The Denney Juvenile Justice Center (Denney) exists to serve Snohomish County youth in a variety of venues. The goals of Denney’s youth programs include:
Snohomish County has been and continues to be dedicated to taking steps towards reducing racial and ethnic disparities that exist within the County. Denney Juvenile Justice Center (Denney) is a Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) site where strategies for reducing racial and ethnic disparities as identified in JDAI literature are embraced. This includes the use of data to support policies and procedures as well as partnering with community stakeholders to provide for positive youth justice. Denney is required to review and analyze data related to racial equity within its youth-serving programs and whether barriers are present for youth of color and their families eligible for and receiving these programs. Recent analysis of 2016-18 data revealed that Black, Hispanic/Latinx and Native American youth did not start or complete youth programs at the same rates and white youth.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a greater negative impact on families of color across Washington State (WA) and the United States in terms of both health and economic impact. Of the total confirmed cases in WA as of June 28, 2020, 44% are Hispanic and 35% are Non-Hispanic white, but only 13% of total WA population is Hispanic while 68% is Non-Hispanic white. It is not clear how this translates to Hispanic/Latinx families in Snohomish County, who make up 22% of families served by the probation unit, because COVID-19 cases are not currently disaggregated by race or ethnicity. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that families of probation-involved youth of color are experiencing greater negative impacts during this period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the severe economic downturn, and civil unrest in response to the most recent killings of Black Americans across the country.
Finally, on June 17, 2020 all Snohomish County Superior Court Justices joined the Washington State Supreme Court Justices to eradicate racism within the state justice system. Their letter to the Snohomish County legal community was written “to reaffirm our deepest level of commitment to achieve justice and end racism.” The letter acknowledged that “Black Americans have struggled to enjoy the rights promised to all Americans by our Constitution and, instead, have continued to face the horrors of racism and brutality. We see plainly the overrepresentation of Black Americans in the criminal justice system.” Some of these horrors of racism and brutality against Black Snohomish County residents at hands of the Sheriff’s Office were shared on the June 22 Snohomish County Council Town Hall on Racism and Criminal Justice. The Justices’ letter goes on to state that “our courts have contributed to the systemic racism that exists in our communities… [and] that legal professionals, lawyers and judges alike, bear responsibility for ensuring that systemic racism and discrimination is eradicated in all its insidious forms. We hereby dedicate ourselves to being part of the solution.”
In April 2020, Juvenile Court leadership requested that data2insight prepare a proposal for an organizational assessment and program and practices evaluation. Our proposal was accepted, and our engagement commenced in May and was completed in August 2020.
The purpose of the organizational assessment and youth program and practice evaluation study was to provide Denney leadership and cultural advisory committee with credible, reliable, and timely evidence and recommendations to inform their decisions about:
The questions that guided this assessment and evaluation study were:
This multicultural organizational development continuum was used as a framework to assess the organization.
Data2insight also received a variety of documents from Denney staff, Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR), and Washington State Institute of Public Policy (WSIPP) including recent recommendations from the June 2019 Racial and Ethnic Disparity review (RED report), September 2019 Snohomish County Environmental Assessment (EA report), and August 2019 Snohomish County DEI Assessment (DEI assessment) A desk review of relevant literature was conducted for this study.
Lead scientist Veronica Smith analyzed and synthesized the data by triangulating the data from all sources to identify converging and divergent themes. A memo summarized the key findings, conclusions based on those findings, and recommendations for action to better serve court-involved youth of color and develop a more multicultural and antiracist court organization.
The findings, conclusions, and recommendation were shared with the following stakeholder groups:
2019 youth program enrollment and completion data showed that there were not racial and ethnic disparities in starting and completing youth programs or in the length of probation at Denney. The analysis also revealed that there was a need to increase the completion rate for all youth in most programs.
Since August 2020, Court leadership has met weekly to determine how best to more forward based on the organizational assessment recommendations. Denney management and the Cultural Advisory Committee are taking their engagement of staff to a new level as a result of sharing assessment and evaluation findings. More courageous conversations are occurring on teams, resulting in greater conflict and greater awareness of the issues that need to be addressed. And, more conversations across youth program providers and probation counselors are occurring in ways that may lead to the development of a community of practice that can lead to improving Denney’s capacity to increase the protective factors and reduce risk factors of the youth they serve.
Review the findings here: Denney Juvenile Justice Center 2020 EBP Evaluation Study Highlights