March 29, 2016

Four delegates from Azerbaijan face away from the camera as they listen to Christina McMahan give an overview of JSD policy and practice
Azerbaijan delegates listen intently while Christina McMahan gives an overview of programming at JSD.
Six Azerbaijani government officials, two interpreters, and an official from the US Department of Justice working in Azerbaijan traveled thousands of miles to witness juvenile justice in action. Azerbaijan, a country of over 9 million, is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Jim Benedetto, the Resident Legal Advisor for the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), for the Republic of Azerbaijan asked the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform with help in organizing a U.S.-based study tour to show the officials the very best that the United States has to offer in the field of juvenile justice. Multnomah County was one of two locations selected. The visit will serve to inform a project to develop a juvenile justice code for Azerbaijan in coordination with DOJ, the World Bank and UNICEF.

Officials, including two judges, and their interpreters arrived at the Juvenile Justice Complex the morning of March 24th, after a late night flight from Washington DC. For the next two days they would get a crash course on the juvenile justice system, from programs that aim to divert youth from probation to visiting an Oregon Youth Authority correctional facility.

Christina McMahan, now the Juvenile Director at Clackamas County, came back to facilitate the visit to Multnomah County. The delegation met a number of important players in our system including Presiding Judge Nan Waller; Fariborz Pakseresht, Director, Oregon Youth Authority; Joe McFerrin II, President and CEO, Portland Opportunities and Industrialization Center (POIC); Carmen Rubio, Executive Director, Latino Network; Scott Harris, Deputy District Attorney, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office; and Senior Managers of our Custody Services, Treatment, and Accountability programs.

Despite experiencing jet lag from their travels, the delegation soaked up the information and asked a range of questions to understand both the County’s philosophy in how juveniles are treated to operational questions around how our court system works. It was evident from the comments and questions that there was a shared passion and commitment to invest in youth rather than defaulting to placing them in detention or other facilities without addressing their needs.

Day two of their trip consisted of a visit to the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, where they got an overview of Oregon Youth Authority and its programs, and were able to meet several youth in custody. The delegation left with folders full of information and contacts for the various programs they learned about, with the understanding that this was the beginning of a relationship.