What is the Real Cost of Trying Teens as Adults?
The New York Times reported March 5 that the national trend of trying teens as adults in criminal cases is reversing. Almost all states have raised, or are raising, the age teens are tried as adults. The opposition to this trend argues that it is too costly to try teens as minors.
The generally accepted assumption is that states save money by trying teens in adult criminal court, rather than in juvenile courts. But is this assumption really true in the long run? What is the real cost of trying teens as adults?
Certainly, in the short-term, the more involved and supportive approach of juvenile courts may cost more than criminal courts. Juvenile courts emphasize treatment rather than punishment. That focus can mean that more people are employed in the care and rehabilitation of offenders in juvenile court than in the adult counterpart.
Roundup: Gay Teens Face Harsher Punishments
- Growth in Corrections Spending 1987-2007 Dwarfed Spending on Higher Ed (see image at right) - Curious about where your state stands? Follow the link and check the graph. It would be interesting to see the same data comparing spending on the juvenile justice system with middle- and high-school spending. (Hat tip to Jim Carlton.)
- Gay Teens Are Punished More Heavily in School and in Juvenile Court - From The New York Times: A national study of 15,000 middle school and high school teens published in Pediatrics found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are more likely to be expelled from school than their straight peers, and more likely to be stopped, arrested, and adjudicated. And "it's not because they're misbehaving more," says the study's lead author, Kathryn Himmelstein. (Hat tip to Dan Merrigan.)
Are You Suffering from Secondary Traumatic Stress?
Working in the juvenile justice system, child welfare, or adolescent subsance abuse treatment can mean that you're exposed to all kinds of trauma. Every day, you might hear stories from clients of abuse, mistreatment, deprivation, and violence. That's what's known as "secondary traumatic stress."
That stress is made worse when you have to decide whether clients you serve will be safe at home -- or if they're likely to hurt others. That's a lot to carry, even if nothing ever goes wrong.
The symptoms of secondary traumatic stress "are often indistinguishable from those found in individuals as a response to a traumatic event they experienced directly," according to Julie Collins, in her article, "Addressing Secondary Traumatic Stress: emerging approaches in child welfare," which appeared in the Mar/April 2009 issue of Children's Voice from the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). (Hat tip to Paul Savery.)
Just what are the symptoms? They include "fatigue or illness, cynicism, irritability, reduced productivity, feelings of hopelessness, anger, despair, sadness, feelings of re-experiencing the event, nightmares, anxiety, avoidance of people and activities, or persistent anger and sadness."
Juvenile Justice System - Tips for Family Involvement from Pennsylvania
Most professionals in the juvenile justice system believe that engaging families at all levels -- from individual cases to advocacy on state and federal policy -- is critical. And research evidence appears to back this up. But in my experience, we find it tough to act on on the research for a variety of reasons.
I recommend reviewing "Family Involvement in Pennsylvania's Juvenile Justice System," a 2009 document from MacArthur's Models for Change initiative.
While focused on Pennsylvania (obviously), its conclusions are universal. In sixteen focus groups, investigators gleaned useful, concrete ideas focused on four themes:
Census of Juveniles on Probation - Sneak Preview of OJJDP Data
A few weeks ago, I announced here that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) had completed its first-ever "Census of Juveniles on Probation" (CJP). Since the report's not done, however, I didn't have any data to share.
The report still isn't done, but it turns out that some preliminary data from the juvenile probation census is available online from George Mason University, where the work is being done.
Curious about the survey? You download the 2009 survey sent to juvenile probation offices in PDF format here. Next, you can review answers to some "frequently-asked questions," such as number of youth on probation by state, or the ratio of youth on formal probation to those on informal probation.
In addition, you can also view graphs for 18 pre-set reports based on the juvenile probation data, like the one pictured here for drug offenses. You can see nationwide snapshots of juvenile probationers broken down by age, race/ethnicity, gender and offense category, and many more. Just bear in mind that the data isn't final and may change. (Hat tip to Lore Joplin.)
Roundup: Marijuana "Gateway" Effect Less Important than Other Factors - and More
Adolescent Substance Abuse and Related Treatment News
- Is marijuana a "gateway" to other drug use? Not so much, according to new research, and "over-criminalizing" its use can contribute to young adults' use of other illicit drugs. According to the study, race and ethnicity are the best predictors of whether someone will use illicit drugs besides marijuana: non-Hispanic whites are more likely to use them than are (in order) Hispanics or African Americans. Furthermore, although marijuana use in one's teen years might lead to use of other drugs, youth apparently "age out" of that when they reach 21. Unemployment is a factor too, which suggests that, as one researcher concluded, "over-criminalizing youth marijuana use might create more serious problems if it interferes with later employment opportunities." (Hat tip to Robert Ackley.) Related reading: Jeff Butts on "The Enduring Gateway Myth."
- Teen use of alcohol and drugs can be significantly reduced with brief, school-based interventions by mental health therapists or even by teachers given minimal training, according to a new study from the U.K. Researchers evaluated their use of alcohol and drugs at six months post-intervention, so it's not clear if the effects would need to be repeated on a regular basis.
Juvenile Justice Reform: Join the Movement
Our nation has long been a leader in economic and military might, but we have forgotten about our children, too many of whom continue to languish in adult prisons. We are behind in our efforts to decrease our incarcerated population, especially our incarcerated youth. The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate of any nation in the world. On any given day, more than 7,500 youth are locked up in adult jails and prisons even though the vast majority of youth prosecuted in adult court are charged with non-violent offenses.
National Conference on Juvenile and Family Law Seeks Presentation Proposals
Got a great idea for improving outcomes for children, youth, families, and victims who come into contact with the juvenile court? The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) wants to hear from you.
NCJFCJ will hold its annual conference next year on March 27-30, 2011, in Reno, Nevada -- and would like you to submit your presentation proposal between now and September 15, 2010. Proposals will be entertained on a broad range of topics, including child abuse and neglect, mental health, delinquency, family law, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
If you still have questions, contact Diane Barnette via email, or via phone at (775) 784-6012.
CJJ Conference on Disproportionate Minority Contact - Register Now!
You know that Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) is one of the most troubling and persistent problems with the juvenile justice system today. Now's your chance to pool your knowledge and learn from others working on the problem.
On October 23-25, 2010, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice is hosting its National DMC Conference, “Fundamental Fairness: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice,” in Jersey City, New Jersey. The conference will be preceded by a one-day training on October 22, with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), State Relations and Assistance Division (SRAD).
Juvenile Indigent Defense System Failing Kids It's Meant to Protect - Weekly Roundup
Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment - News and Research Updates
- How the confidentiality of patients who obtain substance abuse treatment will be handled under health reform (and electronic health records in particular) continues to be the focus of controversy, according to Join Together. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued a document covering "frequently-asked questions," and will hold a stakeholders' meeting on August 4th to provide more clarification. Last February, I posted that some health reform advocates want to do away with federal confidentiality regulations under 42 CFR in favor of relevant HIPAA regulations. They say they're concerned that the burden of complying will discourage mainstream doctors from screening patients and providing brief intervention for alcohol and drug issues.