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  • New JJIE Webinar: Talking Juvenile Justice with Photographer Richard Ross

    JJIE recently hosted a webinar with Richard Ross, a photographer, researcher and professor of art based in Santa Barbara, California. Richard's most recent project, Juvenile In Justice, aims to expose conditions within the juvenile justice system. Via JJIE,

    [Juvenile In Justice] turns a lens on the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. Seven years in the making, the project includes more than 1,000 kids in juvenile detention and commitment facilities in 31 states. The project is a quest to make the lives of these forgotten kids visual and tangible.

    Watch the webinar in full below: 

  • Complex Trauma Among Youth; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Complex Trauma Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Impact and Implications (
      Youth who have experienced complex trauma—repeated and various forms of victimization, life-threatening accidents or disasters, and interpersonal losses at an early age or for prolonged periods—have difficulties forming attachments with caregivers and self-regulating emotions.
    • Family Seeks Change in Law to Protect Students (
      The government has a duty to protect prisoners from harm. It also has a duty to protect people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. Yet that same duty doesn’t apply to the government when it comes to protecting students in school, according to case law.
    • Grant to Help Men Leaving Juvenile Justice System (The Boston Herald)
      The U.S. Labor Department is giving Massachusetts an $11.7 million grant for a project to increase employment and reduce repeat crimes for men leaving the state's juvenile justice system. The grant will first go to serve 535 men ages 16-22 in Chelsea and Springfield who are leaving the juvenile justice system. It will provide education and pre-vocational training to help them get jobs.
    • When Young Offenders–and Their Teacher–Say Goodbye (Kids in the System Blog)
      Last month, due to a lack of funding, the juvenile lock-up where I taught a weekly “life skills” workshop was shuttered. According to my very rough calculation, in the year that I worked there I had about 400 young men of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds pass through my group. Of those, about half came and went frequently, often gone for a couple of months to less than a week, and then re-offended to find themselves right back where they started.

  • New Briefs on Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Approach Released Online

    The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services, has released six online briefs that discuss the key elements of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system. The NCTSN website explains:

    This collection of Briefs written by experts invited to the NCTSN Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable, address topics essential to creating trauma-informed Juvenile Justice Systems. These Briefs are intended to elevate the discussion of key elements that intersect with trauma and are critical to raising the standard of care for children and families involved with the juvenile justice system.

    In Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable: Current Issues and New Directions in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF), Carly B. Dierkhising, Susan Ko, and Jane Halladay Goldman, staff at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, discuss the Juvenile Justice Roundtable event, describe the current issues and essential elements of a trauma-informed JJ system, and outline possible new directions for the future.

    In Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention (2013) (PDF) , Patricia Kerig, Professor at the University of Utah, discusses how trauma-informed screening and assessment and evidence-based treatments play integral roles in supporting traumatized youth, explores the challenges of implementing and sustaining these practices, and highlights practice examples for integrating them into a justice setting.

    In The Role of Family Engagement in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF) , Liane Rozzell, founder of Families and Allies of Virginia Youth, discusses the importance of partnering with families, explores strategies for doing so, and emphasizes ways that justice settings expand their outreach to supportive caregivers by broadening their definition of family.

    In Cross-System Collaboration (2013) (PDF) , Macon Stewart, faculty at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), outlines practice examples for continuity of care and collaboration across systems, a vital activity for youth involved in multiple service systems, drawing from the CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model.

    In Trauma and the Environment of Care in Juvenile Institutions (2013) (PDF) , Sue Burrell, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, outlines specific areas to target in order to effectively implement this essential element, including creating a safe environment, protecting against re-traumatization, and behavior management.

    In Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System: A Legacy of Trauma (2013) (PDF) , Clinton Lacey, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, outlines the historical context of racial disparities and highlights how systems can move forward to reduce these racial disparities, including by framing the issue so that practical and pro-active discussion can move beyond assigning blame. 

