Also in this Issue
Juvenile Justice Panel at CJJ Conference
On June 11, Anne Bettesworth of the Science Policy staff attended a special panel presentation by representatives of the MacArthur Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice Research Network, which was held during the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) Conference. Leaders from the MacArthur Network presented their findings regarding juvenile competence, culpability, desistance, girls’ needs, mental health, and proactive approaches to prevention of youth involvement in gangs. They tied their research themes to the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and advocated for an effective federal role in juvenile justice issues.
The panel was co-hosted by the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition—a collaboration of more than 80 national organizations, and included presentations by two psychologists: Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., Temple University, Director, MacArthur Adolescent Development-Juvenile Justice Research Network, spoke about current research in adolescent brain development, and Elizabeth E. Cauffman, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, emphasized the need for gender specific intervention, specifically substance abuse and mental health care for chronic female offenders. The CJJ Conference brought together key juvenile justice group leaders from across the nation to learn, discuss and strategize about the pending reauthorization of the JJDPA.
NASA Spending Bills Pass House and Senate Committees
In a previous issue of SPIN, we reported on a NASA workforce hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics where neuroscientist Lee Stone testified about the agency’s fiscal crisis that has hit the aeronautics program especially hard since 2004.
But late last month the House Appropriations Committee voted to reverse the spending cuts and added nearly $150 million to the President’s FY 08 request for NASA’s aeronautics program, which includes human factors research.
The Senate Appropriations Committee took action two weeks later and did not grow the aeronautics budget, but instead maintained the administration’s request at $554 million.
Now that the House and the Senate have approved the two versions of the bill, respectively, the bills will need to be reconciled in a joint conference committee before the final bill is approved by both chambers and sent to the President for signature.
As the bill moves toward conference, Science GRO will work with members of Congress to put pressure on the joint committee conferees to adopt the House $150 million plus up for aeronautics research so that the U.S. can regain its edge in this critical program.
Psychologists Weigh in on Strategic Plan of Aging Institute
On June 29, 2007, APA submitted detailed comments on the draft strategic plan of the National Institute on Aging. The comments were based on reviews by APA’s Division 20 (Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, President) and APA’s Committee on Aging (Rosemary Blieszner, President). In addition, APA’s Division 12, Section 2 (Forest Scogin, President) and several psychologists with expertise on aging issues wrote comments.
Steven Breckler, APA’s Executive Director for Science, commented, “This was a terrific response from researchers on aging. NIA can’t fail to be impressed with the number and depth of comments from psychologists about the NIA Strategic Plan. NIA has always been a good source of funds for psychological science, but they need the input of this community in order to produce a planning document that conceptualizes and prioritizes a commitment to the range of psychological research that is relevant to aging.”
Friends of NIDA Urges Greater Participation in Drug Policy Caucus
On July 10, APA Science Government Relations staff sent a letter on behalf of the Friends of NIDA to every member of the House of Representatives, urging them to join the Drug Policy Caucus. This caucus was recently formed by Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Mark Souder (R-IN) following a reorganization of the subcommittee that had jurisdiction over drug policy on which they serve as Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively. The Congressmen hope to continue with their commitment to drug policy-related concerns, and as such, have determined that to ensure a balanced and integrated plan for reducing drug use, the bipartisan caucus will focus on prevention, treatment, supply reduction, and law enforcement. APA and the Friends of NIDA are extremely grateful to Congressmen Cummings and Souder for their recent co-sponsorship of the Friends of NIDA briefing on Co-Occurring Disorders.
Congressional Hearing on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
On Thursday, July 12, a joint hearing of the Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities and the Judiciary Committee’s Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee was held to discuss the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). This was the first hearing in eight years on the JJDPA, which is due for reauthorization in 2007, and it was quite a success, seeing that both the hearing room and the overflow room were packed, and over a dozen members of Congress attended.
Psychologist and APA member Jennifer Woolard, PhD, was sought out by Committee staff to testify at the hearing on a panel that included five other witnesses. Committee Members expressed extreme interest in the topic at hand and posed many probing questions, especially to Dr. Woolard. Questions were asked on topics such as recidivism prevention, scholastic competence, the role of parents, juveniles in adult court, and mandatory minimum sentences and the death penalty as deterrents.
Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), although not on either Subcommittee, made an appearance during the hearing and commented adamantly that “you just can’t mix kids with adults” in jail. He noted that he feels strongly that this should be one of the main foci of the JJDPA reauthorization, and the majority of the Committee Members seemed to agree. There was also consensus that more focus needs to be put on proven prevention methods, early intervention and rehabilitation, and using research in those areas to reduce crime.
APA will be collaborating across directorates to develop and submit recommendations on how to improve the JJDPA legislation.
NIDA Deputy Director Briefs Senate Staff
On July 13, Dr. Tim Condon, Deputy Director of NIDA, briefed Senate staff on the epidemiology and treatment of methamphetamine addiction, as well as on a variety of “blending” initiatives that NIDA has kicked off in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The briefing was arranged by the APA Science Government Relations Office, at the request of Senator Harkin’s staff, to provide an update on issues that the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is considering in advance of a SAMHSA reauthorization bill. The briefing followed earlier meetings that Science Government Relations staff held with Senator Harkin’s staff prior to the introduction of the “Treatment and Prevention of Methamphetamine Abuse Act.” Those meetings were meant to ensure that the bill included frequent and appropriate references to NIDA and NIDA-sponsored research. Both methamphetamine and NIDA’s blending initiatives have been the foci of recent briefings on Capitol Hill organized by APA Government Relations Staff on behalf of the Friends of NIDA coalition.
