THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF POLICE
ATHLETIC LEAGUES WORKSHOP
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2003
Iím delighted to be here and to have this opportunity to thank you for all the wonderful work you are doing through Police Athletic Leagues to help young people stay in school, out of trouble, and on the path to a brighter future.
Your efforts - and the efforts of your colleagues all across the country - have contributed to the significant drop in juvenile crime weíve seen over the past several years. Just last week, our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention released a new survey showing that, in 2000, juvenile arrests for violent crime decreased for the sixth consecutive year.
The juvenile arrest rate for violent crime in 2000 was 41 percent below its peak in 1994, reaching its lowest level in 14 years. And the arrest rate for murder by a juvenile fell 74 percent in 2000 from its peak in 1993 - the lowest level since at least the sixties. Thatís great news!
But our survey also raises several disturbing issues. For example, the arrest rate for girls actually increased 35 percent between 1980 and 2000. And our data show that juvenile arrests still disproportionately involve minorities - though the reasons for this, as you well know, are the subject of considerable research and debate. Moreover, while rates are down, law enforcement agencies made an estimated 2.4 million juvenile arrests in this country in 2000. Thatís 2.4 million kids in trouble.
So, while weíre certainly making progress, we clearly have much more work to do to keep our young people out of trouble and out of the juvenile justice system.
Thatís one of the key missions of the Office of Justice Programs, particularly for our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
For those of you not familiar with us, the Office of Justice Programs works to develop the nationís capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP partners with federal, state, and local agencies, researchers, and national and community-based organizations, to develop, operate, and evaluate a wide range of criminal and juvenile justice programs. Our sub-agencies include not only OJJDP, but also the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Office on Violence Against Women, and the Weed and Seed initiative, among others.
One example of our collaborations with other agencies and organizations is our partnership with PAL and the National Youth Sports Corporation to sponsor the Youth Enrichment Program. This program is helping PAL chapters around the country expand and enhance their activities. Weíre providing $5.4 million to support this effort.
I also want to mention how much I appreciate your efforts to measure the effectiveness of your work under our grant and your collaboration with the National Youth Sports Corporation in the management and evaluation of your Youth Enrichment Program. One of my top priorities at the Office of Justice Programs is to measure the effectiveness of the programs we support to ensure that weíre investing taxpayer dollars wisely.
In addition to funding, OJP sponsors research, data collection, and analysis, and provides targeted training and technical assistance on "what works" and "best practices." And we are now building performance measures into all our grants. Itís our goal to shift our funds away from programs that donít show results, in order to do a better job of supporting those that make a real difference.
If youíre interested in learning more about OJP resources, I invite you to see our Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov or call the Department of Justice Response Center toll-free at 1-800/421-6770.
Iíd like to talk to you about a few of the major initiatives under way at OJP to help at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, as well as abused, neglected, missing, and exploited children. All of these initiatives have a common thread - prevention. In fact, prevention is the cornerstone of this Administrationís program for children.
President Bush believes that every child in America deserves to live in a safe, permanent, and loving family. He has set forth a strong, national agenda aimed at protecting children from harm while strengthening and supporting families.
For example, last October, President Bush hosted the first ever White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children to explore the problem of child abductions. As youíll recall, last summer we saw a number of high-profile child abduction cases that raised the publicís anxiety about child safety.
The White House conference brought the President and the heads of 4 cabinet agencies - the Departments of Justice, State, Education, and Health and Human Services - together with more than 600 other experts to discuss ways to raise public awareness about missing children and to generate recommendations and best practices for law enforcement, parents, and communities.
One program thatís proven successful in locating missing children and returning them unharmed to their families is AMBER Alert.
AMBER stands for Americaís Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnaped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. After this crime, Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children.
The goal of AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community, in the critical first hours following an abduction, to assist in the safe return of the child and the apprehension of the predator. To activate an Alert, certain criteria must be met, and then alert information is quickly assembled for public distribution. The primary Emergency Alert System in the area is activated, which, in turn, transmits the information to the broader community. Collaboration and a speedy response are essential to the success of the plan.
At the White House conference, President Bush directed the Attorney General to designate an AMBER Alert Coordinator at the Department of Justice to help create a nationwide AMBER Alert system. The Attorney General has asked me to take on this challenge, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to help in this effort to protect our nationís children.
In my coordinating capacity, I serve as a nationwide point of contact to assist state and local officials with developing and enhancing AMBER plans, and to promote statewide and regional coordination among plans. To facilitate this effort, weíre working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and various leaders of AMBER Alert programs throughout the country.
Iím happy to report that we are making progress in this effort. Currently there are 85 AMBER Alert programs across the country: 36 operate on the local level, 14 are regional efforts, and 34 are statewide. To date, 43 children have been recovered through the use of these systems. And if your jurisdiction doesnít yet have the AMBER system, I encourage you to work with your local officials to implement this lifesaving effort.
While weíve made progress without federal legislation, just last week, the Senate unanimously passed its AMBER Alert bill to help make the program a coordinated effort nationwide. An identical bill is scheduled for House action this week.
Another major effort under way at OJP is exploring how best to help young people caught in the web of child prostitution. The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children calls child prostitution "the most overlooked form of child abuse in the United States." While statistical data are hard to find, one national prevention organization estimates that there are between 100,000 and 300,000 children who are sexually exploited through prostitution and pornography in the United States.
