Happy New Year, and welcome to 2023! Our Juvenile Justice Team at RICJ is grateful for all the committed Juvenile Hearing Board members who gave time and energy to their communities in 2022. We are excited to see the powerful impact you will have in the coming year, and RICJ's goal is to provide resources and support to JHBs however we can along the way. That is why we are excited to introduce our single page bi-monthly newsletter! It will be a place to find valuable resources, learn more about other JHBs throughout the state, keep track of upcoming trainings and events hosted by RICJ, and connect with others. We hope the newsletter is useful to you and your board!
As well, this new blog intended for the public will post selected material from each newsletter with additional pictures and information. Now, before we completely dive into 2023, let's take time to review where JHBs stood at the end of 2022.
After 2 long, difficult years mired in the COVID-19 pandemic, RI Juvenile Hearing Boards made incredible progress the past year. Although every board abruptly shut down in March of 2020, by March of 2022 thirty-two JHBs were either active or restarting. This impressive number is thanks to the dedication and hard work of many, especially board members and chairs.
Similar to other years, 2022 saw JHBs around the state comprised of caring, diverse, passionate members dedicated to helping youth in their community. They had strong ties with each other, Family Care Community Partnerships (FCCPs), police, and community resources. This is a major success, as board members are integral to the JHB model.
Other positives: twelve boards received in-hearing support from FCCP professionals who provided referrals and acted as a mental health aid; police accreditation guidelines were altered to promote appropriate diversion instead of arrest; and boards had several opportunities to receive training and share ideas and best practices amongst each other.
Although JHBs celebrated many successes in 2022, they continued to face challenges. On the administrative side, many boards struggled with high turnover of members, chairs and coordinators, and lack of funds to support youth in completing their sanctions. Many expressed a need for JHB coordinators to alleviate the workload of volunteer members. Others experienced a lack of referrals. Both boards with FCCP support and those without struggled to provide timely access to mental health care for youth in need, and a lack of data made it impossible to know how many youth could've been diverted to JHBs instead of going to court.
As we move into 2023, these will be the issues we continue to tackle to ensure the maximum number of youth are diverted and the JHB process runs smoothly.
Our Juvenile Justice Team organized multiple trainings in 2022. In the first quarter, RICJ held several virtual trainings for Providence JHB members to discuss common challenges JHBs face along with best practice solutions. We met with the Central Falls JHB in May for a "refresher" on JHB procedures and expectations. The group reviewed confidentiality, professionalism, the restorative inquiry process, and other fundamentals important for every board member to know. And on an ongoing basis we provided consulting / troubleshooting support for multiple JHBs.
We were happy to finally (and safely) host an in-person event in October. For the first time since 2019, RICJ hosted a regional JHB training, led by Lehidy Frias (Providence JHB member with a Masters in Restorative Justice). The evening focused on restorative questioning and accountability. We welcomed board members from Providence, Middletown, Foster/Glocester, Warren, and Pawtucket. Interactive, informative, and extremely useful for JHB members' work with youth, it was a great first step in our transition back to in-person gatherings.
We look forward to providing more regional/statewide trainings and opportunities to network, seeing more youth diverted than during the pandemic years, and to JHBs throughout the state having increased interactions, sharing expertise and best practices, and solving problems together. And, in the spring of 2023, a statewide JHB convention!
We can't wait to see all this year has in store! Happy New Year, we'll be in touch again soon!