JCJC Director Rick Steele Retires

Rick Steele retired from the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission (JCJC) on July 15, 2022, following a long-lasting 43 years of service to Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system. Rick began his career in 1979 as a juvenile probation officer in Northumberland County. While at Northumberland County, Rick was promoted to the positions of Supervisor in 1985, Director of Special Services in 1987, and Chief Juvenile Probation Officer in 1997. From 1998 to 2005, Rick served as the Deputy Executive Director at Northwestern Academy in Coal Township, Pennsylvania. In 2005, Rick became an Aftercare Specialist—a role developed to advance Pennsylvania’s involvement with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative. Rick joined the staff of the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission as a Juvenile Court Consultant in 2008. He was promoted to the positions of Director of Policy and Program Development in 2009, Deputy Director in 2014, and Executive Director in 2016, following the retirement of Keith Snyder.

Throughout his career, Rick was a passionate member, and eventual leader, of the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers—an organization he cared about deeply. During his involvement with the Council, Rick served on countless committees, and he chaired the Balanced and Restorative Justice Implementation Committee, the Balanced and Restorative Justice Higher Education Committee, and the Standards Committee. In addition, Rick served as the Council’s Secretary from 1994 to 1995, Vice-President from 1996 to 1997, and President in 1998. During his career, it was a very rare occasion for Rick to miss a meeting of the Chief’s Council.

Without a doubt, Rick’s influence and leadership have been significant. He has led several major statewide juvenile justice system reform initiatives in Pennsylvania. He was an early leader in Pennsylvania’s implementation of Balanced and Restorative Justice, following the passage of Act 33 of Special Session 1 of 1995. He was instrumental in advancing Aftercare as one of three areas of focus for Pennsylvania’s Models for Change initiative. He also served as the Second Coordinator of Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES) beginning in 2014. As Executive Director of JCJC, Rick was a member of both the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Court’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules Committee.

During his tenure as JCJC’s Executive Director, Rick led the response of the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system to several significant challenges. Rick led the charge to counter House Bill 218, which was introduced during the 2017-2018 Regular Session of Legislature. If it would have passed as introduced, the resulting legislation would have been catastrophic to Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system. In fact, this bill sought to eliminate funding vital to the operations of county juvenile probation departments, and the Center for Juvenile Justice Training and Research. Fortunately, through the efforts of Rick and many others, House Bill 218 never became law. Rick also applied his experience and problem-solving skills to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, over the past two years, Rick worked long days to meet the demands of a strenuous Juvenile Justice Task Force process, as well as other current system challenges such as the shortage in secure detention services, and the lack of resources to meet the needs presented by the most complex juvenile justice cases. Unquestionably, Rick is widely known, respected, and sought after across the Commonwealth and beyond for his knowledge, commitment, and passion for the juvenile justice system and at-risk youth in general.

As per Rick’s wishes for a “low key” sendoff, current and former members of the JCJC staff celebrated his retirement at a dinner held on June 30 at Englewood in Hershey, PA. The Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers also hosted a dinner in Rick’s honor on June 9 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Rick holds a Bachelors in Psychology from Gettysburg College, and a Masters Degree in Administration of Justice from Shippensburg University. In retirement, he plans to spend time with his family including his wife, Lori, their children and grandchildren. Additionally, Rick plans to golf, coach for his beloved Southern Columbia Tigers, and fly fish—a hobby he was introduced to by his father.

Rick will be greatly missed by all of those who had the opportunity and privilege to work with him. We wish him the best in retirement.