Auditor criticizes Juvenile Justice monitoring of contracts

The Jindal administration’s Office of Juvenile Justice does not effectively monitor its contracts with providers who run programs aimed at keeping youth out of juvenile institutions, the legislative auditor said in a report issued Monday.

It marked the second critical audit in a month’s time for the agency.

In mid-January, the auditor cited Juvenile Justice for poor monitoring of nonsecure residential facility contracts and noted that providers have been allowed to set their own payment rates. The facilities provide treatment services for youth who are not considered a threat to public safety but require supervision in a structured setting.

The new performance audit looked at contracts for prevention and diversion programs.

Youth participants are typically charged with a misdemeanor crime or have received behavioral citations and been recommended by their school or courts for the programs. Among the services the programs provide are family therapy, violence and conflict resolution classes, and life skills training.

From state fiscal year 2013 to 2014, the auditor found that Juvenile Justice:

Does not evaluate the effectiveness of prevention and diversion programs as required by state law.

Because of budget cuts, Juvenile Justice decreased its prevention and diversion contracts by 57 percent, from 42 contracts to 18 contracts. But the contract cancellations occurred without evaluating which programs were the most effective, the auditor said. The agency did not renew the contracts of six of the 10 programs that had been most successful in steering youth away from the juvenile justice system, according to the auditor.

In fiscal year 2013, Juvenile Justice was spending $2.5 million with 6,539 youths covered. In fiscal year 2014, the contracts totaled $963,953 with 2,535 youths covered.

Cannot ensure that its program specialists are adequately monitoring the specific services promised by each contract provider.

Does not ensure that providers submit annual reports showing their performance in specific areas as required by their contracts.

For fiscal year 2013, only 30 of 42 providers submitted the reports that are supposed to contain performance and outcome information, such as the number of youth who successfully completed the program and the number of youth who did not enter the juvenile justice system six, 12 and 18 months following program completion. The auditor also noted that some of the reports filed were incomplete.

Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Mary L. Livers said she concurred with the findings in a letter to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

“OJJ has already taken steps to address many of the concerns noted by your staff in this report,” Livers wrote. “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.”