Audit: State doing poor job monitoring juvenile programs
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is doing a poor job making sure the prevention and diversion programs that its Office of Juvenile Justice uses are helping to keep children out of youth prisons, according to an audit released Monday.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office looked at the agency’s contracts for programs that are supposed to provide treatment for children and teenagers who have behavioral problems or have been charged with misdemeanor crimes.
“OJJ does not collect sufficient information to evaluate whether prevention and diversion programs are reducing the number of youth who enter into the state juvenile justice system,” auditors wrote.
School leaders or judges recommend an at-risk child or teenager be placed into one of the programs, which provide services like family therapy, violence and conflict resolution classes or life skills training, according to the audit.
Because of budget cuts, OJJ reduced its contracts for the treatment programs by 57 percent over the last year, dropping them from 42 contracts to 18.
The office is spending about $964,000 on the contracts this year, down from $3.9 million two years ago. That has dropped the number of available slots for treatment from 10,842 to 2,535, according to the review.
But the audit says the agency didn’t evaluate which programs were the most effective before choosing where to eliminate contracts, instead cutting some of the contracts that had the best results.
The office didn’t renew six of the 10 contracts that had the lowest rate of at-risk youth ending up in a prison or other type of secure facility, auditors said.
Mary Livers, deputy secretary for the office, agreed with the auditors’ recommendations for ways to improve contract monitoring and said her office already has started to make changes to address the problems raised in the audit.
“We will consider all factors outlined in the recommendations provided by your office as we continue to make improvements in the monitoring process of prevention and diversion contracts within the Office of Juvenile Justice,” Livers said in a written response to the audit.
Among the problems, Purpera’s office said the agency didn’t make sure contractors submitted annual reports tracking their performance, despite a requirement in their deals with the state.
The audit says that only 71 percent of the contractors in the last fiscal year handed in an annual report — and of those, 87 percent were incomplete.
OJJ also had a “standardized monitoring tool” to review all the contracts, rather than looking at the individual performance of the programs by the type of services they were supposed to offer children to keep them from being sent to lockdown, according to the audit.