Missouri Judiciary receives additional $3.5 million to improve state's juvenile justice system

20 August 2002

Missouri Judiciary receives additional $3.5 million to improve state's juvenile justice system

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. -- The Missouri Judiciary announced this morning that its national pilot project in juvenile justice technological reform has been awarded an additional $2.5 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. This newest grant and the $11 million that preceded it was secured through the efforts of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who also has included an additional $1 million for the project in the next budget year, beginning October 1, 2003.

"The automation made possible through this grant money makes vital information instantaneously available to the juvenile justice professionals whose decisions profoundly impact community safety and the welfare of children in Missouri," Chief Justice Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., said. "Juvenile courts and multidisciplinary youth service agencies now can collaborate more closely to develop comprehensive service and treatment plans for children and their families. We are so appreciative of Senator's Bond's efforts to help protect Missouri's children."

The funding and the project, which has been extolled nationally by juvenile justice experts as a model for other states, are being administered through the Office of State Courts Administrator, the administrative arm of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

"To ensure this automation system met the needs of multiple court users, we developed it with input from juvenile officers throughout the state," State Courts Administrator Michael Buenger said. "The grant money secured by Senator Bond is helping Missouri build the nation's first statewide, personal computer-based network and repository for juvenile information. This system is enabling juvenile courts, juvenile officers, schools, social service agencies and law enforcement officials to have at their fingertips all the information necessary to assess children's needs effectively and to make good decisions about their future."

Before this project began, there was no statewide means to track the history of an individual juvenile or that allowed systemic reporting of offender dispositions, according to Gary Waint, director of OSCA's division of juvenile and adult court programs and a former juvenile officer. "Now agencies can communicate quickly and efficiently, helping them determine the duration or effectiveness of youth service programs throughout the state," Waint said. "This ensures that juvenile offenders and families with abused and neglected children cannot drift across the boundaries of counties and judicial circuits without detection."

Proof of this success is evident in Callaway County, where a pilot project allows juvenile court personnel and the county's five school districts, including the Missouri School for the Deaf, to share information electronically over a secure network. Through this pilot project, copies of petitions and court orders can be transmitted immediately to the schools, the departments of social services and health and senior services, and the divisions of family services and youth services.

Other successes the state has accomplished with the project so far include:

· 1,600 juvenile court staff in all of the state's 114 counties and city of St. Louis, plus 25 juvenile detention centers and their staff, are connected to the Statewide Judicial Information Network, which facilitates efficient, secure electronic communication.
· Personnel in 41 of the state's 45 judicial circuits have been trained to use the statewide juvenile offender classification system that the Department of Justice has recognized as a national model for good juvenile probation practice.
· Eighteen juvenile offices have investigation access to the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System and the National Court Information Center, as approved by the state highway patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.