National Crittenton president Jeannette Pai-Espinosa and director of advocacy and communication Sara Kugler were quoted today in an article published today in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange:

“New divisions created have exacerbated concerns, such as the Special Victims and Violent Offenders Division, which some advocates say will emphasize punishment.

‘This is a statement of how OJJDP leadership wants the country to see youth who are system involved,’ said Sara Kugler, director of advocacy and communication at National Crittenton, an advocacy group for young women. ‘This is OJJDP leadership naming an issue to create an issue to justify a punitive approach by suggesting violent crime among youth is a prevailing issue. It’s not.’

The reorganization of the office, coming after changes made to the mission statement on the office website and the takedown of guidance given to the states to assess disproportionate minority contact (DMC), shows that OJJDP is moving in the opposite direction of the field, she said.

‘The field, inclusive of states and local jurisdictions, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and invest in community-based services and supports for youth — reflecting that incarceration is expensive, inefficient and harmful for young people,’ Kugler said. ‘But OJJDP seems to be doubling down on an outdated, punitive approach.’

Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, president of National Crittenton, said a division dealing directly with violent crime has little justification since the majority of youths, female in particular, aren’t in the justice system for violent crimes.

Increasing efficiency and reducing duplications are normal procedures for an agency, she said, but the removal of the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Division ‘really seems to imply that the systems are OK, it’s the kids that are the problem.'”

Read the rest in Juvenile Justice Information Exchange