This final report will be placed upon our new informational Web site along with a
number of other curricula and summaries from both this renewal grant and the original
SJI grant for "Juvenile Justice at the Crossroads: Literature-Based Seminars for Judges,
Court Personnel and Community Leaders" dating from the inception of the first grant in
June 1999. The final report will include a summary of the four quarterly reports for the
grant period from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. It will also include a brief compilation of
the on-site "Summary and Resolutions" from each of the five seminars provided for in the
renewal grant as well as an overall assessment of the evaluations and follow-up
interviews for the five seminars during the grant period.
There are five principal points of innovation addressed in the implementation of the
renewal grant. These include: 1) the expansion of seminar participant lists to include
more "community leaders" such as educators, local activists working with juvenile
offenders and their reintegration within their own communities, and relevant agency
personnel from such state agencies as DSS (Department of Social Services) and DYS
(Department of Youth Services); 2) the augmentation of reading lists for the seminars to
include non-fiction, such as Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace, a compelling piece of
investigative journalism regarding the youth of the South Bronx, and Michael
MacDonald's All Souls: A Family Story of Southie, a poignant memoir, both of which
were used in our juvenile justice seminars in fall 2001; 3) a refocused emphasis on three
major areas not fully scrutinized in the first round of seminars (1999-2000); i.e., racial
and ethnic disparities in treatment of juvenile crime, female juvenile delinquency, and
efforts at restorative justice and reintegration of juvenile offenders within the community.
Moreover, we determined to spend more time on summary and resolutions at the end of
each seminar with an eye to pragmatic implementation in the fixture; 4) creation of at
least one on-site seminar in a Massachusetts courthouse and concerted efforts to have
regional seminars which would reach more people in the courts in the western part of the
state of Massachusetts. Hence, our October seminar was held at East Brookfield District
Court, west of Worcester and north of Sturbridge, enrolling only participants from
Worcester west to the Berkshires; 5) creation of an informational Web site to incorporate
a variety of materials and conclusions from both the initial juvenile justice grant (the blue
book published and disseminated in October 2000) and the renewal grant. This Web site
was initially proposed in the renewal grant to be implemented in conjunction with the
Massachusetts Trial Court, but budget problems arising from severe finding cuts for the
Massachusetts Judicial Institute unfortunately precluded their collaboration this spring.
Hence, the Web site now being implemented will be created and maintained by the
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, of which
the Brandeis Seminars are one component.
This new informational Web site will include: 1) contents of the exhaustive grant
summary and curriculum from the original grant, beginning in June 1999; 2) selected
components of faculty training manuals for workshops held for both academic and
judicial facilitators including new materials regarding both bibliography and syllabi; 3)
summaries of the quarterly reports from all four quarters of the second grant period, from
July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002; 4) compilation of conclusions reached in the "Summary
and Resolutions" segment of each of the five day-long seminars held between October
2001 and April 2002; 5) evaluations and analysis of the evaluation methods utilized for
the second series of juvenile justice seminars.
The State Justice Institute Continuation Grant # SJI-99-N-150-COI-1, "Juvenile Justice at
the Crossroads: Literature-Based Seminars for Judges, Court Personnel and Community
Leaders" was instituted in its second segment on July 1, 2001. July was devoted to
fulfilling further SJI stipulations for the grant and meeting with members of the Judicial
Institute of the Massachusetts Trial Court with whom this grant is being implemented.
In August Marilyn Wellington, the Director of the Judicial Institute, assumed a new
position within the Trial Court. Fortunately for our grant, she had already invited her new
superior, Chief Justice Barbara Dortch-Okara, head of Administration and Management
for the Massachusetts Trial Court, to serve as a judicial facilitator for our November
seminar. Still, we missed immediately the wise counsel and support from Marilyn, who
was replaced by a new acting director, Ellen O'Connor, an alumna of our earlier series of
seminars. Also an attorney, Ms. O'Connor and her fine program manager, Jennifer
Terminesi, have helped to launch all the succeeding seminars.
In preparation for the workshops for facilitators, both judicial and academic, we
accomplished considerable research to focus on the three major issues: 1) disparate
treatment of racial and ethnic minorities in the juvenile justice system; 2) the growing
problem of increasing numbers and concerns of young female offenders; and 3) need for
restorative justice and reintegration of juvenile offenders back into their home
communities. Ashley Klugman, an undergraduate at Brandeis University who was
mentored by Mary Davis in the Schif Undergraduate Fellows Program, served as a very
competent research assistant to compile articles and statistics from government
publications, law reviews, media sources as well as relevant fiction and non-fiction for
faculty training. These were often used in the seminars themselves while other parts of
the training manual were separately printed and made available for each participant to
take home at the end of both of the fall seminars.
