Vicki Spriggs, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission.
Spriggs appears to be the frontrunner at this point, from what JJ Today hears. Her background includes one of the qualities many in the field view as critical for the next administrator: experience in running a big juvenile justice system.
Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), with a staff of about 66, oversees the county departments that each year handle more than 40,000 juveniles on probation. Another agency, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), is responsible for juveniles who are incarcerated in secure facilities.
“OJJDP needs strong leadership after the long dark years of the Bush administration,” said Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. “Vicky Spriggs has demonstrated dynamic and effective leadership in Texas and would bring those skills to OJJDP.”
Another national JJ figure, who believes Justice should have tapped Vinny Schiraldi for this job months ago, disagreed.
“She was not part of the reform movement in Texas,” he said. “She’s no Vinny Schiraldi.”
A Texas JJ reform advocate – Marc Levin, director of the Austin-based Center for Effective Justice – told us that while Spriggs might not be out advocating reform, her implementation of changes has been excellent.
Last year the state year approved a “committed reduction” plan to provide funds to any county that agreed to lower the number of juveniles it committed to TYC facilities. Commitments to TYCin 2010 are down 40 percent compared with the same time frame in 2009, according to Levin.
“TJPC put together the whole framework” for that concept, Levin said. “A lot of impetus for change will come from outside the system. But I certainly give[Spriggs] and the commission credit for implementing them. I would be disappointed to lose her.”
Spriggs has strong ties to some national juvenile justice organizations. She is the current chair of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Oakland-based research and training/technical assistance organization that handles projects with a number of states and counties, as well was with OJJDP. She is the Texas team leader for the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network, part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative.
Spriggs is also director of the 13-state southern region for the National Association of Probation Executives. A number of those states have some work to do when it comes to complying with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
The other leading candidates are from New Orleans and New York. I suppose "Good luck" is the right thing to say, but frankly I'd hate to see Vicki go and after the series of questionable appointments at TYC after Dwight Harris left (before the Governor IMO finally got it right with Cherie Townsend), I'm more than a little afraid of who might be selected to replace her.