Phase 1 synthesized research on the consequences of confinement decisions for youth outcomes. Three findings about risk assessment and risk reduction were salient. First, risk assessment outcomes are often misunderstood, inconsistent, and widely varying across contexts. Second, the quality of the information used to generate risk assessment predictions affects the accuracy of the assessment. Third, dynamic factors are important for youth risk assessment and risk reductions—for instance, factors such as arrest history often contribute to racially biased assessments. This synthesis yielded a set of tools to guide judges and probation officers through research-based information in making youth confinement decisions, including the Checklist for Juvenile Confinement Decisions During and After COVID-19. The team also presented key findings to judges and other decision-makers at judicial roundtables organized by NCJFCJ. The aim of Phase 2 is to ensure NCJFCJ’s targeted outreach to judges and other confinement decision-makers can produce a longer lasting influence. To achieve this, Sickmund and team will disseminate information from the research synthesis and engage judicial officers interested in reducing youth confinement. Materials will include video podcasts, presentations promoting the Phase 1 checklist, and a publication in NCJFCJ’s membership magazine. NCJFCJ will also leverage the findings in their work to transform probation. The team hopes the research will embolden judges to choose to reduce youth confinement or release youth without endangering youth or community safety.
This grant will help amplify the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ targeted outreach to judges and others who make high-stakes decisions about youth detention.