Meet J. Robert Flores, OJJDP Chief (Underminer)

Juvienation reader Bill Bush writes in with this comment in response to my post from a few days ago on cronyism at the OJJDP.

Who is Flores? What is his background prior to OJJDP? I read his bio on the agency web site but it isn’t all that illuminating. He seems to have been a crusader against Internet child pornography and exploitation but with no obvious experience in juvenile justice or delinquency prevention, the OJJDP’s purview.

Here is the full OJJDP bio on Flores, and here is a relevant excerpt:

A longtime advocate for children, J. Robert Flores has led a distinguished career in juvenile and criminal justice. Currently the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a position he assumed in April 2002, Mr. Flores previously served in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues related to child exploitation and obscenity.

Mr. Flores is an experienced lawyer and former prosecutor with expertise in Internet crime, child abuse and exploitation, and juvenile justice issues. In his role as OJJDP Administrator, he has spearheaded efforts to increase and improve Federal interagency cooperation, serving as Vice Chairman of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In keeping with the President’s management initiatives to make the Federal government more efficient, Mr. Flores has initiated three pilot programs to address youth gangs, reduce child prostitution, and improve the juvenile justice system. Under his leadership, OJJDP has expanded its efforts to respond to the online exploitation of children and significantly increased the involvement of faith-based and community organizations in its programming. [Emphasis added.]

The American Bar Association, honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month in 2002, published a longer profile of Flores shortly after he was appointed, which provides a bit more detail on Flores’s background. You can read it here.

Flores’s selection to head OJJDP says a lot about the Bush Administration’s priorities when it comes to the federal agency. Under Flores the OJJDP’s mandate has quietly shifted from its stated mission–overseeing the nation’s juvenile justice and delinquency prevention efforts–to helping the Justice Department protect children from abuse and exploitation, particularly in the Wild West of the Internet, and applying Mafia-sting tactics to crack down on youth gangs.

Now compare Flores’s tenure with that of his predecessor Shay Bilchik, OJJDP administrator from 1994 to 2000. (An acting administrator bridged the gap from 2000 to 2002.) Bilchik, who has since served as the executive director of the Child Welfare League of America and as head of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, was, according to his CWLA bio, “an Assistant State Attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami from 1977 to 1993, where he served as a trial lawyer, juvenile division chief and Chief Assistant for Administration.” He regularly writes articles and testifies on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, and has been involved in drafting a number of juvenile justice and child abuse legislative proposals.

Under Clinton Bilchik focused, among other things, on developing early-intervention strategies for at-risk youth. To give you a sense of where he’s coming from on juvenile justice policy, consider this December 1997 interview with Juvenile Justice, the OJJDP journal, during which he dismissed fears of the mythical teen “superpredators,” discussed the importance of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and highlighted the continued need to strengthen its core requirements. Flores, in comparison, had to be dragged to the JJDPA reauthorization hearings last fall so that he could deliver his boilerplate testimony. It’s fair to assume he was more enthusiastic the day President Bush signed the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

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3 responses to “Meet J. Robert Flores, OJJDP Chief (Underminer)

  1. Thanks – you’ve confirmed my suspicions completely here. I’m sure this guy’s heart is in the right place regarding child abuse and exploitation, but OJJDP doesn’t seem like the appropriate venue for this kind of work.

    Seems in fact like another ideological appointment by the Bush-Ashcroft DOJ – after all this is the kind of stuff DOJ was pursuing instead of terrorism prior to (and even after) 9/11.

  2. Pingback: Clinton Unveils Anti-Crime Agenda « Juvienation

  3. Pingback: House Committee Discussing OJJDP Grants Today « Juvienation

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