Office of Justice Programs News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000
OJJDP
202/307-0703

BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES OF COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT CENTERS DESCRIBED IN NEW BULLETIN

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Community Assessment Center (CAC) concept can improve the cost efficiency, timeliness, and comprehensiveness of services to youth in the juvenile justice system. CAC's provide a round-the-clock, centralized point of intake and assessment for juveniles who have come into or are likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The multi-disciplinary, single-stop centers are usually staffed by a team of law enforcement, social service, and mental health professionals who assess the young person's needs and make immediate, appropriate referrals. The benefits and the challenges associated with the CAC concept are described in a new bulletin from the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

"CAC's can provide a more effective way of addressing juvenile crime in some communities," said Acting OJJDP Administrator John J. Wilson. "The collaborative and comprehensive nature of these Centers helps to eliminate the fragmentation of services we often see in the juvenile justice system."

The CAC model has four key elements that, when properly implemented, have a positive impact on the lives of youth and can divert them from delinquent behavior:

  • A 24-hour centralized point of intake and assessment for juveniles who have come or are likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system.
  • Immediate and comprehensive assessments (both broad-based and in-depth).
  • A management information system (MIS) to manage and ensure the provision of appropriate treatment and rehabilitation services.
  • Integrated case management to develop recommendations, facilitate access to services, conduct follow-ups, and periodically reassess youth.
The bulletin describes a number of difficulties that communities must be careful to avoid when they implement the CAC concept: a lack of due process for youth; "net widening," which refers to expanding the number and types of youth brought under the supervision of the juvenile justice system; the unavailability of youth services needed for appropriate referrals; the possibility of youth being stigmatized by the process (affecting the way others see them and how they see themselves); and increasing overrepresentation of minorities in the system.

The Community Assessment Center Concept and information about other OJJDP publications, programs and conferences, are available through the OJJDP Website at ojjdp.ncjrs.org and from OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736.

Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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