One America - Cultural Sensitivity: Orientation for the New Juvenile Justice Professional

Program: Cultural Sensitivity: Orientation for the New Juvenile Justice Professional, Harrisburg, PA
Contact(s): Arlene L. Prentice, Juvenile Court Consultant: (717) 783-7836
Purpose: To increase and encourage the cultural awareness and sensitivity of juvenile justice officers, and enable them to make culturally competent decisions in relation to their clients

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In the 1980s, the Juvenile Court of Pennsylvania, Center for Juvenile Justice Training and Research, implemented a program to train juvenile justice probation officers to become more familiar with and sensitive to their clients' cultures. This move was a reaction to the increasing number of black and Hispanic youth entering the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania, which was staffed primarily by white men. In 1992, in response to a federal mandate for all states to examine disproportionate minority confinement, the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court released a study, "The Role of Race in Juvenile Justice Processing in Pennsylvania." Since the release of this report, the court has bolstered its programming around these issues.

Program Operations

The Juvenile Court of Pennsylvania requires a cultural sensitivity training orientation for all of its juvenile probation officers. This training is designed to make officers aware of and sensitive to other cultures and practices and to help officers examine how their biases impact their decisions. The training sessions are held with approximately 55 officers and one trainer. To begin, the officers are given a cultural diversity quiz. As a group, they discuss the questions presented by the quiz and define cultural diversity, cultural competence, and stereotype. The officers are also asked to discuss their perceptions of minority youth, and to explore the role of ethnic and gender jokes. The participants also view a video titled Separate but Equal at Duke University. In addition to this mandatory orientation session, the Juvenile Court offers optional ongoing training for officers. The court also encourages recruitment of officers of color and sponsors conferences on the issue of minority over-representation in the juvenile justice system. The Pennsylvania Court has organized four conferences and is planning another one for the year 2000.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The Juvenile Court Judges' Commission, Center for Juvenile Justice Training and Research, has won four awards from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges for its work on cultural awareness. In 1987 and 1994, the Center for Juvenile Justice training received the award for outstanding juvenile legislation program, and in 1982 and 1994 the award for outstanding educational program. Since the implementation of its cultural sensitivity training, the Juvenile Court of Pennsylvania has seen a great increase in the efficacy and fairness of its officers.

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