On September 12, 2001, our first faculty workshop was badly attended especially by
judicial facilitators in the immediate aftermath of the terrors of the previous day. Still, we
met and managed through follow-up conferences and smaller meetings to create coherent
plans and dates for five subsequent seminars -- two in the fall and three in the spring.
During this grant period we also attended to various necessary details for the October 24
and November 7 seminars including invitation letters and reservation forms. These were
distributed through the state court system to judges and court personnel but also to
agencies like DSS as well as community police and area educators.
Under the SJI grant we held two well-attended and well-reviewed day-long seminars, one
on October 24 and one on November 7. The October seminar represented several crucial
innovations we had pledged to implement in our renewal grant. First, the October
seminar was held on-site at the East Brookfield District Court in the northwestern part of
the state of Massachusetts. This seminar was designed to be held not only in a state
courthouse but also in the western part of the state. Thus, invitations were issued only to
those from Worcester west to the New York state line. Attendance from that rather
distant region is often small when our seminars are held at Brandeis University in the
Boston area and tend to attract primarily those from the greater metropolitan area.
Second, the Massachusetts Trial Court had agreed as part of our renewal grant proposal
to fund the day in terms of the location, food and other amenities. This reciprocity
functions both practically and symbolically to show the ongoing relation between and
among the State Justice Institute, the Massachusetts Trial Court and the Ethics Center at
The texts for this first seminar also demonstrated our desire to innovate. Reading
Amazing Grace, a major non-fictional work of investigative journalism with its focus on
very poor children in the South Bronx, struck one participant as commensurate to facing
the complex and terrible issues of Afghanistan while another person, a social worker,
insisted that it simply reminded her of her own caseload in Holyoke, Massachusetts! Two
shorter works both focused on issues of female adolescence -- Alice Munro's "Royal
Beatings," a tale of familial abuse of an adolescent girl, and Alice Walker's story of
biracial rape, "Advancing Luna - and Ida B. Wells." While all three facilitators for this
seminar were academics, they were also all lawyers who had been active in practice and
were conversant with the courts. The participants were even more varied; they included
teachers from alternative schools, judges, social workers and probation officers as well as
several community police.
The November 7 seminar was held at Brandeis University and enrolled participants from
Worcester east, which included many Boston area people as well as several from Cape
Cod. Again, the participants represented very diverse segments of the court community as
well as the larger community. We were very fortunate to have as a judicial facilitator
Chief Justice Dortch-Okara, head of Administration and Management for the Trial Court.
As a woman, an African-American and a chief justice, she provided a marvelous role
model for all those present; moreover, she was able to lead the discussion of Richard
Wright's "Almos' a Man" with great feeling and awareness for the plight of the minority
adolescent featured in the story.
The two other texts were also relevant and quite successful. The anchor text, a
nonfictional work which is truly a memoir, All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by
Michael MacDonald, scrutinizes the lives of eleven children in a poor Irish family living
in the housing projects of South Boston at the time when busing further divided that
racially divided city. Given our seminar concerns and backgrounds and residences of the
participants, this text was among the most successful we have ever used. The third text, a
short story by Sandra Cisneros entitled "My Tocaya" concerning two adolescent Latina
girls, was at first confusing, especially to male participants. It then sparked an animated
discussion by guidance counselors, social workers and probation officers working with
young female offenders. They spoke movingly of issues of power and self-esteem so
crucial for troubled girls, especially runaways. On December 6 we held another faculty
workshop and planning session in order to look ahead to the spring programs and the
ongoing work of the grant. Because Mary Davis will be on medical leave beginning in
January, it was necessary to plan ahead for the trajectory of the rest of the grant
The third quarter of the twelve-month grant period was devoted to preparation for the
three spring seminars. The first of these day-long seminars was held on March 28 on the
campus of Brandeis University. Even though the progenitor of the grant, Academic
Director of the Brandeis Seminars, was forced to be on medical leave, the Acting
Director in close cooperation with both the Program Manager and the Acting Director of
the Massachusetts Judicial Institute, worked together to select texts, train both judicial
and academic facilitators and create a valuable experience for all involved on March 28.