  • Underage Suspects Are Apt to Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Here’s Why; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Underage Suspects Are Apt to Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Here’s Why. (
      Why so many false confessions? Juvenile suspects are generally more deferential to authority—at least in the context of a police interrogation—and less likely to understand the consequences of confessing to something they didn’t do.
    • [OPINION] Time to Affirm What We Mean by ‘Juvenile’ (The New York Times)
      Recent Supreme Court rulings on juvenile sentencing raise issues that go beyond what’s at stake in Miller v. Alabama. They also present an opportunity to affirm what we mean by “juvenile.” New York State may soon be the only state in the country that processes all youth as young as 16 in the criminal justice system, regardless of the severity of the offense.
    • Health and Incarceration: A Workshop Summary (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
      The health disparities that exist in our communities are concentrated in the population that cycles in and out of our jails and prisons. Justice-involved populations have very high rates of physical illness, mental illness, and substance use disorders. And their health problems have significant impacts on the communities from which they come and to which, in nearly all cases, they will return.
    • [OPINION] A Court Just for Juveniles in N.Y. (The New York Times)
      Teenagers prosecuted in adult courts or who do time in adult jails fare worse in life and can go on to commit more violent crimes than those who are handled by the juvenile justice system. Neuroscience research has found that these young offenders don’t weigh risks the way adults do, making them prone to rash judgments that can land them in trouble with the law.

  • Major Gains for Family Engagement in Indiana’s Juvenile Justice System

    Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice’s Family Justice Program wrapped up a multi-year project to develop and pilot family engagement standards for the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute. All juvenile corrections facilities participating in PbS are now collecting information related to family engagement—including a survey of family members twice a year. There are currently 48 facilities across 15 states collecting family surveys with a total of 1,033 family surveys collected since the start of the project.

    One of the original pilot states is already benefiting from having data on family engagement after implementing the new standards last fall. Based on feedback from their PbS reports, Indiana’s Pendleton Juvenile Correctional facility decided to increase their rates of visitation. They analyzed their visitation policies and made drastic changes—opening up visitation hours to just about any time a family member can get to the facility. In addition to the expanded visiting hours, all restrictions on the number of visits a young person could receive were lifted.

    These changes went into effect at the beginning of this year and, after just a few short months, the staff are seeing big changes. Not only did they successfully double their normal rate of visitation, they saw improved behavior by young people in the facility. The Family Justice Program found a similar correlation between improved behavior and visits in Ohio.

  • Juvenile Life Without Parole: The Confusion Remains; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • OP-ED: Digging up the Past ( & The Miami Herald)
      Sometimes, only by unearthing the skeletons of a tortured past can they be given a proper burial. That is what is happening in Marianna, in North Florida, literally and figuratively. A team of researchers, including anthropologists, archeologists, students and police detectives are searching, painstakingly, for the remains of young boys once confined to the Dozier School for Boys.
    • Wisconsin Considers Keeping Non-Violent Teen Offenders In Juvenile Court (Wisconsin Public Radio News)
      Wisconsin is moving slowly towards changing the age at which teenagers are automatically treated as adults when they commit a crime. A bill introduced Thursday would allow 17-year-olds who commit nonviolent crimes to be tried in juvenile court.
    • OP-ED: Juvenile Life Without Parole: The Confusion Remains (
      "Last June, on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Miller v. Alabama, I spoke to a long-time advocate for the elimination of juvenile life without parole. Like a lot of people, I was pleased with the ruling, and saw it as a victory not only for activists but for science-based research into the juvenile brain."