House Approves Spending Measure Despite Veto Threats
The House approved its version of the fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) on July 19, providing increases to a number of health programs that had received numerous cuts over the last few years. As the House debated the bill, the President issued a statement that he would veto the measure for “irresponsible and excessive spending.” The bill provides a 2.6 percent increase, or $750 million, for the National Institutes of Health, including an additional $110 million to fund the National Children’s Study and a 4 percent increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to $6.5 billion. House leaders attempted to garner a two-thirds majority vote to override any Presidential veto, but fell one vote short as it approved the bill 276-140. The Senate is waiting until September to begin debating its version, which increases the likelihood that the final funding bill will be included in an omnibus legislation with a number of other funding bills, making it more difficult for President Bush to veto.
Crime Summit on Capitol Hill
On June 21 and 22, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Homeland Security, and Terrorism, convened a summit called “Violent Crime-Prevention and Solutions from the Experts.” The over-arching message of the summit was that the American criminal justice system is not meeting the goal of reducing crime and that detention policies currently in place actually increase the likelihood of violence and crime among prisoners who are released. Panelists addressed specific problems that included high rates of recidivism, racial disparities and the inequitable effects of federal drug policies, mass incarceration, distrust of law enforcement, the failure of deterrence strategies, abuse of young prisoners, children being tried and imprisoned as adults, mandatory minimum sentences, and the erosion of habeas corpus.
Psychologist Dewey Cornell, PhD, spoke at length about the fabrication and distortion of facts by scholars, advocates, and media that has created an image of a school violence epidemic in America. Because of this, there have been calls for zero tolerance policies and behavioral profiling in schools, even though research shows that these policies are ineffective. Dr. Cornell’s presentation suggested that threat assessment techniques be used instead that focus on specific, credible threats made by students and the social dynamics surrounding these individual threats. To obtain further information, read more about Dr. Cornell’s research on student threat assessment.
Many panelists at the summit focused their comments on the juvenile justice system, the racially inequitable effects of drug policy and the criminal justice system, and the huge overlap of criminal justice issues with mental health issues (both in terms of unmet mental health needs leading to crime and violence and the effectiveness of mental health and addiction treatments for those in the criminal justice system); these themes overlap broadly with the APA agenda.
It appears that increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system will hinge on shifting the focus toward prevention and early intervention, programs for at-risk youth, mental health and addiction treatment, and quality prisoner reentry programs. It is an opportune time for efforts to move the system in this direction, and APA is well-positioned to advocate for these changes.
HELP Committee Marks Up Tobacco Legislation
On Wednesday, July 25, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened for a full committee mark up of pending legislation concerning FDA tobacco regulation and disease research and prevention bills. The most pressing and controversial of the pending legislation was the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (S 625/HR 1108—mentioned in many previous SPIN articles), a bill that would place the control of tobacco products under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill would regulate the marketing, sale, and distribution of tobacco products, lower the toxicity and addictiveness levels of tobacco products, and decrease tobacco companies’ power to mislead consumers about serious health risks.
Chairman Edward Kennedy’s (D-MA) opening statement referenced the dire need to face this public health concern that he said can no longer be ignored, as smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in America. In urging support of the bill, Sen. Kennedy cited the bipartisan support of both the House and the Senate and the unanimous endorsement from the public health community.
The rest of the Committee, however, was not in complete agreement. Ranking Member Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) agreed that there is a serious problem, but disagreed on the solution. He called the bill flawed and said that it should not be passed as it currently stands. Sen. Enzi and many other committee members in attendance had problems with language in the bill, and most had a long list of amendments to propose.
The most common criticism coming from Republicans was that the bill was giving a huge responsibility to an agency that did not have the financial resources to handle it, and the bill did not specify any clear way of funding what it intended to do. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) asserted that in order to deal with the newly acquired responsibility, the FDA would have to draw resources from their other departments, leading to an overall decrease in their ability to function effectively.
Deliberation on the multitude of amendments did not last as long as was expected, however, because the Committee failed to reach a quorum. They broke from session in the early afternoon on Wednesday and then again before noon on the second day of deliberation (Thursday, July 26). The Committee will reconvene on August 1 to conclude discussion and try to finalize a version of the bill before the August recess.
National Institute of Justice Conference
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) held its annual Conference the last week of July, which brought researchers together with the criminal justice community to learn about the latest research advances and what interventions are working in communities across the country. Acting Principal Deputy Director of NIJ David Hagy addressed the opening session and explained his goal of transforming the agency into an evidence-based organization with a renewed focus on best practices. A number of psychologists presented their research across a variety of issues, including: terrorist recruitment in prisons, domestic violence interventions, juvenile delinquency in girls, and mental health treatment for prisoners. Other topics addressed at the conference included the prevalence and impact of alcohol, drug abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault on Native American and Alaskan Native communities, gang violence, and the effects of neighborhoods and schools on delinquency.
Scientists Guide to APA Convention On-line
Our two hard working and dedicated Science Directorate interns, David Kerns and Amber McCrady, worked with Kirk Waldroff, our tireless and talented Science Website Manger, to produce the “Scientists Guide to the APA Convention.” The guide highlights a wide variety of science-related sessions, ranging from a graduate research speed lightening round (Psychological Science Graduate Superstars Datablitz) to discussions on the current controversial topic of ethics and interrogations to Phillip Zimbardo’s invited address on “The Lucifer Effect in Action.” Paper copies of the guide will be available at the Directorate's booth in the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.
Apply Now for the 2008-2009 APA Science Policy Fellowship
Come spend a year as an APA Science Policy Fellow in a federal science mission agency! Applications are due January 7, 2008, for the program, which is run by APA’s Science Directorate and Government Relations Office. As a Fellow, you will spend one year working as a special assistant in an executive branch research funding/coordinating office, with specific placement determined based on the Fellow’s expertise and interests in coordination with APA staff. Past psychology Fellows have worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Science Foundation.