Given the vagaries of New England weather, our policy has been not to schedule
seminars during the months of January, February and early March. The late March
seminar, however, was attended especially by a large number of community educators
and court personnel, most notably probation officers. Unfortunately, no judges were able
to attend. However, an experienced juvenile court judge, Judge Leslie Harris from
Suffolk County (Boston) who had also worked with us in our first series of seminars, led
the discussion of a short story by Richard Wright. He was joined by Dr. Jane Hale, a
professor of Romance and Comparative Literature at Brandeis as well as April
Powell-Willingham, Esq., the Acting Academic Director of the Brandeis Seminars, as the
academic facilitators. An agenda of this program as well as agendas for the other four
seminars will be attached at the end of these summaries of the four quarterly reports.
April proved to be a very busy month in implementing the SJI grant, "Juvenile Justice at
the Crossroads II." On April 10 at Brandeis University there was a day-long seminar
focusing on disparate racial treatment of juveniles, treatment of juvenile female offenders
and the necessity for reintegration of juvenile offenders back into their own communities.
At this meeting April Powell-Willingham, Director of Combined Programs and Acting
Academic Director at the Ethics Center, facilitated the discussion of Joyce Carol Oates's
novel Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, which deals with young female offenders and
their incarceration on every page. Dr. Joseph Cunningham, chairman of the Psychology
Department at Brandeis and an expert in adolescent psychology, taught the Richard
Wright text, "Almos' a Man" about a troubled male adolescent runaway. Judge Robert
Kane of the Massachusetts Superior Court, an experienced facilitator in our programs and
one of the founders of "Changing Lives," a law and literature program for prisoners and
those on probation, facilitated the discussion of William Faulkner's short story "Barn
On April 25 in a fifth and last day-long seminar, this also at Brandeis University, Dr. Ron
Corbett, now Executive Director of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts and a
facilitator in our earlier juvenile justice grant when he was Deputy Commissioner of
Probation, was our outside facilitator who taught Alice Munro's story, "Royal Beatings,"
exposing domestic violence and child abuse in a divided step-family. Two academic
facilitators, Dr. Milton Kornfeld, Associate Dean of the graduate school at Brandeis, and
Dr. Leigh Hafrey of the Sloan School at MIT, also led discussions on James Baldwin's
"Sonny's Blues" and the anchor text, Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace respectively. This
was our second time to use Kozol's non-fictional expose of poverty, crime and children at
risk in the South Bronx. In addition, Libby Hodges, the Director of Judicial Education for
the New Hampshire Administrative Courts as well as the evaluator for this SJI grant,
opened the seminar by leading a discussion of the short piece "Justice," adopted from an
Ethiopian folk tale by Wolf Lessau.
At the end of both of these April seminars, as was also true in late March, a
comprehensive written evaluation form which Ms. Hodges had revised from earlier use,
was filled out by all participants. This was followed in every seminar by an open-ended
and far-reaching discussion both abstract and particular in its focus on implementing
insights gained from the seminar discussion. A brief version of this series of "Summary
and Resolutions" is also contained in the ongoing project summary and will follow these
four summaries of the quarterly reports. All this material, including the agendas for each
seminar, appears on our informational Web site.
At the end of this first juvenile justice seminar, we spent a great deal of time discussing
the dual texts of art and life around the themes of disconnection, denial, disparity and,
finally, intervention. Initially there was a question about art as a vehicle to scrutinize life
issues; the group concluded that such examination was more than "R and R," a day away
from work, but was another way into the complex issues that so confound us.
With so many educators and counselors in the room, the issue of empowerment through
education was raised. Education was seen as empowerment, especially for youth. Yet
those who most need to stay in school, those least empowered, are often those who leave
or are asked to leave. All aspired to some transformative learning processes which could
be realistic and effective. The overriding question was: how can we effect change?
Answers included community-based outreach programs (after school, evening youth
groups, medical clinics, etc.). We talked again of having a series of these seminars
primarily for youth instead of adults.
Several other insightful conclusions were urged: 1) celebrate always those children who
are overcoming obstacles; 2) watch for at risk children who are not acting out but may be
deeply depressed or angry; 3) look to mentor every child and not let some get lost in the
system. The theme of societal and individual disconnection seemed to resonate through
all our remarks. In fact, though the issues are huge and complex -- poverty, crime,
prisons, etc., -- many in the group felt that the connection must be made to one child at a
time. Several participants who teach in inner-city alternative schools were especially
eloquent on this point.
Hence, the need is for interpersonal and organizational change in schools and agencies
and courtrooms, not just systemic change. State agencies need to connect not only with
the academic world but with the courts in ways that are not always easy or possible. In
fact area of treatment of female juvenile offenders, an increasing number and concern, is
one which presently lacks such coordination and cooperation.
