CENTER FOR Youth Law & Policy


Judge Teske introduced detention reform to Clayton County after visiting the juvenile court in Portland, OR in 2000. Portland has been a model court for the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) since 1992. Portland's detention facility was seriously overcrowded and under threat of lawsuit. With the assistance of the JDAI model for detention reform, Portland significantly reduced their detention rates and the threat of suit dissipated.

Reducing detention rates is a methodical and comprehensive process that involves community collaboration, use of detention assessment instrument at intake, effective alternative to detention programs, developing graduated responses for technical violations of probation, and creating a system of care.

Judicial Leadership: Using Collaboration to Develop Alternatives to Detention
Understanding the purpose for collaboration requires an understanding of systems, how they operate, and defining a juvenile justice system.

Systems Model

The common definition of a system is “a set of interacting components, acting interdependently and sharing a common boundary separating the set of components from its environment” (Bozeman, 1979). As shown in slide 1 of the slide show below (click on the link below), the systems model employed to analyze organizations includes inputs in the form of demands and supports from the environment, and outputs in the form of services or products generated internally by the organization back into the environment. Although there are a variety of techniques to analyze systems, the Linear Programming Model (LPM) is a good beginning toward understanding the juvenile justice system because it seeks to determine the desired outcomes by identifying the best available resources. Conceptually, the LPM finds “those values of x, the variables that maximize the linear objective z while simultaneously satisfying the imposed linear constraints and the nonnegativity constraints” (Bozeman, 1979). For example, the goal of any system is to identify a desired outcome and improve or enhance the outcome. LPM engages systems on how to achieve their desired outcome by identifying supports to the system while simultaneously recognizing constraints that work against the acquisition of the desired outcome. Once identified, the system should develop strategies to increase the supports and decrease the constraints.
Redefining Juvenile Justice System
Upon application of this model to the juvenile justice system, it becomes clear from the start that the term“juvenile justice system,” if the term is intended as a system designed to achieve a desired outcome, does not have a “common boundary” as described in the definition of a system. Historically, juvenile justice systems have been defined as the juvenile court or a single bureaucracy commonly called a department of juvenile justice. Using a systems model, specifically LPM, a true definition of a juvenile justice system is much broader and encompasses multiple systems that must work in unison if the desired outcome is to be achieved.
For example, the desired outcome of a juvenile justice system is the reduction in recidivism. As discussed previously, the research shows that reducing recidivism requires the targeting of high-risk offenders and identifying their criminogenic or crime-producing needs using assessment tools and matching them with effective treatment modalities. These crime-producing needs, factors that promote antisocial behavior (as shown in slide 2), include lack of nurturing and supervision at home (family), poor performance in school (education), lack of pro-social activities (recreation), substance abuse, antisocial cognition (attitudes, values, and beliefs), and antisocial associates (friends) (Andrews, Bonta, & Wormith, 2006). The problem is that each of these factors, in order to be effectively addressed, are linked to different organizations within the larger public system; that is, organizations with their own “set of interacting components, acting interdependently and sharing a common boundary separating the set of components fromits environment.” Simply stated,these independent organizations, including social services, mental health, school system, juvenile court, and juvenile justice agency, operate in silos under separate budgets, policies, and operating procedures which together operate as a constraint. From a systems theory perspective, the problem is not only the“disconnect”in communication, but also the complex system with multiple points of entry with no clear exit (Buckley, 1967; Teske & Huff, 2010). Needless to say, a complex, disconnected system is inefficient, and worse, mystifying to youth and families having to navigate this“non-system”(Teske&Huff, 2010).

Judicial Leadership Approach

Although various mechanisms may be employed to integrate multiple systems, Clayton County utilized the judicial leadership approach to bring relevant stakeholders together to develop written Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) or protocols. Judicial leadership is the key within a juvenile justice system because the juvenile court is the common denominator of all child service agencies. The intersection of juvenile justice is the juvenile court, and the juvenile judge is the traffic cop (Teske & Huff, 2010). Of all stakeholders, juvenile judges possess the greatest influence, and it is hurtful to children in a disconnected system when judges fail to use that influence to connect the independent silos.As pointed out by formerNational Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
president Judge Leonard P. Edwards (1992), “This may be the most untraditional role for the juvenile court judge, but it may be the most important.” The key to winning the battle against this ineffective nonsystem is engaging the stakeholders to change the system to ensure needs assessments are conducted, to ensure delivery of
a comprehensive continuum of care, and to fill gaps in service delivery. However, system change through collaboration requires written protocols to guarantee compliance and sustainability. Facilitating key stakeholders to develop protocols is the final role of the judge in creating an effective system of care for the youth.

Detention Assessment Instruments

Research over the years shows that we can predict the likelihood of delinquent conduct using objective risk assessment tools.