Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Boys and Girls Clubs 100th Annual National Conference
May 4, 2006
The first thing that I want to say is Happy Birthday! And congratulations to the Boys and Girls Clubs for 100 years of service to America's youth!
What a milestone! It's an absolute pleasure for me to be here today. And I love this set!
Over the years, the Office of Justice Programs has joined with the Boys and Girls Clubs to help make our communities safer. Your programs have supported and offered the country's youth alternatives for filling their after-school and weekend hours.
In fiscal year 2006, OJP oversaw more than $83.9 million that was directed to programs at Boys and Girls Clubs across the country. The President's fiscal 2007 budget requests more than $59.5 million for Boys and Girls Clubs.
As the head of an agency whose mission is to help ensure public safety, I consider the welfare of our young people one of my key responsibilities. I think that our effectiveness in protecting children is the acid test by which we at the Office of Justice Programs should measure our success. After all, who more than the innocent young people who depend on us for their care deserve our best efforts?
And I bring an added perspective. As the mother of a five-year-old son and a six month-old daughter, I hold nothing more dear than the health and the safety of my children. There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect them.
I'm fortunate that my personal and professional responsibilities are in such close agreement. It sure makes it easy to come to work every day!
I also work for two parents. President Bush, as we all know, is the father of two grown daughters. He understands that the future of our country belongs to our children, and he believes that we have no greater responsibility than to protect them.
Likewise, Attorney General Gonzales is the father of three sons. You can bet that every decision he makes is informed by his devotion to his children.
The President and the Attorney General recognize that, in many cases, the risks that today's young people face are a lot like the ones that we faced. Unfortunately, in some cases, the risks today are very different.
That is why the Attorney General and the President have made fighting gangs one of their top priorities.
They both recognize that in neighborhoods where gangs thrive, everyone is vulnerable. Homes become prisons, and the route to the store or to work becomes unsafe. In some cases, fear becomes the only constant.
If we hope to suppress gangs, then we must be prepared to deal with these underlying issues. We must recognize the tremendous void in the lives of many young people, and we must move now to fill it.
As President Bush has said and I quote, “We need to focus on giving young people better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail.”
Sadly, the reach of gangs is spreading, and their menu of crimes is growing. Gangs are the primary distributors of drugs in the United States. A significant and growing number are associated with organized crime. Gangs also are taking advantage of available technology, often to commit fraud—not a crime you normally associate with street gangs.
Yesterday, I was in Denver with the Attorney General when he announced more than $26.2 million for anti-gang grants. These grants will go to 92 U.S. Attorneys offices across the country to expand our efforts to combat gangs.
For example, last year the Boys and Girls Clubs were one of the participants in a National Anti-Gang Symposium where we discussed OJP's partnership with the National Youth Gang Center. The Gang Center provides training and technical assistance to help communities develop gang prevention, intervention, and suppression activities. It also serves as a clearinghouse on gang-related information.
Another of our important prevention efforts is our Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, or G.R.E.A.T.
G.R.E.A.T. uses law enforcement officers as instructors, and it provides a curriculum that those officers can use to teach kids how to avoid violence and delinquency. It's one of the innovative ways we're bringing together prevention and enforcement strategies.
We hope to announce a new round of G.R.E.A.T. awards later this month. In addition, we offer free training to law enforcement agencies that commit to teaching the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum in their community's schools.
And we have worked with the National Crime Prevention Council and the Ad Council to develop public service announcements as part of a national media campaign to reduce gun violence.
In addition to its continuing effort to combat gangs, the Bush Administration is restructuring the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to address prevention, prosecutions, enforcement, and prisoner reentry.
The President's fiscal year 2007 budget request includes $166 million for the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. Since the PSN effort was begun in 2001, OJP has awarded more than $250 million, which has helped to hire some 540 state and local prosecutors.
In addition, $50 million in PSN funds have been used for Project Sentry, the element of Project Safe Neighborhoods that focuses on reducing juvenile gun violence. Project Sentry has allowed district attorneys' offices to hire local prosecutors and fund programs to reduce juvenile gun crime.
This year, the PSN program will be reorganized to include the very successful Weed and Seed program, which now operates in more than 270 communities across the country.
President Bush knows, as all of us do, that gangs don't just materialize out of thin air. They often form as groups of displaced, frustrated, and misdirected young people come together to seek the stability and order that has been missing from their lives. The illusion of power and control projected by gangs is an attraction that many of these young people are not equipped to resist.
Indeed, the circumstances that often lead to gang involvement are as tragic as the violence and destruction that issue from it.
That's why OJP's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is one of the key players in the Administration's Helping America's Youth Initiative.
The HAY initiative is led by the First Lady and represents the collaborative efforts of nine federal agencies. Its purpose is to connect at-risk youth with their families, their schools, and their communities in an effort to help them overcome the challenges they face.
One of the important developments in the initiative is a tool kit for communities, called the “Community Guide to Helping America's Youth.” You can find the guide on the Web. The address is easy to remember: www.helpingamericasyouth.gov.
I encourage all of you to go to the site and get to know the information and the functions. We've put a tremendous amount of research and practical experience into an easy-to-understand format that is available at your fingertips.
The Community Guide also includes background information about Helping America's Youth, such as national statistics on youth issues, guidance on supporting positive youth development, and basic information about risk and protective factors.
Under Community Partnerships, the Community Guide provides valuable information and best practices on forming partnerships, making those partnerships work, and involving youth in finding solutions.
For example, the Web site provides a directory of all youth-serving agencies across the federal government.
In addition, the Web site has information about the more than 180 programs that these agencies have identified as effectively addressing a wide range of youth issues. This list is only the beginning. We know many worthy programs have yet to be evaluated. You can search for these programs by selecting a particular risk factor or protective factor that you want to address. Or you can search using key words – like “gang.” Or you can search the full list of programs by name.
Of course, none of us has easy answers to the many challenges and issues that face youth. But, armed with the best information available, in an understandable and easy-to-use format, we are confident that communities can take great strides forward in helping America's youth.
The Office of Justice Programs has had a productive partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs. I look forward to continuing to work with you as you embark on your next 100 years and build on your wonderful legacy.
I saw a recent article in Parade magazine [March 26, 2006] that highlighted for its millions of readers the life-shaping role of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Some of those you have helped are famous now and can spread the word about the positive impact of the Boys and Girls Club. Others you've helped will probably only tell their families and neighbors about their experiences at their local Boys and Girls Club. Famous or not, I hope, that as today's young people become adults, they will remember how you helped shape their lives. I hope that they themselves will help to positively shape the lives of the young people they encounter.
Again, I'd like to congratulate each of you and offer my sincerest thanks for the work that you do to help our nation's young people.