Pima County Reforming Juvenile Justice With Casey-Sponsored Training

Posted September 12, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Staff from Pima County, Arizona

From left: William Rodriguez with Wheelock College, Sheila Kembel with the Pima County Juvenile Court Center, Angie Lopez with the Arizona Supreme Court and Andy Beck with School & Main Institute

Juve­nile jus­tice stake­hold­ers in Pima Coun­ty, Ari­zona, home to Tuc­son, have com­plet­ed the Re-Imag­in­ing Juve­nile Jus­tice train­ing, and par­tic­i­pants are now rethink­ing the way they approach their work.

Dale Cardy, super­vi­sor of the juve­nile unit at the coun­ty attorney’s office, was par­tic­u­lar­ly moved by the per­spec­tives shared by youth and fam­i­lies dur­ing the three-month train­ing. It was a reminder,” he says, that every­body comes to the table with their own sto­ry. They have their expla­na­tions for why they came to the system.”

The train­ing, sup­port­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion, engaged emerg­ing lead­ers from a vari­ety of agen­cies that work with youth in the jus­tice sys­tem to strength­en their under­stand­ing and appli­ca­tion of prin­ci­ples of pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment — a com­pre­hen­sive frame­work out­lin­ing all the sources of sup­port young peo­ple need to be successful.

The cur­ricu­lum is com­prised of six mod­ules, deliv­ered over three months:

  1. Pos­i­tive youth development
  2. Uti­liz­ing a cross-sys­tems approach
  3. Address­ing racial and eth­nic disparities
  4. Infus­ing youth voice in juve­nile jus­tice work
  5. Fos­ter­ing pos­i­tive fam­i­ly relationships
  6. Trans­form­ing pol­i­cy and practice

Devel­oped by Whee­lock College’s Depart­ment of Juve­nile Jus­tice and Youth Advo­ca­cy (now the Whee­lock Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion and Human Devel­op­ment at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty) and the School & Main Insti­tute, Re-Imag­in­ing Juve­nile Jus­tice launched its first pilot site in Mass­a­chu­setts in 2016. Because of Pima County’s estab­lished record of reform and broad com­mit­ment to youth-cen­tered col­lab­o­ra­tion, it was select­ed as the sec­ond pilot site after a com­pet­i­tive appli­ca­tion process open to all JDAI sites. Eigh­teen sites applied.

The pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment series encour­ages par­tic­i­pants to shift their mind­sets by think­ing out­side of their tra­di­tion­al roles to devel­op youth- and fam­i­ly-cen­tered reforms. One of the biggest bar­ri­ers to reform is a lack of staff sup­port for the reform effort,” says David E. Brown, senior asso­ciate in the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Even if lead­ers at the top decide to do things dif­fer­ent­ly, reforms won’t go far with­out staff input and buy in.” Re-Imag­in­ing Juve­nile Jus­tice is designed to include front­line staff in reform plan­ning and share the lat­est knowl­edge with them about ways to pro­duc­tive­ly engage young people.

An array of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Pima Coun­ty par­tic­i­pat­ed in the train­ing: pro­ba­tion, deten­tion, police, coun­ty attor­ney, pub­lic defend­er, juve­nile court, behav­ioral health, schools, com­mu­ni­ty-based providers and the juve­nile jus­tice system’s youth advi­so­ry coun­cil. Cur­ricu­lum devel­op­ers and instruc­tors Andy Beck and William Rodriguez agree that the vari­ety of par­tic­i­pants allowed peo­ple to chal­lenge assump­tions and share valu­able infor­ma­tion. The pow­er of doing this togeth­er super­sedes any­thing one agency could do alone,” Beck says.

The train­ing is already influ­enc­ing changes in prac­tice. For exam­ple, a com­pre­hen­sive list of resources com­piled by par­tic­i­pants as part of a train­ing exer­cise will be shared through­out the county.

Suc­cess depends on whether peo­ple will work togeth­er,” says Rodriguez. Stitch a piece of a quilt, a square, rep­re­sent­ing your agency. You need a main stitch­er to then stitch every­thing togeth­er, put a pan­el around that quilt. Take that quilt at the end of the day and wrap it around the youth.”

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