|Trenton - The Juvenile Justice Commission’s (JJC) Director of Local Programs and Services Jennifer LeBaron, Ph.D. was recently honored with two national awards recognizing her dedication and service to the juvenile justice system, and the children and families it serves.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation honored LeBaron with the inaugural presentation of its System Official Award for Outstanding Contributions to Juvenile Detention Reform. The private philanthropic organization is based in Baltimore and works with federal agencies, states, counties, cities and neighborhoods to create innovative and cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children, including poverty, unnecessary disconnection from family, and communities with limited access to opportunity. LeBaron was honored for her leadership role in New Jersey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). This initiative, which is funded by the Foundation, has transformed New Jersey’s juvenile detention system, reducing the number of youth unnecessarily held in secure institutions in participating New Jersey counties by 60% since 2004.
The award was presented at the National JDAI Conference held in Philadelphia, PA (June 2-4, 2014). The conference, hosted by the Foundation, brings together delegations from jurisdictions currently participating in JDAI or preparing to implement the detention reform initiative. By the end of 2014, JDAI will be implemented in 41 states and 300 jurisdictions across the country.
The W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness and Equity presented LeBaron with its Courageous Leadership Award. The Burns Institute works to eliminate racial and ethnic disparity by building a community-centered response to youthful misbehavior that is equitable and restorative. The Burns Institute has worked in more than 40 jurisdictions nationally and achieved significant results in reducing racial and ethnic disparities. LeBaron was selected for this award based on her unwavering commitment to juvenile justice and her tireless efforts in New Jersey working to address racial and ethnic disparities in multiple jurisdictions. LeBaron was among the first recipients of this prestigious award when it was presented by the Burns Institute for the first time in December 2013.
“The Juvenile Justice Commission has led New Jersey’s participation in JDAI since it began in 2004, gathering and sustaining support for this critical reform initiative. As a result of our success, New Jersey is the national model for statewide implementation of JDAI,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “Dr. LeBaron has brought a commitment to data-driven decision-making that has transformed the work of the juvenile justice community in New Jersey and has consistently resulted in better outcomes for young people.”
“New Jersey’s dramatic success in juvenile detention reform is due to the significant efforts of many individuals and stakeholders, however, our goals would not have been met without the skill, expertise, and leadership of Dr. LeBaron,” said Kevin M. Brown, Executive Director, JJC. “Her dedication to at-risk and delinquent juveniles is exemplified every day as she travels the state working with local partners to improve the juvenile justice system in New Jersey. The JJC is proud to join with two of nation’s the most preeminent organizations in the field of juvenile and social justice in recognizing Dr. LeBaron’s individual achievements and her leadership abilities.”
JDAI was developed in response to national trends reflecting a drastic increase in the use of secure detention for juveniles despite decreases in juvenile arrests, and the resulting overcrowding of youth detention centers nationwide. JDAI works to reduce the number of low-level youth unnecessarily or inappropriately held in secure detention, while maintaining public safety and ensuring that youth appear for scheduled court dates. JDAI also works to redirect resources toward successful reform strategies, including alternative community programs, and to improve the conditions of confinement in detention facilities for those youth who require this secure level of supervision.
Through 2013, the average daily population in detention in JDAI sites decreased by 60% when compared to each site’s detention population prior to JDAI implementation. Detention alternative outcome data shows that 96% of youth completed their alternative placement without a new delinquency charge. Furthermore, declining juvenile arrests continue to confirm that these young people can safely remain in their communities, thus demonstrating that JDAI is an effective public safety strategy.
Since joining the JJC in 1998, LeBaron has worked on various aspects of program and policy development, collaborating with practitioners throughout the state to effect informed change in juvenile justice settings. As Director of Local Programs & Services, she oversees five operational units that support the development and enhancement of local continuums of juvenile justice services. In furtherance of this goal, these units administer state and federal grant funds, monitor compliance with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, implement JDAI, monitor county-operated juvenile detention centers, and serve as liaison to and collaborate with the courts and county government.
LeBaron received a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University. Her dissertation focused on risk prediction and risk assessment, examining the role of community context in juvenile recidivism. While in graduate school, LeBaron was the recipient of the Rutgers University Doctoral Excellence Fellowship, the Rutgers Graduate School Walter Russell Scholarship, the School of Criminal Justice Fellowship, and the NJ Association of Business & Professional Women’s Mary Johnston Scholarship.
LeBaron resides in Long Branch, Monmouth County.