January | February 2013

News in Brief

AMBER Alert Program Marks 17th Anniversary, Expands Wireless Emergency Alert Capability

The AMBER Alert program marked its 17th anniversary on January 13, 2013. The program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child. AMBER Alert messages provide information about the child and the abductor that could lead to the child's recovery, such as a physical description of each and a description of the abductor's vehicle.

Among other recent developments, AMBER Alerts are now being distributed via the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program, which is also used to distribute Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts. WEA AMBER Alerts will automatically send messages to all wireless customers with a WEA-capable mobile device in the area where a child has been abducted, even if the wireless customer is not from the area. The transition to the WEA program is expected to significantly expand the reach of AMBER Alerts.

OJJDP Convenes Meeting of National Girls Institute Working Group

On January 10, 2013, the National Girls Institute’s (NGI’s) 19-member working group gathered in Washington, DC, to begin developing recommendations to OJJDP on policies and practices to improve outcomes for girls who are at risk or who are involved in the juvenile justice system. The meeting covered a wide range of topics, including girls’ pathways to the juvenile justice system, the need for trauma-informed care, evidence-based practices, the health needs of girls, and the disproportionate number of minority girls who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

In developing their recommendations, the working group will be guided by information gleaned from 64 listening sessions held by NGI across the country in the spring and summer of 2011. As OJJDP maps out future directions for addressing the gender-specific needs of girls, the Office will also consider recommendations from the recently released report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence and from the fall 2012 meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which focused on at-risk and juvenile justice system involved girls.

The working group will submit its recommendations this spring.

DOJ Enters Into Agreement To Reform the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, TN

On December 18, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had entered into a comprehensive memorandum of agreement with the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, TN, to resolve findings of serious and systemic failures in the juvenile court that violate children's due process and equal protection rights. For more information about the agreement, read DOJ's press release.

Attorney General Emphasizes Prevention of Online Child Sexual Abuse

On December 5, 2012, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., addressed the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online ministerial in Brussels, Belgium. The newly launched alliance aims to promote a unified, global approach to identifying and assisting victims and to prosecuting the perpetrators. The Attorney General highlighted the ways in which the U.S. Department of Justice and its partners have combated the sexual exploitation of children and prosecuted sex offenders, including the work of Project Safe Childhood, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the Internet Crimes Against Children task force program. He also emphasized the shared commitment of the members of the alliance.

OJJDP Acting Administrator Participates in Juvenile Justice Training in Morocco

On December 3–7, 2012, OJJDP Acting Administrator Melodee Hanes participated in a 3-day training program for judges and magistrates in Rabat, Morocco. The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice of Morocco. Ms. Hanes was joined by two other experts on youth issues—Leonard Edwards, a retired superior court judge and judge in residence at the Center for Families, Children & the Courts in California; and Dr. Rodney Erwin, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and member of the National Center for Youth in Custody's working group. The presenters offered training on the following topics: the history of juvenile justice in the United States (Hanes); juvenile trials, investigations, and ethics (Edwards); adolescent brain development and juvenile psychology (Erwin); and alternatives to incarceration, restorative justice, and the current state of the juvenile justice system in the United States (Hanes). In addition, the presenters participated in roundtable discussions and breakout sessions and visited juvenile justice professionals and facilities. Ms. Hanes also met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice to discuss juvenile justice reform.

Report Describes How Solitary Confinement Affects Youth

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch have released Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States. The report, which details the physical, psychological, and developmental harm that solitary confinement causes youth incarcerated in adult jails and prisons, is drawn from interviews and correspondence with youth and detention officials.

New Toolkit Provides Information on Exposure to Violence Among Court-Involved Youth

Many youth entering the juvenile justice system have previously been exposed to violence, often multiple times. Therefore, a trauma-informed justice system is critical to promoting the well-being of children, their families, and communities. In partnership with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, Child & Family Policy Associates, and the Chadwick Center for Children and Families, OJJDP's Safe Start Center has developed a toolkit that includes practical tips for legal professionals, advocates, and child welfare staff on meeting the needs of court-involved children exposed to violence. The toolkit also provides guidance on policy reforms and other considerations for trauma-informed advocacy in the courts. The toolkit is available online.

OJJDP Funds Three Drug Courts To Implement Reclaiming Futures Program

Three communities—Lucas County, OH; Forsyth County, NC; and Duval County, FL—will receive a total of $5.27 million in funding from OJJDP over the next 4 years to integrate into their juvenile drug courts the Reclaiming Futures drug and alcohol treatment program for teens in trouble with the law. The Reclaiming Futures national program office will receive $1.4 million over 2 years to provide training and technical assistance to the six existing federally funded Reclaiming Futures sites and the three new sites. Read a press release about the awards on the Reclaiming Futures Web site. For information about OJJDP's funding opportunities, visit the Office's Web site.