  • MacArthur Pledges New $15 million to Juvenile Justice Reform; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • The Sting of Juvenile Detention (
      When young people held in San Diego County’s juvenile hall are disciplined with pepper spray, guards at the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility ask afterwards if they want a shower. The best response, says former youth offender Ian Arellano, is “no.” Water reactivates the sting—which then washes down your body, he explains. Instead of affecting just your arms or face, suddenly every pore burns.
    • Providing Teddy Bears for Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center (
      It may not sound like a big deal -- the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center, dangerously close to running out of teddy bears -- but it turns out, it is. "A lot of these kids that come in here are sad and confused, and traumatized," Chesney said. "And sometimes just the smallest gestures, like a stuffed animal, will help break the ice and allow them to talk more freely and feel more comfortable in talking to me."
    • MacArthur Pledges New $15 million to Juvenile Justice Reform (
      The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced it will increase its juvenile justice reform funding by some $15 million, a major part of which will be used to establish the new Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. “Right now there are no go-to places to get the kind of information, resources, toolkits, [and] access to colleagues who have ‘been there done that,’” for would-be juvenile justice reform advocates, said Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform for the MacArthur Foundation.
    • Fixing Juvie Justice (
      Young people in the United States are entering the youth justice system in shocking numbers, and many seem to come out worse than when they went in. The staggering costs and recidivism — more than half of incarcerated kids are likely to recommit crimes after being released — have led people to wonder if there is a better way to deal with youth offenders and whether exposure to the system itself could in fact be perpetuating a life of crime.

  • To Give Up or Not? An Open Letter To Parents with Justice-Involved Teens

    Dear Parents,

    Teenage years can be the most tumultuous times for parents and families. However, this is nothing new. The on again off again chaotic interactions of parent versus child often impair the family unit.

    When parents are blindsided by gone-astray youth, not knowing what or who to ask causes a strain on everyone. The biggest complaint I receive is that parents don’t know what to ask when experiencing a traumatic crisis. The desire to flee from their environment is the greatest urge most parents feel.

    However, most stay and I call it operating under a symptom called “functional numbness”. Meaning parents are physically present, but can be emotionally detached from their teens’ problems. Some consider it self-preservation.

    As parents, we have to decide whether or not we want to be “right or happy.” This was and continues to be one of Dr. Phil’s mantras. Yet, it took me some time to incorporate it into my ongoing exchanges of my own.

  • CJJ Executive Director To Resign This Summer

    On Thursday, Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) Executive Director Nancy Gannon Hornberger announced that she will be resigning from the position this August.

    Hornberger has been a member of the CJJ for nearly a decade and a half. Prior to serving as the organization’s executive director, Hornberger also served as CJJ’s deputy executive director.

    Her career in youth development, delinquency prevention and public policy stretches back a quarter century, having received commendation for her efforts from President Bill Clinton in 1996. As an advocate, she fought a four year battle for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which was ultimately authorized by Congress in 2002. Additionally, she has served as a part of numerous juvenile justice and youth-centric organizations, including the ACT 4 Juvenile Justice initiative, Youth ALIVE! and the Montgomery County, Commission on Juvenile Justice in Maryland.

    As executive director of CJJ, she has also collaborated with a who’s who list of juvenile justice and youth-advocacy groups and efforts, including the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change program and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI.)

    Later this year, Hornberger will take over as CEO for Social Advocates for Youth San Diego (SAY San Diego,) a nonprofit that provides, among other community services, delinquency prevention, juvenile diversions and extended afterschool programming.

    “Over the 14 years, I have been fortunate to be a part of the rich fabric of [CJJ,]” Hornberger stated in an official announcement. “As I depart, I am certain of CJJ’s esteemed position in the national field of juvenile justice.”

  • Juvenile Justice Shows Progress; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Juvenile Justice Shows Progress (Illinois Times)
      When the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice was created in 2006, the state’s youth prisons held 1,500 juvenile offenders. Today, there are fewer than 900 kids behind bars in Illinois juvenile justice system. It’s one sign of progress for the relatively new department, which was previously part of the adult-oriented Illinois Department of Corrections.
    • Forsyth County Clerk of Court Wants to Turn Old School into a Juvenile Court (
      Forsyth County, N.C., Clerk of Court Susan Frye wants to see the now closed Hill Middle School in Winston-Salem turned into a one-stop shop for the more than 1,300 offenders who come through juvenile court each year. Frye says the courthouse is out of space and can not house the services the young offenders are often sentenced too. Hill closed last year after consolidating with Philo Middle School.
    • Pennsylvania Finds 20 Percent of Juveniles Re-offend Within Two Years (
      A new report issued by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission finds that among juveniles whose cases were closed in 2007, one-in-five recidivated within two years. The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report found juvenile recidivism rates to be as high as 45 percent in some counties, with the average length between case closure and recidivism to be 11.5 months.