These children suffer from unimaginable abuse. Yet, too often child prostitutes are perceived as willing participants in their own victimization. Too often they fall under the radar screen of victim assistance and child protective services. Too often their cases are treated as simple nuisance crimes by the criminal justice system.
In December, at the urging of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, we convened a National Summit to examine the problem of child prostitution and to develop an action plan of effective approaches to intervene with the young people caught in the web of prostitution and sexual exploitation. I hope you will explore how your programs could intervene with these children, and I encourage you to check our Web site for information on effective approaches as it becomes available.
Weíre also working to ensure that juvenile offenders who return to their communities after incarceration receive the supervision and services they need to make a successful transition to the community.
The Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, and Veteransí Affairs are now working together with the Departments of Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services to sponsor a new, comprehensive initiative we call "Going Home: the Serious and Violence Offender Reentry Initiative."
This new initiative targets both adult and juvenile offenders. Because of the generally shorter incarceration time for juveniles, a significant number of juveniles return to the community each year. Yet many jurisdictions lack support services and supervision for youth returning home from juvenile correctional facilities.
And even where there are aftercare and reintegration programs, these efforts have been crippled by a lack of coordination between staff at juvenile correctional facilities and those working in the community. Our reentry initiative addresses these issues.
The Serious, Violent Offender Reentry Initiative is designed to address all three stages involved in returning an offender to the community.
Phase I involves educational, treatment, and life skills programming for offenders while they are held in institutions.
Phase II focuses on the services and supervision provided as they reenter the community. And Phase III establishes networks of agencies and individuals in the community who can assist offenders in remaining law-abiding, productive citizens.
Last July, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the award of $100 million in grant funds to 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands to support 68 grant programs under the new Serious and Violent Reentry Initiative. Weíre also funding an evaluation to determine the best approaches for helping offenders make a successful transition to the community.
I encourage you to contact your state Department of Corrections to see how your program might fit into these reentry efforts. Particularly in the case of these young offenders, it is critical not only to provide life and job skills training, close supervision, and other obvious elements of such a program, but also the presence of a strong, caring adult mentor in each young life, to help them avoid the temptations of the street upon their release from detention.
I also encourage you to work with Weed and Seed sites in your local communities. A large part of the focus of most Weed and Seed steering groups has been on youth, and Iím sure that many of you are already partnering with those neighborhood efforts. If youíre not, or donít know if thereís a Weed and Seed operation active in your community, I strongly encourage you to contact your U.S. Attorneyís Office to find out about Weed and Seed and the opportunities for partnership.
In tandem with our reentry project, Weed and Seed, and other initiatives, weíre working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to expand the capacity of community- and faith-based organizations to provide services and programs for young people. Weíve already seen the tremendous value of building such partnerships through PAL and other programs across the country that use volunteers to provide mentoring and other services for troubled kids.
As the people in this room are probably well aware, research has found that mentoring, which pairs a positive adult role model with a young person, is one of the most effective ways of preventing a young person from becoming involved in delinquent behavior. In fact, many researchers tell us that the presence in a young life of a relationship with a strong, caring adult is the most critical factor in deterring a youth from negative behaviors and encouraging achievement.
Of course, thatís something PAL has been demonstrating for almost 100 years, since NYPD Captain John Sweeney first founded the program back in 1910. But weíre always happy when research confirms our instincts and our anecdotal experiences.
Studies have found that kids in mentoring programs are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol, and 32 percent less likely to use violence to solve a problem than kids who donít participate in such programs. Mentored youth also skip school only half as many days as other youth, feel better about and perform better in school, and have better relationships with their families and peers.
Since 1994, the Office of Justice Programs has awarded more than $56 million to support 203 mentoring programs in 47 states and 2 territories. And weíre committed to continuing to identify and support effective approaches such as this.
Our goal, as President Bush has said, is to "leave no child behind." In fact, if you saw the Presidentís State of the Union Address this week, you heard him announce a new, $450 million initiative with the goal of reaching over 100 million young people through mentoring. This particular effort will be focused on school-based mentoring, and mentoring of the children of incarcerated parents. The school-based mentoring program will be sponsored by the Department of Education, and the intervention with children of incarcerated parents will be housed in the Department of Health and Human Services.
We at the Justice Department will provide support to these efforts, both in the form of training and technical assistance and also through efforts to identify and help to fill other gaps in our mentoring efforts across the country.
In addition, the President recently appointed a White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth. The Task Force will examine the problem of youth failure and work to develop a comprehensive, inter-agency, federal response to it. I will be serving on the task force on behalf of the Justice Department; as a part of our effort, we will be seeking to identify existing effective practices and programs around the country.
For almost a century, PAL has demonstrated one effective approach to reducing youth failure and to helping young people to become strong, law-abiding adults. I want to assure you of the Justice Departmentís commitment to PAL and other initiatives on behalf of young people. Iíve seen first-hand what a positive impact these kinds of services can have on the lives of children.
For several years, prior to my service as U.S. Attorney here in Indianapolis, I prosecuted on the local level, and among other things had responsibility for the protection of children from those who would abuse them. For nine years, I served as a Board member of The Childrenís Bureau of Indianapolis, working with at-risk and abused children, and assisted in its efforts to ensure a bright future for every child in the community.
At the U.S. Justice Departmentís Office of Justice Programs, I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue working on behalf of children. For, as Attorney General Ashcroft said at last summerís National Youth Summit: "Youth may make up 25 percent of society, but they make up 100 percent of the future."
I look forward to working with all of you to support our youth and to secure our nationís future. Thank you for all you are doing.