MacArthur Action Networks to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities and Mental Health in Juvenile Justice
June 19, 2007 | Press Release | Juvenile Justice

MacArthur, which is investing $100 million to support and accelerate promising models of juvenile justice reform, is enlisting more states in its growing effort.  MacArthur announced the creation of two new national networks to help improve the nation’s juvenile justice system by reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and addressing the way the system deals with young people with mental health issues.
MacArthur has already committed $10 million each to reform efforts in Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington through its Models for Change initiative.  Now, the Foundation wants additional states to join in two new national networks to improve the nation’s juvenile justice system.  The networks will –

• Seek ways to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice systems.  Youth of color constitute approximately one-third of the adolescent population in the United States but two-thirds of incarcerated youth.  Studies show that, in many jurisdictions, youth of color are treated more harshly than white youth at key decision points in the juvenile justice system, even when charged with the same category of offense.

• Develop innovative solutions and strategies to better identify and treat youth with mental health needs.  About 70 percent of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a mental health disorder and approximately 25 percent experience serious mental health problems.  A significant proportion of these youth also has substance use disorders. 

These issues were selected because they are among the biggest challenges in developing more effective juvenile justice systems. 

“With action already underway in the four core states, these networks will help to accelerate the pace of change around improving mental health services in youth serving systems, and address the troubling racial and ethnic disparities we’ve seen across the country,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton.  “The Foundation is seeking additional partners to join the Models for Change states as leaders in system reform.” 
MacArthur is investing more than $1 million per year in each Network for each of the next three years, a total of more than $6 million.   Participating sites, which will be selected in September through an open application process, will work with leading national experts in the field to identify and implement innovative solutions to critical problems common across the country.  Possible strategies include new methods for race and ethnicity data collection and reporting and the adoption of standardized mental health screening and assessment tools.

The Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Network will be coordinated through the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates in Delmar, NY.  The Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Action Network will be administered by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy in Washington, DC.  After being selected through an open application process, participating sites will also work with leading national experts in the mental health and DMC fields to identify and implement innovative solutions to critical problems common across the country, and exchange information and ideas with other jurisdictions addressing these issues. 

MacArthur’s Models for Change initiative supports the development of successful and sustainable models of juvenile justice reform through targeted investments in key states.  The Foundation seeks to accelerate progress toward a more effective, fair, and developmentally sound juvenile justice system that holds young people accountable for their actions, provides for their rehabilitation, protects them from harm, increases their life chances, and manages the risk they pose to themselves and to the public. 

In each state, a lead organization has identified targeted areas of improvement to leverage reform, and then partners with local, state and national partners to implement a plan to bring about system change in those targeted areas.  By sharing the lessons learned about successful juvenile justice reform with other states and communities, the goal is to motivate other states to take on the challenge.

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