Hunter Hurst
JJGPS Project Director

Melissa Sickmund
Director, NCJJ

New website monitors juvenile justice system change

Advocates, practitioners and policy makers will gain new national/historical perspective

A new website is introducing powerful tools to help policy makers, advocates, researchers and the media to chart nationwide change in juvenile justice policy, practices, and statistics. The Juvenile Justice GPS (JJGPS - Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics) site ( monitors juvenile justice system change by examining state laws and juvenile justice practice, combined with the most relevant state and national statistics.

Never before, has this information been collected and made so accessible, allowing a much fuller national and historical overview. The JJGPS site is designed to increase clarity on critical issues and encourage reform. It is a project of the National Center for Juvenile Justice funded through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative.

The National Center for State Courts is one of the Models for Change Resource Center Partnership strategic allies. The center works with judges, court personnel, and justice reform advocates to coordinate and work with diverse partners on juvenile justice reform issues.

“In the highly decentralized and ever-shifting landscape, JJGPS provides an invaluable resource for those wanting to see where their juvenile justice system stands in order to design improvement strategies,” said Melissa Sickmund, Director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ). “We hope that policy makers will use the information to see where they stand, and when they realize what other states have accomplished, be inspired to make improvements in their own systems.”

JJGPS is organized in six main sections that will be rolled out in sequence. The first to be launched is the section on jurisdictional boundaries—laws that transfer juvenile offenders to criminal court to be tried as adults. Later this summer two other sections will roll out: juvenile defense and system integration. Juvenile defense will deal with issues like the right to counsel and representation for youth with no financial resources. The systems integration section will  describe the varied ways that state juvenile justice and child protection systems collaborate and integrate resources.

“Reforms are sweeping the juvenile justice field, but it is hard for anyone to grasp the policy changes and opportunities at hand,” said Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Reform at the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “The JJGPS empowers all interested parties with real benchmarks that can help us move toward a more evidence-based and developmentally-appropriate justice system that better serves young people and communities.”

The remaining three areas that will roll out in the fall or early winter are racial/ethnic fairness, status offense issues, and juvenile justice services. These areas will deal with how states deal with minority youths’ disproportionate contact with the justice system; behavior that is illegal only for youth of juvenile age; and how delinquency services are provided and evidence-based practice is advanced from state to state.

Hunter Hurst, JJGPS project director, commented, “The JJGPS project involves legal research, scanning the practice landscape through interviews with juvenile justice stakeholders, searching the web for data published by state agencies, and developing statistical displays that help tell the stories or at least begin telling them when new information is brought to bear.”

“Some information on JJGPS updates work NCJJ has been doing for years and was literally filed away in databases and file cabinets,” Hurst added, “but in other areas we are assembling new knowledge with hopes it will be tracked and improved into the future as its utility becomes apparent for juvenile justice stakeholders, advocates, and policy makers. The site is also relevant to anyone trying to navigate the playing field for juvenile justice in this country, fundamental differences between states and consider all of this in the context of change and in a visually accessible manner thanks to the team of designers and developers at Webitects.”

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About Models for Change. The JJGPS is one of several communications and technical assistance strategies intended to continue the reforms of the Models for Change Initiative. Models for Change is an ambitious multi-state juvenile justice system reform initiative, launched in 2004 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation with the goal of accelerating the nation’s progress toward more rational, fair, effective, and developmentally appropriate responses to young people in conflict with the law.

About the National Center for Juvenile Justice. The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), located in Pittsburgh, PA. is the research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and is the oldest juvenile justice research group in the United States, having conducted national and sub national studies on crime and delinquency since 1973. NCJJ is a private, non-profit organization whose mission is effective justice for children and families through research and technical assistance. For four decades, NCJJ has conducted research and provided objective, factual information that professionals and decision makers in the juvenile and family justice system use to increase effectiveness. NCJJ's success stems from a unique blend of technical skill and practical experience that has enabled us to make complex research and statistical information understood by juvenile justice professionals and decision makers.

Established in 1937, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide all judges, courts, and related agencies involved with juvenile, family, and domestic violence cases with the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the families and children who seek justice.


National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA  23185-4147