  • Mark Your Calendars: Faces & Voices of Recovery Awards on June 26

    We're excited to announce the Faces & Voices of Recovery event, America Honors Recovery, recognizing the impact that individuals can have on recovery. 

    Faces & Voices of Recovery will honor leaders in the addiction recovery movement, highlighting the extraordinary contributions of the country's most influential recovery community leaders and organizations at America Honors Recovery. The event, sponsored with Caron Treatment Centers, honors the exceptional energy, commitment, dedication and creativity of these individuals and organizations in advocating for the rights of people and their families in or seeking recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

    WHERE: Carnegie Institute for Science, 1530 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
    WHEN: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm

  • Looking Back: Top Five Juvenile Justice Blog Posts of 2013

    We're a third of the way through 2013 and found it to be a good time to reflect on stories that caught our readers' eyes. Below you'll find the top five blog posts so far this year, and we're excited to continue to build on our momentum throughout the rest of 2013. 

    1. Reclaiming Futures Hiring in Portland, Oregon
      Do you support juvenile justice reform and want to help communities break the cycle of drugs, alchohol and crime? Join our staff in Portland, Oregon, where Reclaiming Futures is improving the experience for teens in the juvenile justice system by providing adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment in 37 communities around the country.
    2. Q&A: Trauma, Young Men of Color and Transformational Healing
      Ahead of the Reclaiming Futures webinar with the National Compadres Network (NCN), I (Liz Wu) had the pleasure of chatting with Jerry Tello and Juan Gomez about trauma, young men of color and transformational healing.
    3. The Role and Purpose of Juvenile Detention in the 21st Century
      Across the nation, perspectives on juvenile detention are changing. Several experts share how they believe modern juvenile justice is implementing more rehabilitative models and what the ultimate dividends may be for both young people and U.S. society as a whole.
    4. A Community Approach to Juvenile Justice
      This Fall, the Adler School Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ) and its partner organizations with the Cook County Juvenile Justice Task Force published a concept paper (PDF download) outlining community-based, trauma-informed, restorative solutions to youth crime and conflict in Cook County, Illinois. The report provides guiding thoughts on how the juvenile justice system can better support young people while making communities safer. It also recommends alternatives to existing centralized juvenile detention approaches in Cook County.
    5. Affordable Care Act Expands Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits for 62 Million Americans
      According to an issue brief released Feb. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act will extend mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 32 million and federal parity protections to an additional 30 million Americans.


  • [VIDEO] The Ethics of Solitary Confinement

    Al Jazeera English recently released an Inside Story 30-minute video examining the state of solitary confinement, including teens, in United States prisons. The discussion includes the following:  

    Amongst those in solitary confinement today are juveniles as young as age 16, with one study suggesting that in 2012, 14 percent of adolescents in the New York City prison system had been held in isolation at least once. So, why does the United States put more people into solitary confinement than any other country in the democratic world?

    We've reported in the past about the particularly harsh negative affects that solitary confinement has on teens, and while this video offers a broader look at solitary confinement, its themes are still relevant to our work in the juvenile justice system. Watch the full program below:


