$750,000 grant to improve Iowa juvenile justice programs

Goal is to improve efficiency, reduce recidivism

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The state of Iowa has received a $750,000 federal grant to provide training and technical assistance to improve juvenile justice programs and make them more efficient and effective, and reduce recidivism among youth offenders.

The federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant was awarded Wednesday to the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning. According to a news release, the three-year cooperative agreement will provide evidence-based and cost-measurement tools to assist juvenile court services in the 6th Judicial District, as well as the 1st and 3rd judicial districts, which include Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City, Sioux City and Storm Lake. The initiative will assist in identifying the right programs, for the right juvenile offender, at the right time.

Paul Stageberg, administrator of the juvenile justice division, said these tools will "give juvenile courts a clearer picture of the programs that work with juvenile offenders and which programs are cost effective."

Stageberg briefly explained the tools funded by the grant. The "Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol" will enable the juvenile justice system to measure the effectiveness of program services compared to current delinquency and evidence-based program research. The "Results First" cost-benefit analysis model, developed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, will allow policymakers to test different combinations of programs and policies to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, while improving public safety.

Stageberg said this initiative should also affect school attendance and achievement, substance abuse, and mental health issues for juvenile offenders.

To implement these models, the division is partnering with the chief juvenile court officers, the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development Council and the Department of Corrections. Representatives from each of these judicial districts and the state will receive training and technical assistance to implement these tools from Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Results First. After implementation in these areas, there are plans to expand the project statewide.

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