$3.2 million to Efforts to Improve Juvenile Justice System
February 6, 2003 | Press Release | Juvenile Justice

MacArthur has announced six grants totaling $3.2 million in support of efforts to improve the juvenile justice system nationwide.

Through its grantmaking, the Foundation supports research, model programs, policy analysis, and public information efforts to promote a juvenile justice system that is accountable for both public safety and the rehabilitation of young offenders. As the core of this work, the Foundation funds efforts that are grounded in an understanding of adolescent development and its effect on the behavior of young offenders.

"In the case of juvenile offenders, what benefits the individual benefits society," said Jonathan Fanton, President of MacArthur. "In growing up, young people often will make mistakes and the wrong decisions. In far too many cases, domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, and economic disadvantage disproportionately tip the scales that lead young people into juvenile delinquency and crime. To address these issues at their core, we believe it is important to avoid an over-reliance on incarceration of juvenile offenders in favor of a more balanced, community-based approach to dealing with at-risk youth."

Six grants were made to organizations working to help improve the nation's juvenile justice system.

A grant of $1.2 million over three years to the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) will be used to support CWLA's efforts to raise awareness about and promote activities that address issues at the intersection of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. These include linkages between child development, child maltreatment, and juvenile justice issues. Building on knowledge gained from earlier work, CWLA will also use the funds to help develop and put into practice community-based alternatives to detention, institutionalization, and the transfer of young offenders to adult criminal court.

A grant of $550,000 over three years was made to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in continued support of the Juvenile Justice Monitoring Project. The project helps to improve conditions of confinement and protect the rights of youths in juvenile detention and correction facilities. This work brings a new constituency-the medical community-to juvenile justice reform.

A grant of $500,000 over three years was made to the University of Massachusetts in continued support of the National Youth Screening Assistance Project, which is developing and refining an evaluation tool used to help juvenile detention and correction facilities screen youths aged 12-17 for mental health problems. The grant will support research to evaluate the use of the tool, which has now been adopted for systemwide use in 21 states. Use of the screening tool is expected to contribute to improved decision-making by juvenile justice practitioners and lead to new strategies for improving the juvenile justice system.

A grant of $390,000 over three years was made to the John Howard Association (JHA) to continue the Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative in Illinois and help introduce its work to other states. JHA will expand its efforts to visit and monitor the conditions of confinement in juvenile detention and correctional facilities throughout Illinois, examining the quality of the educational, mental health, and other medical services provided to incarcerated youth. In addition to initiating similar activities in other states, JHA will focus on reducing reliance on incarceration and increasing the use of community-based alternatives.

A grant of $300,000 over three years was made to the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs to help reduce youth crime and improve the policies and practices of the Juvenile Court. Over the last two years, the Council and four community-based organizations-Bethel New Life, Howard Area Community Center, Northwest Neighborhood Federation, and Youth as Resources-held community forums to help neighborhood residents identify an agenda on juvenile justice issues reflecting their communities' needs and interests. The new grant will enable the Council to continue its work in several Chicago neighborhoods - Grand Boulevard, Humboldt Park, Rogers Park, Garfield Park, and Austin - to help develop a citywide plan to address issues of youth crime and ways to improve the Juvenile Court.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative received a grant of $275,000 over two years to help improve the juvenile justice system in Illinois by helping to reduce reliance on incarceration, provide fair treatment of all juvenile offenders, and increase community resources for rehabilitation and treatment.

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