The Caren Harp, the new head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), recently held a listening session at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ annual conference. The outcome of that session led to a new motto for OJJDP, “Enhancing safety. Ensuring accountability. Empowering Youth.” Harp said she wanted a motto that underscored the fact that there are multiple stakeholders—victims, offenders, and communities—in the juvenile justice system.

After the session, Harp sat down with a reporter from the Criminal Justice Journalism in the Public Interest to answer questions and outline her vision and priorities for OJJDP. Harp noted that a key change in the juvenile justice system for her is a return to balance of offender accountability and youth development, noting that the system has drifted too far to the side of therapeutic intervention and avoiding arrests. Harp also stated that it is still “too early to draw conclusions about neuroimaging and neuroscience with regards to juvenile justice.” She elaborated on this by saying, “I would have to see the scientists—the actual scientists engaging in the neuroimaging and the behavioral science—on the witness stand being questioned and seeing if their science meets the minimum standard for admissibility in a court of law. … This information has been disseminated through publications and at trainings like this [conference], and it’s just become accepted as fact without undergoing the admissibility process in a court of law. It has managed to skip over that.”

Harp ended the interview stating that she does plan to restart the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and plans to hold additional listening sessions for stakeholders. The Alliance Public Policy and Mobilization Office will be monitoring the calendar for listening sessions and notifying Alliance member organizations so they can participate and help ensure that OJJDP’s work is informed by and responsive to “on the ground” experience, science and research. Read interview online.

Contact Jennifer Ralston, associate director of public policy at the Alliance for more information or with concerns related to this topic.

View more public policy news  and sign up for the weekly Alliance Policy Radar online.