Minnesota Legislators Support Juvenile Justice Policies that Enabled the Parkland Shooter

The catch and release policy known as Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) is creating unsafe conditions in public schools and communities throughout the country. Representative Raymond Dehn (DFL 59B) with the help of Representative Nick Zerwas (R 30A) have drafted legislation that will allow the JDAI to be implemented statewide. The cost to Minnesota taxpayers will be $2.5 million in fiscal year 2020 and $2.5 million in fiscal year 2021.

Political leaders, school superintendents, police officers and church leaders have all fallen under the spell which has birthed a modern, liberal criminology that portray criminals as victims of social injustice. The goal is to identify and dismantle punitive policies in schools and to reform the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system known as Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) keeps kids accused of felonies out of detention centers as a means of reducing “racial disparities.”

JDAI was launched in 1992 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  In 2010, the federal government agreed to help the Casey foundation expand its training and consulting services to other nonprofits to “develop a brighter future for millions of children at risk.”  With the help of federal funding, the foundation helped draft state and federal law to line up with JDAI. The results in Ramsey County have been devastating.

Ramsey County, Minnesota

In September, 2005, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to support a partnership with the Annie E. Cassie Foundation with a mission to reduce the number of juveniles in secure detention and eliminate the disproportionate arrest of juveniles of color under the guise of  improving public safety. Upon arrest, minors are assessed using a risk assessment instrument (RAI) created by the Casey Foundation to determine if they need secure lock up. The RAI uses a point system to assess juvenile offenders and also tracks the minor’s race and ethnicity and arresting officer. The RAI used in Santa Clara, California (see below) scores the offense, prior offense history, and mitigating factors to determine a score. This score results in a decisions scale: 0-6 release, 7-9 restricted release, 10+ detain. So exactly what type of offenses must a juvenile commit before they are taken off the streets? According the the chart below, a juvenile could commit felony sexual assault twice before seeing the inside of a jail cell!

Risk Assessment Instrument from the Casey Foundation used in Santa Clara, CA:

OFFENSE (Score only the most serious instant offense)                          POINTS
WIC Section 707 (b) offenses …………………………………………………………………10
Sale of narcotics/ drugs ………………………………………………………………………….10
Possession of firearm …………………………………………………………………………….10
Assaultive felonies against persons including sex felonies …………………………7
Domestic violence offenses (see guidelines)……………………………………………..7
Possession of narcotics/drugs for sale………………………………………………………6
Felony property crimes including auto……………………………………………………….5
Felony possession of narcotics/drugs ……………………………………………………….3
Other felony not covered above………………………………………………………………..4
Misdemeanors excluding no-time misdemeanors ………………………………………3
Infractions, no-time misdemeanors or non-criminal probation violations………0

Santa Clara Juvenile Risk Assessment Instrument

Risk Assessment Instrument from Ramsey County, MN (Point system used to assess juveniles is hidden from the public):

Minnesota Ramsey County Risk Assessment Form

Because the RAI tracks the minor’s race as well as the arresting officer, police may be less likely to arrest minorities, lest they be seen as racist. According to JDAI News, “JDAI has worked from the ground up to redesign the way the County addresses juveniles who get picked up by police.”  Results of the program have resulted in  a 75 percent drop in the number of juveniles in detention annually in Ramsey County and the closure of three juvenile detention pods. Rather than attending school in the juvenile detention center, youth offenders are returned to the streets and are educated in our public schools. The result on St. Paul public schools has been devastating.

JDAI and Promise Programs have allowed violent criminals to return to the streets and the local public schools.

While JDAI turns a blind eye to juvenile criminal offenders in the community, the Promise Program addresses misbehavior of juveniles within the public school system. Katherine Kersten shined a spotlight on the increase in criminal activity in St. Paul public school. In her article, No Thug Left Behind, Kersten reveals the great social experiment implemented by the Obama administration in an effort to reduce the number of black students that get referred for discipline. Known as the Promise Neighborhoods Program, which is also funded by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the racial equity program has caused violence and chaos in St. Paul schools. Promise works with the juvenile justice system, schools, public welfare, health, and social service agencies. The combination of JDAI and Promise, both funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, have allowed kids who commit violent crimes to return to the streets and their local schools with devastating outcomes.

Implementation of JDAI in Broward County, Florida began in 1987 to 1992, according to a report issued by the Annie E. Cassie Foundation. The report honors Broward County, Florida; “Florida’s Broward County combined interagency collaboration, research, objective screening procedures, non-secure detention alternatives and faster case processing to reduce its detention population by 65%, without any sacrifice of public safety. It saved taxpayers more than $5 million.”

Case in point that we are all to well aware – the Parkland High School shooting in Broward County, Florida almost one year ago, February 14, 2018.  Nikolas Cruz, age 19, at the time was the young man that confessed to committing the heinous crime.  While police and prosecutors have yet to offer a motive for this act of evil, they are investigating Cruz’s history which shows “a pattern of disciplinary issues and unnerving behavior”.   Broward County Florida schools adopted The Promise Program in 2013.  An article by Ryan Nicol, in the Sunshine State News, February 28, 2018, provides an overview of exactly how the The Promise Program works between the county school board, law enforcement, and the State Attorney’s Office.  It shows that had Cruz been handled in a traditional system, his past misdeeds and crimes would have been addressed in the normal justice system.  His offenses would have been properly adjudicated and documented in the criminal record system.  Even if addressed in the juvenile justice system, Cruz would have been prevented from legally owning a firearm up to the age of 24.  Since his past behavior was “risk assessed” under the Promise Program method and JDAI, he never received a record in the criminal justice system.  When he went to purchase guns, the formal background checks which are required by law, failed to flag him as an offender that was ineligible to purchase firearms.  The Promise Program and JDAI contributed to Cruz being shielded from detection enabling him to buy guns that lead to that tragic Valentines Day, one year ago.

The JDAI project is now implemented in over 300 counties throughout the U.S. In 2016, the Annie E. Casey Foundation provided grants to nonprofit organizations in 50 states, the District of ColumbiaPuerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Casey Foundation is a $2.6 billion nonprofit. The average grant award for counties making the decision to implement JDAI is $86,000.

Annie E. Casey Foundation profile:

  • Foundation budget: $173 million
  • Foundation endowment: $2.6 billion
  • Number of grants awarded: 1,028
  • Number of organizations receiving grants: 671
  • Total grant funds awarded: $99 million
  • Average grant amount: $86,000

Wake up, Minnesota!  A civil and just society is one that holds all of it’s citizens accountable for their actions.  What will Minnesota be teaching its children under the JDAI system?  From the rating system itself, one can plainly see all the things you can do and not get into trouble.  What type of adult will these children become in the next generation?  The fact is, some kids are criminals and should face arrest and just punishment for their crimes.  Please contact your Representative today and tell them to vote no on HF897.