Q&A: Robert Listenbee, Incoming OJJDP Administrator
JJIE.org spoke on the phone last week with defense attorney Robert Listenbee Jr., who was recently picked by President Barack Obama to lead the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. The office has not had a permanent administrator for four years. Listenbee, who has not yet received a formal federal appointment, continues to head the juvenile unit at the Defenders Association of Philadelphia in the meantime.
Listenbee spoke about the insights he brings to the national stage based upon his experiences with the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania, and how his time as a law student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his stint as a secondary school teacher in Kenya as a young Harvard student sparked his passion for working with young people. Below are excerpts from the conversation.
JJIE: When will the appointment happen? Have they given you a timeline?
Listenbee: There’s no timeline. Not yet.
JJIE: Why did you want the job?
Listenbee: I’ve had the benefit in engaging in extensive reform efforts in the state of Pennsylvania, first in my office, the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia, where we completely revamped the juvenile unit to address the unique needs of children. After that, I spent a lot of time working with a large number of different organizations in the state, but perhaps the most significant was working for the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, which tackled the problem of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania.
There we had over 4,000 children who were directly impacted by a judge and a judicial system that ignored the constitutional rights of children, that placed children without benefit to counsel, that held children to waive counsel without proper colloquies, that addressed issues of children being in court without lawyers by not appointing lawyers.
And kids were sent away, they were hurt, they were sent away without just cause. That kind of thing really was of deep concern to me, and I worked with a very outstanding group of professionals here in this state who reformed the system in Luzerne County and established some parameters for reforming the entire juvenile justice system here in Pennsylvania. That, more than anything else, ignited my deep passion for working on the national level.
And there were a lot of reforms that came out of the Interbranch Commission that have been implemented as direct policy, either as laws or as new rules promulgated by the Supreme Court’s juvenile justice committee, so I’m very excited about all that.
Robert Listenbee to Lead Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Last Friday, President Obama announced his intent to appoint Robert Listenbee, Jr. as Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
From the announcement:
Robert Listenbee, Jr. is Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a position he has held since 1997. He has also been a trial lawyer at the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 1986. Previously, from 1991 to 1997, Mr. Listenbee was Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Unit. He is a member of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which advises the Governor of Pennsylvania on juvenile justice policy. Mr. Listenbee serves on the policy committees of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the National Center for Juvenile Justice. He serves on the advisory board of the National Juvenile Defender Center and is a board member and former President of the Juvenile Defenders Association of Pennsylvania. Mr. Listenbee received a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Listenbee has agreed to join the administration and will replace acting Administrator Melodee Hanes.
OJJDP Seeking Peer Reviewers
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is seeking juvenile justice experts to serve as peer reviewers for its 2013 grant applications.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) invites practitioners with expertise in juvenile mentoring programs, youth-focused policing, and the implementation and evaluation of tribal youth initiatives to apply to serve as peer reviewers for its fiscal year 2013 discretionary grant applications.
To apply, e-mail a current résumé or curriculum vitae to OJJDPConsultantPool@usdoj.gov by November 30, 2012. Note your areas of expertise in the message body. OJJDP will compensate peer reviewers for their time and effort. OJJDP anticipates using these peer reviewers in March/April 2013.
Peer reviewers have at least 2 weeks to evaluate and rate a set number of applications and to submit their assessments electronically in the Office of Justice Programs’ Grants Management System. OJJDP will conduct a conference call in which a panel of at least three reviewers reach consensus on the merits and shortcomings of each application. OJJDP is committed to ensuring a fair and open process for awarding grants. Peer reviews, which provide an independent assessment of applications, play an important advisory role to that end.
Peer reviewers must comply with the OJP conflict of interest rules and regulations. For example, a peer reviewer cannot have a financial relationship with an organization that submitted an application under the solicitation being peer reviewed.
[NEW REPORT ] Underage Drinking: Practice Guidelines for Community Corrections
OJJDP’s October Juvenile Justice Bulletin examines underage drinking and offers evidence-based guidelines for screening and treating teen drinkers. OJJDP’s interest in promoting better treatment for underage drinking isn’t new--they’ve long understood the physical, neurological and legal consequences of underage drinking.
The Underage Drinking Bulletin series was created to help educate practitioners and policymakers about these issues and to provide evidence-based guidelines. Highlights from the 10 guidelines from this bulletin are included below:
- Youth should be screened for alcohol problems regularly throughout their supervision. If they are found to be at risk for such problems, a substance abuse specialist should conduct a thorough assessment. Other assessments should identify youths’ risks, needs and assets.
- Justice professionals should develop an individualized case plan for each youth.
- Professionals should match interventions with a youth’s needs and assets. Youth’s progress and participation in programs should be monitored.
- Family and social networks must support youth.
