MacArthur Selects Pennsylvania as "Model" State for Juvenile Justice Reform
November 3, 2005 | Press Release | Juvenile Justice, Criminal Justice

MacArthur has selected Pennsylvania as one of four states to participate in Models for Change, a national initiative to accelerate promising models for juvenile justice system reform.  After a competitive selection process, Pennsylvania was identified as a leader in the field and likely to reach a tipping point that could help stimulate change in other states.

The Foundation will provide at least $7.5 million in funding to organizations in the state through 2008 to build upon reforms already underway.  The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center was selected as the lead grantee to oversee planning and coordination of the work in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is a bellwether state in juvenile justice reform,” said Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation.  “There are strong partnerships among the state’s stakeholders – judges, district attorneys, public defenders, community leaders, and city, county, and state officials – and they are committed to building an exemplary juvenile justice system.”

“This national recognition is tremendous news for Pennsylvania,” Governor Edward G. Rendell said.  “Our selection by the MacArthur Foundation shows that Pennsylvania has made solid investments in public safety.  We are committed to creating a juvenile justice system that not only holds young people accountable for their actions, but also provides effective rehabilitation while recognizing the important developmental differences between young people and adults.”

Models for Change promotes a juvenile justice system that is rational, effective and developmentally sound by creating reform models to hold young offenders accountable for their actions, provide for their rehabilitation, protect them from harm, increase their life chances, and manage the risk they pose to themselves and to public safety.  The initiative seeks to develop and support replicable, system-wide change that can serve as models for reform elsewhere.

The Foundation does not endorse any single reform model, but promotes successful reform through a collection of approaches and interventions that recognize the developmental differences between adolescents and adults.  By virtue of their immaturity, young people are more likely to take risks, more susceptible to peer pressure, and less able to foresee the consequences of their actions.

According to “Keystones for Reform,” a new report released today by the Youth Law Center and other organizations working on Models for Change, the strong partnerships among Pennsylvania’s stakeholders and considerable consensus about the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s juvenile justice system have created a context where good public policy can flourish.  Pennsylvania’s success in developing stable funding streams for local youth services, the growing funding and use of evidenced-based practices, the expansion of mental health screening for detained youth, and the expansion of alternatives to detention in the biggest cities are all considered signs that the state is poised to become an exemplary system.

Ten grants totaling $2 million have already been awarded to state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and others engaged in juvenile justice reform work in Pennsylvania.  There are three focus areas for this work: improving mental health services to youth in the system, providing them with more and better opportunities to succeed in life once they leave detention and correctional facilities (often referred to as aftercare), and reducing the disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minorities in the system.

While work will be carried out statewide, pilot projects in eight counties will demonstrate best practices in aftercare, mental health, and in reducing the disparate number of minorities in the system.  Those eight counties are Allegheny, Philadelphia, Cambria, Erie, Lyncoming, York, Chester, and Berks.

The Models for Change initiative also provides grants to national organizations that together constitute a national resource bank that acts as a source of knowledge, tools, training, technical assistance, and strategies for advocacy and public education for initiative participants.  The Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice will monitor and record progress, building a blueprint for reform that can be used by other jurisdictions.

Today’s announcement comes as nearly 1200 juvenile justice professionals gather in Harrisburg for the 2005 Pennsylvania Conference on Juvenile Justice, sponsored by the Juvenile Court Judges Commission.  Participants will discuss Models for Change during Friday’s plenary session.

About the Foundation:
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, headquartered in Chicago, is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition.  With assets of approximately $5 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling $200 million each year.

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