that have guided the foundation's juvenile justice work for nearly 20 years, said Laurie Garduque, the foundation’s director of justice reform. MacArthur began its work in a handful of states but now works in nearly every one. “We feel we've created a platform for continued progress,” Garduque said.