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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: August 6, 2018 01:17 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention
I am introducing legislation which reflects many of the recommendations included in the 2017 Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Plan, which was written by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime Delinquency (PCCD).

The report highlighted the need for a $5 million increase to the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission’s (JCJC) Juvenile Probation Services line item. It also recommended several revisions to the juvenile justice system’s regulatory structure to be consistent with the system’s statutory mission and suggested the need for better coordination of programming among various state agencies regarding delinquency, youth violence and substance abuse prevention.

The JCJC has pursued a comprehensive Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES) based on the concept of utilizing evidence-based practices at every stage of the juvenile justice process. These efforts have gained national attention. Juvenile Probation Services provides fiscal and technical support for counties to implement evidence-based practices consistent with the JJSES. The increased funding would support and enhance JCJC’s ability to assess juveniles’ risk to re-offend, identify evidence-based intervention for high risk offenders and determine the effectiveness of juvenile justice policies, programs and practices. The Plan states “Recent trends documenting reductions in juvenile violent crime arrest rates, juvenile delinquency dispositions, juvenile delinquency placements, juvenile detention center admissions, and juvenile delinquency placements costs all serve to confirm the efficacy of the evidence-based practices that now form the foundation of Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system.”

My bill would reinvest future savings (75%) realized through lower costs associated with juvenile delinquency placements to provide for the $5 million increase in funding for JCJC’s Juvenile Probation Services. Over the past few years, juvenile placements have declined dramatically. Total juvenile placement expenditures declined 34.6% ($111.1 million) from FY 08-09 as compared to FY 15-16. Juvenile recidivism has also declined. This has been attributed to the widespread use of evidence-based practices in juvenile services. Such savings should be reinvested into these best practices so that they can build on the success of preventing delinquency and saving money for the state.

In addition to funding, the Plan also recommended a number of changes to the Human Services Code to provide a regulatory framework that is consistent with the juvenile justice system‘s statutory mission. My measure incorporates the following suggested revisions: 1) Include both juvenile justice and child welfare funding goals that are consistent with the statutory mandate of the Juvenile Act; 2) Ensure that, in the event of a Commonwealth budget impasse, court-ordered services to children in the child welfare and juvenile justice system are considered essential services and funding to counties continue uninterrupted; 3) Year-round education be provided in residential programs for delinquent youth; 4) Increase the rate of reimbursement for residential care for delinquent children when ordered by the court based on a valid risk/needs assessment; and 5) provide that indigent juvenile defense services are reimbursed at a 50% rate through the county Needs-Based budget process, the same rate as guardians ad-litem and counsel in dependency proceedings. The bill would reinvest future savings (25%) realized through lower costs with juvenile delinquency placements to help fund and implement the above revisions.

Finally, the legislation would require the development of a strategic plan to coordinate prevention programs among numerous state agencies. This was a recommendation of the Plan. The PCCD shall develop a comprehensive interdepartmental strategic plan, through the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, to coordinate the administration and delivery of all Commonwealth programming designed to prevent delinquency, youth violence, and other adolescent problem behaviors, including substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and school failure. The plan shall be developed in partnership with, and shall include the relevant programming and appropriations of, DHS, Department of Health, Department of Education, DDAP, JCJC and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The language also makes clear that any state agency providing grants or funding as part of the strategy, shall ensure that the programs and services provided employ evidence-based practices whenever possible. The state should only be utilizing evidence-based practices and interventions that are grounded in scientific research and have measured success. This proposal is sound public policy that will benefit our children, families and communities.

Introduced as SB1245