- Youth should receive swift and certain sanctions for noncompliance with supervision conditions but should also receive positive reinforcement for constructive behaviors.
OJJDP Bulletin: Underage Drinking Still a Major Problem for Teens, Society
OJJDP posted findings from an underage drinking literature review in their September Juvenile Justice Bulletin. The review focuses on how drinking can affect teens’ mental and physical well being--highlights from the bulletin are included below (emphasis mine):
- The human brain continues to develop until a person is around age 25. Underage drinking may impair this neurological development, causing youth to make irresponsible decisions, encounter memory lapses, or process and send neural impulses more slowly.
- Underage drinking cost society $68 billion in 2007, or $1 for every drink consumed. This includes medical bills, income loss, and costs from pain and suffering.
- In 2009, 19 percent of drivers ages 16–20 who were involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration over the legal adult limit (0.08).
- Alcohol use encourages risky sexual behavior. Youth who drink may be more likely to have sex, become pregnant, or contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Collaboration is Key to Addressing Childhood Exposure to Violence
Childhood exposure to violence - conventional crime, child maltreatment, sexual victimization, and community family and school violence - is pervasive in the U.S. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) found that 8 percent of respondents of the survey, called polyvictims, had experienced seven or more types of victimization in the previous year.
Exposure to violence, substance abuse and involvement with the juvenile justice system often occur in the same high-risk groups and have serious consequences for the safety of all family members and the larger community. Behaviors such as fighting, running away, cutting school and/or substance abuse are some of the more challenging behaviors for the educational, child welfare and juvenile justice systems. But inability to pay attention, depression and poor self-esteem can be equally problematic for youth and their families.
2009 Juvenile Court Statistics: Process and Trends
A new report from the National Center for Juvenile Justice analyzes the 1.5 million delinquency cases processed by juvenile courts in that year. “Juvenile Court Statistics 2009,” closely examines the type of offenses committed, who committed them and how the young people were processed before, during and after their court appearances. In addition, the report looked over juvenile statistics from as far back as 1985 to determine the trends juvenile cases.
The process of the juvenile justice system has many different steps and there are a number of ways that a teen can be processed depending on their circumstances, offense committed and various other factors. All cases need to be referred to the court, usually by law enforcement agencies, and then it is determined if the case will be handled formally or informally and in juvenile or criminal court. In 2009, juvenile courts handled roughly 4,100 cases each day, 30% more than in 1985 and 300% than in 1960.
The Causes, Correlates and Pathways of Multi-System Youth
On July 26, 2012, I attended the OJJDP and NTTAC webinar on the causes, correlates and pathways of multi-system youth. This was the first webinar in a series on improving outcomes for multi-system involved youth who cross over between child welfare and juvenile justice.
The following take-aways are from the first portion, presented by Dr. Denise Herz:
- Two of the most important predictors for crossing into delinquency are the number of referrals to the child welfare system and experiencing abuse persistently from early childhood into adolescence.
- Often youth will have a previous but not current child welfare case at the time of delinquency. If youth in the juvenile justice system are found to have a prior child welfare referral, it is important to revisit the child welfare case and to ensure that there is not current maltreatment.
- Risk factors for delinquency for those in the child welfare system include placement instability and the absence of pro-social bonds. Living in a group home has been found to increase the likelihood of delinquency compared to other types of placements.
- Child welfare and juvenile justice can’t do this alone. They need strong support and partnerships with behavioral health treatment and education. In particular, engaging and stabilizing youth in an educational placement can provide long-term improvements.
These are my take-aways from the portion presented by John Tuell:
$1.29 Million National Evaluation to Examine Juvenile Drug Courts Implementing Reclaiming Futures
New federal dollars will pay for a $1.29 million, multi-year evaluation in six juvenile drug courts implementing Reclaiming Futures, a national program that improves drug and alcohol treatment for teens in trouble with the law. This evaluation, the first of its kind, will examine the impact, processes and cost-effectiveness of Juvenile Drug Courts implementing the Reclaiming Futures model. Funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention through an interagency agreement with the Library of Congress, this evaluation will be conducted by the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW).
"We know from a 2006 evaluation by the Urban Institute that Reclaiming Futures improves the lives of young people by changing the juvenile justice system for the better," says Susan Richardson, national executive director of Reclaiming Futures. "This new research will look at specific outcomes, such as recidivism, relapse rates, and costs."
June 27 OJJDP Webinar: Sustaining Quality Programs
On June 27, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. E.T., the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will present a Webinar titled, “Effective Strategies to Help Sustain Your Quality Programs.”
This Webinar is designed for jurisdictions, organizations, and individuals who want to:
-leverage cross-systems communications and collaborations to sustain effective programs
-learn social marketing skills and strategies
-advocate for their programs, services, initiatives, and functions
-engage clients, funders, and champions as advocates