Law Enforcement Professionals Discuss Juvenile-Justice Reform
Law Enforcement Professionals Discuss Juvenile-Justice Reform

by Karen Grava
Director of Media Relations

Should kids go to jail? Connecticut has decided that, except in the most extreme cases, they should not – if they are under 18.

That decision was part of one of the most comprehensive, coordinated set of juvenile justice reforms in the country. But the next step might be keeping people 18 to 21 out of jail, too.

Two conferences at UNH, one open to the public and providers of juvenile justice programs and the other a police training program, are looking at that issue and at ways to best implement the sweeping juvenile justice reforms already in place.

UNH's Tow Youth Justice Institute is researching issues related to juvenile justice for the Connecticut General Assembly.

Sponsored by the University’s Tow Youth Justice Institute– which is researching issues related to juvenile justice for the Connecticut General Assembly – the conferences are looking to develop a better understanding of today’s youth and adolescents and their brain development. The goal is to examine the implementation of evidence-based programs and the impact of trauma/violence on youth and to develop strategies for juvenile re-entry into the community.

“We will be looking at a variety of topics, including the development of the adolescent brain,” said William Carbone, director of the Tow Youth Justice Institute, and a senior lecturer and director of experiential education for the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. “We know that a lack of brain development is often what is responsible for risky behavior in youth. And we know that incarcerating them usually does not encourage them onto a path of success.”

This week’s conference brought together police executives from around Connecticut to examine community-based strategies that work for youth, the use of discretion in decision making, public safety and strategies that can build trust in communities.

Carbone was at the forefront of juvenile justice reforms as executive director of the Court Support Services Division (CSSD) of the Connecticut Judicial Branch. He directed and managed more than 1,600 employees involved with adult and juvenile probation, family services, juvenile detention, alternative sanctions and pretrial release.

He also was responsible for the planning, coordination and implementation of the division’s programs and functions, including the supervision of more than 46,000 adult probation cases, more than 16,000 pre-trial release cases, 5,600 family relations cases, and more than 4,500 juvenile detention and probation cases. The division was also responsible for a network of private, community based nonprofits that provide services to 10,000 adult and 1,000 juvenile clients daily.

In addition to Carbone, the conference featured Michael Lawlor, a UNH adjunct professor who is under-secretary for criminal justice policy and planning for the State of Connecticut; Commissioner Robert Haas of the Cambridge, Mass., police department; and Steven Marans of the Yale Child Study Center, who talked about “Understanding Today’s Youth.”

This week’s training conference for police, planned by Carbone and David Webb, distinguished lecturer and director of the Lee College’s Center for Advanced Policing – in conjunction with the Tow Institute, the Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association – will feature Kevin J. Bethel, former deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, and James Isenberg, executive director of North American Family Institute, among others.

“Our goal is to collaborate with police executives to address current trends in improving the juvenile justice system in our state,” said Carbone. “The conference will feature experienced speakers and up-to-date materials that can be easily shared with police officers and the community.”

Next week’s conference will be the kickoff of a nine-month leadership institute for 17 public and private juvenile justice managers aimed at developing both leadership skills and best practices in the field. It is taking place thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

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