There was also expressed concern about focusing always on the negative, on the
ever-present subject of burn-out, on the way to change attitudes as well as methods
within the system. All agreed that attitudinal change from oppression and sometimes
patriarchy involving children, with minorities and girls as prime examples, can come best
from reflective and "one-on-one" seminars like this one.
The crucial issues related to adolescents in the juvenile justice system were seen as: the
need for them to be seen and heard, victimization, bearing witness, the difficulty of
working across difference (race, ethnicity, gender, even language). We agreed that it is
hard to relate to the experiences of the "other." The group also discussed self-loathing as
a negative aspect of self-definition, especially among adolescents, and resulting isolation
and helplessness, sometimes resulting in violence or running away.
The ensuing question was: where do we go from here? How can this day be more than a
meaningful dialogue among people? One positive note included the open-door policy of
inter-agency cooperation evidenced even by this varied group of educators, law
enforcement, judges and court personnel and social and youth service agencies. If we can
work together as individuals and groups, how can we then intervene in time to prevent
negative outcomes for youth? The possibility of involving youth not only in such
seminars but in various teen and peer mediation as well as in the open-ended process of
restorative justice was discussed. Some found it interesting that our readings were
broadly based but the participant mix was largely white although the judicial facilitator
was an African-American woman.
In an exhaustive discussion of All Souls, which captured the hearts and imaginations of
the Boston area group, the themes of myth and self-deception which we impose upon
children and upon ethnic groups (in this case, the Irish) or they impose upon themselves,
were widely discussed. Here gender specific issues emerged for both male and female
children in the MacDonald family, but larger issues of violence and neglect applied to all
the families. We agreed that early intervention is vital, but questioned how one might
have penetrated the housing projects and schools of South Boston which seemed insular
and proud in the quite-recent era of the Boston busing riots and the crimes of Whitey
There was wide consensus that as the legal system becomes more and more punitive for
children, there is even greater need for community involvement. This could and should
occur before the court involvement and could become part of the actual process through
community policing (a present success story in many areas) and efforts, however small,
at restorative justice, which brings together the juvenile offender, the victim, the police
and the courts to work out in concert an appropriate "restoration" for everyone involved.
Another issue taken from the MacDonald text as well as those of Cisneros and Wright is
that of intergenerational deprivation and loss. How can we possibly end the cycle? While
there has been a significant statistical drop in violent crime over the past decade, the
poverty gap has grown between the rich and the poor. And children comprise a huge
percentage of those living below the poverty line in this country. While community
agencies make valiant efforts in terms of support of families, both emotional and
financial, there is an unfilled need to reach kids and to impact them directly. Can this be
done in school? After school? Through sports or extra-curricular activities? How about
the drop-out statistics especially in areas like South Boston? With an emphasis on
pragmatic problem-solving, the group sought to articulate also its desire to work from the
roots of the problems and to follow through on them.
The final hour of this day-long seminar was spent linking crucial themes from the
assigned readings, the day's discussion of these texts as well as the dual texts of the
participants' work and family lives.
Underlying the discussion was the general theme of systemic change with an emphasis on
creative problem solving in courts, agencies like DSS and schools where we often
involve in a "daily rush to judgment" without time and resources and sometimes without
options to attend to individual cases.
Hence, the need for reflective and open-ended seminars like this is only one point of
departure. For the literature discussed helped to expose what is not seen simply in reading
reports from state agencies or experts. In an overburdened system which strives to meet
the needs of Massachusetts’s children, there is often either a vacuum of information or
else information overload, either of which can result in the individual child or family
getting lost in the judicial system. This is true whether it be the juvenile court, the
probate/family court, the superior court or the probation system.
Bastard Out of Carolina, our anchor text, highlighted this danger for the participants but
also provided insight into the strength and resilience of some children. The necessity of
sustained and sensitive intervention and of seeing, truly understanding and working with
the whole family emerged as a critical goal. Educators as well as probation officers
stressed the difficulty of knowing the whole child, not just in one context.
This concern and creative ways to address it were also discussed in regard to the other
two texts, especially the runaway boy in "Almos' a Man" and the violent son of divorcing
parents in "Age of Analysis." Feasible and practical ways to demonstrate respect and
concern for troubled children and to lessen their alienation and isolation were also
discussed. In addition, many asked for venues where parenting skills might be taught,
then practiced. Interestingly, the lack of skill and attention in parenting seems to be
pervasive, among self-absorbed middle- and upper-class parents as well as poorer
The complex issues of compassion and accountability for juvenile offenders surfaced
again and again, especially in renewed efforts to look at the whole child and his/her
family, not just the offender or the offense. Despite recognition of limited resources and
options, the participants vowed to avoid pre-conceptions and pre-dispositions to label
children, judging them upon superficial evidence. This shared recognition of differences
among and between ethnic groups, gender and socio-economic groups must be
acknowledged but only with the encompassing resolution to help every child and to seek
equitable yet individual solutions that are both individual and total.
