CONCORD — Last week, a team of justice officials from the state and various communities in New Hampshire headed down to Washington for a weeklong training aimed at transforming the state’s juvenile justice system to ensure better outcomes for youth.
New Hampshire is one of seven states and local jurisdictions selected to take part in the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and The Council of State Governments Justice Center, and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Attendees from New Hampshire include: Joseph Ribsam, director, N.H. DCYF; Richard Sarette, juvenile justice administrator, N.H. DCYF; Amy McCormmack, Juvenile probation and parole supervisor, N.H. DCYF; Susan W. Ashley, deputy administrative
judge, N.H. Circuit Court; Moira O’Neill, director, Office of the Child Advocate; Nicole Rodler, Rochester Police Department, Juvenile Court Diversion Program; Pamela Jones, New Hampshire public defender; and Steve Ranfos, juvenile prosecutor, Manchester Police Department.
The week-long program aims to bring together cross-disciplinary teams to fundamentally rethink their approach to juvenile probation.
According to the program’s website (tinyurl.com/yz5ylesu), the goal of the certificate program is “to guide and support teams from state and local jurisdictions — including probation leadership, judges, attorneys, and other key stakeholders — to fundamentally transform their system-wide approach to probation.”
The website notes that over the past two decades, juvenile justice systems in the United States have seen significant advancements with lower rates of juvenile arrests and incarcerations, but recidivism rates remain unacceptably high for youth under system supervision, and suggests that a key reason for this problem is that probation remains largely unexamined and unchanged.
The website states: “Probation is often the default disposition for many youth whose needs could have otherwise been met through diversion or other non-probation responses. Once on probation, youth frequently face a litany of rules and orders disconnected from the offense and the goal of recidivism reduction, as well as system responses that are counterproductive ... Further, and as an overarching issue, current probation practice often fails to provide positive youth development opportunities.”
The curricula for the program are based on the principles and practices outlined in the Casey Foundation publication, “Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Vision for Getting It Right,” and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Council of State Governments Justice Center publication, “Transforming Juvenile Justice Systems to Improve Public Safety and Youth Outcomes.”
Teams develop strategies to shift the focus of juvenile probation agencies from surveillance and sanctions to promoting positive behavior change and long-term success for youth.
“It is important to have a juvenile system in place that promotes personal growth, positive behavior change, and long-term success for youth, so they can become healthy and successful adults,” said DCYF Director Joseph E. Ribsam.
New Hampshire’s team will develop a strategic action plan detailing the specific changes they plan to enact upon completion of the weeklong training. For one year following the certificate program, New Hampshire will receive support and assistance to implement this plan from Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The six other sites selected to participate in the Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program include Cado Parish, La.; Charlottesville, Va.; Marion County, Ind.; Multnomah County, Ore.; San Diego County, Calif.; and Stark County, Ohio.