  • Juvenile Justice Overhaul Coming; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Georgia House Passes Juvenile Justice Reform Bill (
      Advocates say the changes could save taxpayers $88 million over five years by diverting the less dangerous juveniles into community-based programs instead of locking them up at a cost to taxpayers of $247 a day or $90,000 a year for each detained juvenile.
    • Juvenile Justice Overhaul Coming (
      The Georgia state Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Wendy Willard of Sandy Springs, and was based on recommendations from the Governor.
    • A Partnership for Sensible Juvenile Justice Reform in California (
      California’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF), continues to grapple over long-standing difficulties with rehabilitative programming, youth safety, aging facilities and high operational cost. With these challenges, policymakers and juvenile justice stakeholders increasingly recognize the need for substantial reform.
    • Pioneering Educator Retires After 40 Years; Reformed Education in Juvenile Justice (
      It is said that a society (or a person) shall be judged by what it (or he or she) has done for the least of its citizens. If in fact that is the case, then Larry Lucio shall be looked upon with much favor. The veteran educator, with more than 40 years of shaping young minds to his credit, has dedicated his career – and in many ways, his life – to serving students who were previously given little chance to succeed.
    • Getting Tough on Juvenile Justice (
      Within the last thirty years the presence of adolescent offenders tried in criminal court has become increasingly commonplace. Scholars critical of this growing phenomenon have documented that the number of youth transferred to adult (criminal) court has gradually risen since the mid-1970s.
    • Robert Listenbee Jr. Assumes Leadership of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (
      Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary announced that Robert L. Listenbee Jr. has assumed the role as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). A highly respected public defender and juvenile justice system reformer, Listenbee began as OJJDP administrator Monday. Melodee Hanes, who has served as acting administrator since January 2012, will become OJJDP’s principal deputy administrator.

  • Lucas County, Ohio, Using $1.32 Million Grant to Help System-Involved Teens
    by LIZ WU

    Since receiving a $1.32 million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Lucas County, Ohio, has moved quickly to implement the Reclaiming Futures model. Per the model, teens will be screened for substance abuse and mental health issues directly after arrest and receive treatment as needed.

    The Toledo Free Press reports:

    Reclaiming Futures will be used as a model with 25 teenagers in the Lucas County Juvenile Treatment Court. There is a goal set to increase the capacity to 30 teenagers who will receive treatment each year. This would mean 120 teenagers will be helped by the grant during the four years.

    “It’s great for our county,” [Lucas County Juvenile Treatment Court Coordinator LaTonya] Harris said. “This is going to allow us to serve as a model for other counties and other sites when we get our results.”

    Harris said there is no end for Reclaiming Futures in sight, even if the funding from the grant runs out. Once it is implemented and the staff is fully trained, the program will stay intact for as long as the community wants it to be.

  • Robert Listenbee to Lead Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
    by LIZ WU

    Last Friday, President Obama announced his intent to appoint Robert Listenbee, Jr. as Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). 

    From the announcement:

    Robert Listenbee, Jr. is Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a position he has held since 1997. He has also been a trial lawyer at the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 1986. Previously, from 1991 to 1997, Mr. Listenbee was Assistant Chief of the Juvenile Unit. He is a member of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which advises the Governor of Pennsylvania on juvenile justice policy. Mr. Listenbee serves on the policy committees of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the National Center for Juvenile Justice. He serves on the advisory board of the National Juvenile Defender Center and is a board member and former President of the Juvenile Defenders Association of Pennsylvania. Mr. Listenbee received a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Listenbee has agreed to join the administration and will replace acting Administrator Melodee Hanes.

  • Innovation Brief: Juvenile Justice and Mental Health: A Collaborative Approach

    Models for Change recently published an innovation brief, “Juvenile Justice and Mental Health: A Collaborative Approach,” [PDF download] that reports the benefits of a collaborative model for juvenile justice and mental health. Although teens with mental health problems used to be handled outside of the juvenile justice system, a shift in the 1990s placed “rehabilitation” responsibility to the juvenile justice system. From the report (emphasis mine):

    High crime rates [in the 1990s] led to get-tough measures, including zero-tolerance policies in schools and criminalization of normal adolescent behaviors, that put more youths in the system. The closing of psychiatric hospitals, a trend that began in the 1970s, continued apace, while the community mental health system, initiated with such optimism in the 1960s, was being downsized. As a result, youths with mental health problems frequently ended up in the juvenile justice system, which could not refuse to serve them.

