September 5th 2012, was a dinner/networking event put on by the City Club of Tacoma. This particular session was devoted toward a presentation by the Juvenile Justice Department of Pierce Co. The presentation focused on what the Juvenile Justice Dept is doing to reduce the disparity in outcomes for African-American/Black youth. Pierce Co. has done great work to reduce the over all detention rate of youth. Over the last 10 years there has been a significant push to reduce detentions. At the same time there has been a reduction in juvenile crime. The presentation focused on strategies that have reduced detentions as well as targeted strategies that reduce the racial disparity.
What was interesting? …
Dr. Gordon of the University of Puget Sound asked a question…. How are these policies different than those we have? Or in other words, are these changes really “changes” are are they just fine tuning?
These go to the heart of the policies in question. I immediately went to Jon Kidde’s work regarding the “social discipline” window. He has modified and expanded on the work of Ted Wachtel. The Social Discipline window outlines 4 categories of behavior. From a policy stand point a policy may be permissive (not doing), punitive (doing to), enabling (doing for), or restorative (doing with). while the work done by the Pierce Co. Juvenile department is truly commendable it still remains squarely in the “doing to” or punitive policy box.
It is important to note that this is difficult to change. Creating policies that are truly different are challenging on a number of levels yet, essential to creating lasting change. It is my feeling that disparity will persist, so creating policies that are restorative will minimize the damage done by disproportional punishment.
The question remains… how do we engage youth in the process of repairing the harm done by their actions? How do we do this “with” youthful offenders?