11. Juvenile Crime
A. Appeals of Juvenile Delinquency Cases.
The Regents / Department of Human Services Division of the Attorney General's Office represents the State in appeals of delinquency cases from the juvenile court. After a county attorney has charged a person under age eighteen with
delinquent behavior and received a ruling from the juvenile court, the division takes over for the county attorney if that ruling is appealed. The Attorney General has essentially the same responsibilities for appeals by juvenile delinquents as it does for appeals by adults who commit crimes.
B. A Continuum of Programs to Fight Juvenile Crime
Attorney General Tom Miller has long advocated for a comprehensive approach to deal with the complex problem of juvenile crime, with a continuum of alternatives to deal with youth at different stages of development and different levels of risk to the community. The alternatives include programs that target prevention and early intervention as well as punishment.
The continuum includes prevention programs for "at-risk" youth; intervention programs to provide immediate intervention for youth beginning to get into trouble, and highly restrictive options to provide serious consequences for youth who threaten community safety. A properly funded continuum of programs provides immediate and appropriate consequences for all kinds of offenses. It allows society to send a clear message that there is a consequence to be paid for all violations of the law.
No one program is a magic solution, but a balanced continuum of different kinds of programs is key. Because each youth is different, the goal is to have the right program for the right youth at the right time.
The Iowa Attorney General's office works with the Iowa Juvenile Court Chief Juvenile Officers in support of developing and maintaining programs that reflect this "continuum" philosophy by using best practices that are proven to work effectively in reducing juvenile crime.
C. Juvenile Court School Liaison Program
A major initiative of the Attorney General's office in the area of juvenile crime has been to advocate for an increased partnership between schools, the community and the juvenile court to prevent and fight juvenile crime. In particular, the Iowa Attorney General has advocated for the use of Juvenile Court School Liaisons in Iowa schools. Juvenile Court School Liaisons are staff persons who work in the schools under cooperative arrangements between schools and the Juvenile Court. Due in part to advocacy by the Iowa Attorney General, today there are about 150 Juvenile Court School Liaisons working intensively with delinquent and at-risk youth in schools around Iowa.
In addition to advocacy on behalf of the program, the Attorney General's Office each year co-sponsors a two-day training for Juvenile Court School Liaisons (JCSL) with the Chief Juvenile Court Officers. These conferences provide training on issues of importance to JCSL's including: best practices for interacting with diverse groups of young people, changes in juvenile law or the juvenile justice system, juvenile crime trends, cultural competency and the unique problems of girls in the juvenile justice system.
C Juvenile Court School Liaisons perform a variety of functions, depending upon the needs of the school and community. While the functions can vary greatly based on local community need, they can include (1) supervising students who are on probation to the Juvenile Court; (2) working with individual youth who have been identified as at-risk; (3) working to reduce truancy; (4) responding to disruptive classroom behavior so all kids can learn better; and (5) working with delinquent and at-risk youth after school to prevent delinquency during high-risk hours.
The Iowa Attorney General's office is a member of this collaboration to promote healthy youth development and prevent juvenile crime. The collaboration is a partnership of state and local organizations concerned about youth and policies that affect young people. It works to better align state policies and programs and to encourage collaboration among state and community agencies.
It is important to Iowans that schools are safe places for our young people to learn. The Attorney General's Office is an active partner with schools and other organizations to both prevent school violence and be prepared for an effective response should a violent incident occur. The Iowa Safe Schools Leadership Handbook is a comprehensive collection of school safety information that covers prevention, risk assessment, crisis management planning, policies and laws.
"Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" is a national, bipartisan anti-crime organization made up of over 1,500 chiefs of police, sheriffs, district or county attorneys, and victims of violence, including more than 80 from Iowa. It cites research showing that among the most effective weapons in the fight against crime are programs that help kids get the right start in life -- programs like school readiness child care, youth development programs for the after-school and summer hours, child abuse prevention and intervention programs proven to help get troubled kids back on track.
The "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" organization has released a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey showing that 88% of Iowa police chiefs, sheriffs and county attorneys believe investments in educational child care for preschool-age children will help prevent crime and violence as the children grow up.