Juvenile Justice Loses a Champion

10/26/2016 01:08 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2016

Juvenile Justice Loses a Champion

Very few people have working in the juvenile justice system as part of their original career plan. They may choose to go into criminal justice and navigate their way to juvenile justice when they discover the life changing opportunities presented when working with youth. They may start as a prosecutor or public defender and while going through the early career rotation of assignments develop a passion for juvenile law. Even fewer, however, find their way to the field of juvenile justice through the clergy. Yet that is the pathway that Edward “Ned” J. Loughran took to the career to which he would devote his professional life. It is a life that ended recently, but not before he shaped the field of juvenile justice indelibly and helped develop its next generation of leaders.

Ned was born December 2, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan and received his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Divinity from Mary Immaculate College (Northampton, PA) and a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Fordham University (Bronx, New York). He served as a Vincentian priest at St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn, NY and spent several years in parish ministry at St. Vincent’s Church in Philadelphia.

His career took a turn, however, when he was drawn to the New York State Division for Youth, where he discovered the opportunity to serve youth in a different way. He saw the possibilities of doing life changing work by touching the lives of youth who were some of society’s most challenged and challenging. This change in career path next took him to the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), where he served for eight years as Commissioner. Under his leadership, DYS became known nationally as the “Massachusetts Model” for providing effective treatment for young offenders in small, secure facilities located throughout the state. It was during those years when I first met Ned on a site visit from Miami where I was a Juvenile Division Chief in the local prosecutors office. I was in awe of him and all that he had accomplished, but uncertain as to how it could be brought to life in Miami or Florida more broadly.

After leaving DYS and serving as Director of the National Juvenile Justice Project, Ned became the founding Executive Director of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA), a national group of state and local juvenile justice agency directors where he served for 22 years. This is where he had his most significant impact on the field, as while he helped to reform an individual system in Massachusetts, this new national association of juvenile justice leaders that he created would set the stage for him to promote improvements on a national scale.

Ned built on the advances in Massachusetts and the reforms being furthered by the Annie E Casey Foundation (JDAI), the MacArthur Foundation (Models for Change), the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and others, helping to embed them in the policies and practices of the CJCA membership. This was no easy task as the CJCA membership is bipartisan and Ned needed to be politically neutral as he helped to advance efforts around juvenile justice reform.

His work, therefore, required great patience and political acumen—an area in which he quietly excelled. At CJCA he developed the Performance-based Standards (PbS), a way for agency leaders to better measure their work and the outcomes or their system improvement efforts. It is an innovation that has taken hold nationally – across the political spectrum.

Ned’s success was in part due to the fact that he always put first the youth he served. He has been described as a “catalyst for change in the reform of the juvenile justice system,” and was successful in this regard because of the passion and relentlessness he brought to his efforts. He saw the need to serve youth in their own communities, close to home and made that a reality in Massachusetts and then supported this same reform nationally. For youth who would be served in secure facilities, he led the charge for improved conditions for confinement. Most recently he joined with our Center at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, to create the Youth in Custody Practice Model, a research-based guide on how to better serve youth in residential care.

He created, he inspired, and he helped to lead a field forward by providing the vision and tools it needed to improve their juvenile justice systems. In short, he made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of youth who probably had no idea who to thank for what he did to help support them as they struggled during a difficult stage of their life; but it was Ned who had helped to make that difference in their lives. Whether on the front lines in Massachusetts or working at a national policy level at CJCA, he made a difference.

His battle with cancer was courageous and as one would expect from Ned, filled with grit, determination, thoughtfulness, humor, and love. As you can see, Ned brought so many marvelous traits to his work and life, and to all those he loved and who loved him. We as a field will miss him very much, but the work that he advanced will live on through the work of hundreds of others who are already modeling their work after his. We are fortunate that he found his way to his career in juvenile justice – indeed, the clergy’s loss was the juvenile justice field’s gain.

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