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Former Justice Department Official Joins Drexel’s Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab

June 20, 2017

Robert L. Listenbee, Stoneleigh Visiting Fellow
Robert L. Listenbee, Stoneleigh Visiting Fellow

After serving as Administrator of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) under the Obama Administration, Robert L. Listenbee, Esq., will return to Philadelphia as a Stoneleigh Foundation Visiting Fellow at Drexel University to lend national expertise to juvenile justice reform efforts in the region.

Prior to serving as head of OJJDP, Listenbee served as chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia for 16 years. As a Stoneleigh Foundation Visiting Fellow, Listenbee will bring a national perspective to the foundation’s work improving outcomes for vulnerable young people involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

Listenbee will join Drexel’s Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab in the Department of Psychology. The lab focuses on using social science research to improve policy and practice within the juvenile justice system and emphasizes the role of adolescent development in legal decision-making and legal outcomes.

Naomi E. Goldstein, PhD, is director of the Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab, and she is also a Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow. Kevin Bethel, retired Deputy Police Commission of the Philadelphia Police Department, joined the Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab as a Stoneleigh Fellow in 2015.

“Through his work at OJJDP, Bob Listenbee led this country’s efforts to reform juvenile justice policy and practice. He worked tirelessly to protect the rights of youth in and at risk of entering the juvenile justice and child welfare systems and to promote better treatment and outcomes for these young people,” said Goldstein. “We are incredibly fortunate that Bob is returning to Philadelphia and will be joining the Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab, continuing his work to improve outcomes for youth and mentoring students and early career professional to become the field’s future leaders.”

In his role as a Stoneleigh Visiting Fellow, Listenbee will serve as a bridge builder, not only between different players within and across systems, but also between the city’s past and its future as a new generation of leaders comes to the fore.

“The city of Philadelphia has served as an incubator of cutting-edge reform in juvenile justice, and the Stoneleigh Foundation’s fellows have been involved in advancing a number of those innovations. I’m excited and honored to be returning to Philadelphia as part of Stoneleigh’s team,” said Listenbee.

The Stoneleigh Foundation was established in 2006 by the late John and Chara Haas to improve the life outcomes of Greater Philadelphia’s most vulnerable youth. The Foundation awards fellowships to leading practitioners, researchers, and policymakers working to advance change in systems that serve these young people, such as juvenile justice, child welfare, education and health.

The objectives for Listenbee’s fellowship include working with the city and state’s juvenile justice, criminal justice and child welfare agencies to advance shared policy priorities. During his fellowship, Listenbee will also focus on mentoring the Stoneleigh Fellows, accomplished professionals working across systems to improve youth outcomes. He will also mentor Stoneleigh’s Emerging Leader Fellows, who are early career professionals getting the hands-on experience needed to become social-change leaders in their fields. Listenbee will examine ways to improve employment opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness, especially those who have been involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

During Listenbee’s tenure at OJJDP, his signature innovations included the Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative, which supports grant programs that provide training and technical assistance for implementing comprehensive, data-driven statewide reforms. Six states have launched significant legislative overhauls of their juvenile justice systems. In March, a seventh state signed its new reforms into law.

While at the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Listenbee was instrumental in developing several specialty court programs designed to divert youth out of the juvenile justice system and reduce their risk of residential placement.

At the state level, Listenbee served as a member of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the commission’s Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Subcommittee, and Philadelphia’s DMC working group. In 2009, he was part of the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice established in response to the Luzerne County “kids for cash” scandal. He also played an instrumental role in creating the Juvenile Defender Association of Pennsylvania.

Listenbee received his B.A. from Harvard University and his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

“What motivates me, and what motivated all the great leaders and reformers in Philadelphia I’ve worked with over the years, are the kids. We all want better outcomes for the kids. No matter what area we’re working in, whether it’s structured programs, outcome measurements, or evidence-based reform, the goal is to improve outcomes for children’s lives,” Listenbee said.