Arkansas Youth Justice: The Architecture of Reform

This report is offered to shine a light on the collective efforts underway in Arkansas to transform the state’s juvenile justice system. It describes the work that has been done to build reform over the past four years under the steady and skilled stewardship of Ron Angel, Director of the Division of Youth Services (DYS). It also suggests additional changes in policy and practices that might further “revolutionize” youth services, as is called for in the division’s strategic reform plan. The first section of the report discusses the state of juvenile justice in Arkansas prior to the start of reform efforts. The second section describes the building blocks of reform, including the architecture of the reform process and the essential elements of specific reform initiatives. The last section provides hypothetical scenarios that suggest some of the ways current practices could be changed in order to further DYS’ efforts to safely reduce the number of youth held in secure custody. These scenarios are offered to aid the discussions among Arkansas policymakers and stakeholders about ways to further the goals of reform in the future.