Some participants concluded reluctantly and somewhat pessimistically that Americans as
a society respect neither children nor those who work with children (teachers, probation
officers, et al.). The major evidence is that we simply do not pay them enough. Others
disagreed, suggesting that those who work within the system care about kids and share
the mission of preventing them from committing serious crimes. Still others suggested
that in this self-selected seminar, we were perhaps "preaching to the choir." There were
also those who highlighted another apparent contradiction -- that the judicial system is
designed to interdict and punish serious criminals, not to prevent crime.
All agreed that the idea and, indeed, the ideal of law should match the developmental
stages of children, should focus on care and protection of children and on education of
children and their parents in order to prevent juvenile crime before it occurs. Again, those
present disagreed about funding and relative importance of juvenile courts adjudicating
crimes and probate/family courts addressing care and protection issues of abuse and
neglect. Who should have the ultimate jurisdiction over children? and their parents?
Many agreed that for teachers, probation officers, social workers and others, it is not just
lack of resources or time but an institutional failure to connect with the individual child.
Hence, an agency or other institutional person is often seen by a child and even perhaps
by his/her family as an outsider or even an enemy. All three texts discussed in this
seminar demonstrated dramatically the need for purposeful intervention in the daily lives
of troubled children and their families. As one participant characterized it, kids need
"intervention with a safety net -systems and relationships created to catch kids and keep
them engaged and safe. Still kids slip through."
Another relevant issue is the question whether schools should function as safety nets or
punitive agencies. Can both occur simultaneously? Some questioned the role of school
suspensions/expulsions and asked if the Educational Reform Act in Massachusetts had
truly reduced criminal behavior or simply removed problem children and enabled them to
become full-fledged juvenile offenders on the street.
There were also many questions about implementing present policies (like the
Educational Reform Act), about allocating power and resources among various courts,
about an ongoing search for the most effective and efficient ways to prevent juvenile
crime and to restore and reintegrate juvenile offenders. The concluding discussion at the
end of the day provided a true culmination after the individual reading and group
dialogue arising from the dual texts of art and life, one of the most important goals for
this State Justice Institute grant.
This final seminar stressed the grant's focus on "issues of children at risk including
adolescent rebellion, treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, young women offenders,
and community intervention possibilities." Dean Milton Kornfeld of the graduate school
at Brandeis and a facilitator for the day-long seminar, explained the over-riding principle
and goal of such a meeting -- "a reflective dialogue in a safe space." From this intensive
and quite participatory dialogue came the following insights and recommendations. They
were based in the expertise and experience of the seminar participants and facilitators,
which, in turn, created the experience of the seminar.
One theme reverberating through the day was that of communication, especially listening
and the difficulty of both listening and hearing, especially by those in power. Some
detected a note of sarcasm in the small story "Justice" over which a deaf and nearly blind
judge presides. Participants' insights came from their own work in courts, state agencies,
schools and police departments. Said one, "It's so hard to really tell your story," while
others concluded "at least something got done in the story of Justice" as it often does in
the real life of the courts.
Dr. Ron Corbett, who facilitated discussion of the afternoon text, "Royal Beatings" by
Alice Munro, noted in this final hour that all the texts of the day, especially the morning
texts -"Justice," James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," and Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace
-- were united in their emphasis on communication or the lack thereof. This occurs in the
judicial system, as well as other institutional systems like schools and hospitals and even
the welfare system.
Dr. Leigh Hafrey, who had facilitated the comprehensive discussion of Amazing Grace,
pointed out also that the use of violence functions as an outgrowth of miscommunication
in "Royal Beatings." He urged the group to explore how one might "foster a system in
which people were both cherished for their child-like idealism but allowed and
encouraged to become adults with a full set of rights and responsibilities." There was
general agreement that this was the goal of rearing children and also of bringing them
through the juvenile justice system to a necessary reintegration into the adult community.
A participant from the New Bedford juvenile court agreed emphatically that listening
makes all the difference, especially in dealing with adolescents before the law. It's not,
she stressed, "about rules and regulations but about people." While the group sought
pragmatic conclusions and looked to problem solving to address the issues they must face
everyday, they all felt a bit overwhelmed by the immense collection of problems
presented by Kozol's view of the South Bronx. Yet several agreed that this and these
problems were not unknown to them through their work in Massachusetts.