Starting in 1995, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the U.S. Department of Justice began offering “challenge grant” money to states for use in ten specifically-earmarked activities. One of those ten priorities was the establishment of state ombudsman offices to investigate and resolve complaints relating to providers of “out-of-home” care to children and youths, including juvenile detention and correctional facilities. Tennessee and Maryland were the first two states to be awarded this funding specifically for ombudsman programs overseeing juvenile detention and correctional facilities.
Some key issues facing juvenile corrections ombuds include:
- expansion and accessibility of support and services for special-needs, especially mental health needs
- access to mental health services for families of juvenile offenders, to prevent youth from being placed in detention or other alternative
- preventing the juvenile justice system from becoming a “safety net” for at-risk youth
- expanding prevention and detention programs
- moving confined females into facilities where they can receive gender-responsive services
- intervention to prevent court involvement for at-risk youths.