To stem the steady flow of students from schools to juvenile detention, the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Public Schools SS/HS Initiative created a Juvenile Justice Action Team to develop a strategic plan for enhancing inter-agency collaboration. The plan comprised numerous action steps, for example:
- Defining what challenging disruptive behavior on school grounds constitutes
- Identifying the nature of referrals from schools to juvenile detention or probation
- Reviewing suspension, Special Education, and administrative policies
- Determining how to handle minor infractions within the school community rather than via a police report
- Mapping gaps in existing services
- Designing and implementing the pilot project Prevention Intervention Program for Youth (PIPY), aimed at providing prevention and early intervention services to young people who are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system
Components of PIPY include the following:
- Two caseworkers hired to assist youth transitioning back to school and to assist parents and guardians in navigating the system and finding appropriate behavioral services in the community
- Wrap-around services for youth not currently receiving assistance
- Increased communication, services, and support for youth released from detention
- Improved tracking of students and communication among the school district, the Juvenile Detention Center, Probation and Parole, and the Courts
In addition, a school-based team that includes staff from juvenile probation, juvenile detention, school administration, School Resource Officers, counselors, and social workers meets on a monthly basis.
The district chose to implement PIPY at one of its largest middle schools, which has a high number of referrals to juvenile detention—and the results have been powerful. Bookings for delinquent acts occurring on PIPY pilot school grounds decreased by 53%. The school administration also reports that the number of repeat offenders has diminished from previous years—a change that they attribute to on-site caseworkers preventing violence through conflict resolution and immediate referral to prevention programs.