Six Big City Mayors Lead Juvenile Justice Reform Efforts

Posted August 30, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog sixbigcitymayors 2017

A new report fund­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion, Lessons Learned: May­oral Lead­er­ship for Juve­nile Jus­tice Reform, chron­i­cles the pos­i­tive influ­ence of may­oral lead­er­ship on juve­nile jus­tice reform in six U.S. cities. The pub­li­ca­tion is the work of the Nation­al League of Cities’ Youth, Edu­ca­tion, and Fam­i­lies Insti­tute, which sup­ports city-led efforts to help improve the lives of chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies in local communities.

Accord­ing to the report, the may­oral efforts were under­tak­en to serve the broad­er goals of:

  • reduc­ing the num­ber of youth enter­ing the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem and the harm caused by police contact;
  • mak­ing more equi­table deci­sions about arrests and diver­sion; and
  • cre­at­ing mech­a­nisms to appro­pri­ate­ly assess youth and refer them to suit­able com­mu­ni­ty-based alternatives.

Thanks in part to tech­ni­cal assis­tance offered by the Insti­tute, may­ors in Gre­sham, Ore­gon; Las Vegas, Neva­da; Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas; Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, have used their lead­er­ship roles to bring about juve­nile jus­tice reform in five ways:

  • mak­ing pub­lic state­ments that pri­or­i­tize juve­nile jus­tice reforms;
  • direct­ing lim­it­ed city resources to achieve these priorities;
  • con­ven­ing local stake­hold­ers to devel­op and imple­ment reforms;
  • work­ing with police lead­ers to review and revise arrest poli­cies and prac­tices; and
  • sup­port­ing addi­tion­al appro­pri­ate com­mu­ni­ty-based alternatives.

The report offers exam­ples of each strat­e­gy, demon­strat­ing the range of poten­tial may­oral influ­ence. It also explains how the cities increased their reliance on detailed, dis­ag­gre­gat­ed arrest data to iden­ti­fy and craft appro­pri­ate reforms, and devel­oped part­ner­ships with uni­ver­si­ties to ensure accu­rate eval­u­a­tion of sen­si­tive data.

As cities con­tin­ue their work toward these reform goals, the report iden­ti­fies areas for fur­ther devel­op­ment and progress, includ­ing police use of effec­tive screen­ing tools at the first point of contact.

The Nation­al League of Cities report high­lights sev­er­al of the sig­nif­i­cant ways may­ors can influ­ence and spear­head juve­nile jus­tice reform,” said Nate Balis, the direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. City poli­cies, prac­tices and fund­ing can play a piv­otal part in reduc­ing the num­ber of youth enter­ing the sys­tem and ensur­ing that the sys­tem con­nects young peo­ple to the resources and oppor­tu­ni­ties that help them grow.”

To learn more about NLC’s report and its juve­nile jus­tice reform work with cities, join its webi­nar, Lessons Learned: Five Ways City Lead­ers Con­tribute to Juve­nile Jus­tice Reform,” at 1 p.m. East­ern, on Thurs­day, Sept. 14.

Read Lessons Learned

Reg­is­ter for the Nation­al League of Cities’ webinar

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