    To better serve teens with mental health troubles, Models for Change recommends a framework for multi-system change, including (via the report):

  • [Video] Producing Positive Outcomes in Justice-Involved Youth in Illinois
    by LIZ WU

    How can we help justice-involved youth? In the video interview below, Michael Rohan (director of Juvenile Probation and Court Services) and Judge George Timberlake (chair of Illinois Juvenile Justice System) discuss alternatives to sentencing, the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs of system-involved youth, coordinating care and trauma. 

  • Almost 50 Percent Fewer Youth Arrested in Florida Schools; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Courts making strides in protecting children, vulnerable adults (Lincoln Journal Star)
      Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican thanked lawmakers for passing legislation last session to enhance the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, which is designed to keep children involved in the juvenile justice system from becoming repeat offenders. The project aims to keep children from being jailed while they receive services or treatment.
    • Changes made in laws affecting youths (Midland Daily News)
      It’s been years in the making, but now some big changes have been made to laws pertaining to juveniles in court. “The predominant push is the idea that we need to have laws that are geared to juveniles,” Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen said. “Not use adult laws for juveniles.”
    • Almost 50 percent fewer youth arrested in Florida schools (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice)
      The number of youth arrested in Florida’s public schools declined 48 percent in the past eight years, from more than 24,000 to 12,520, according to a study released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The decline corresponds with a downward trend in juvenile delinquency in all categories across the state.
    • Building their future: Youth offenders learn woodworking, life skills in lockup (Waco Tribune-Herald)
      In a small shop building at the state youth lockup in Mart, teenage boys who have gotten into trouble with the law are learning woodworking skills that officials hope can be put to good use for the community.
    • Best Of 2012: Juvenile Justice Desk (Youth Radio)
      In 2012, Youth Radio's Juvenile Justice Desk followed some major changes to youth sentencing in California and the nation.

  • [Video] The Importance of Trauma Informed Care in Juvenile Justice
    by LIZ WU

    "Over 75% of youth in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to some form of trauma," says Christa Collins of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). This can affect their ability to handle stress and to make decisions. 

    In the video below, Christa explains what a trauma-informed approach to juvenile justice is and how it can decrease costs while improving safety.

  • Educational Needs of System-Involved Youth

    I am pleased to share with you the second edition of “Addressing the Unmet Educational Needs of Children and Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems.” Due to the popularity of the first edition, CJJR is re-releasing this publication with updated material. The updates include references to guides that the National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk (NDTAC), which is housed at the American Institutes for Research, has developed to elaborate upon the principles this paper presents. Since the time this paper was originally released, two guides have been published:

    These guides draw on both general research and on the experiences of the NDTAC authors to provide concrete strategies for adopting this paper’s principles and practices and achieving the type of comprehensive education system the authors describe. Both of these guides are described in the epilogue of this paper.

  • What’s Next for Nebraska’s Juvenile Justice System?

    On Thursday, December 6, nearly 250 Nebraskans gathered in Lincoln for Voices for Children’s first ever Juvenile Justice Summit. For the past 25 years, Voices for Children has been working to improve Nebraska’s juvenile justice system, but we know we haven’t gotten where we need to go for children and youth.

    The juvenile justice summit was an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to begin a broader conversation about how Nebraska’s system functions and what changes need to be made so that youth in the juvenile justice system are put on a path towards a bright future.With the generous support of the Woods Charitable Fund, Boys Town, Douglas County’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the Platte Institute, and the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association, participants heard from a number of national and local experts on juvenile justice reform.

    So just where does Nebraska go from here? Experts shared some of their thoughts:

    1. Reducing Nebraska’s Reliance on Juvenile Incarceration: The United States is alone among developed nations in its frequent use of incarceration, which over time has proved to be costly, ineffective, and dangerous for youth. Nebraska currently incarcerates about 600 youth a year. Almost ¾ have never committed a violent offense. Bart Lubow of the Annie E. Casey Foundation recommended reducing the use of incarceration, which is better for youth and will free up resources for investment in other areas of the juvenile justice summit. [download his PPT presentation]
    2. Decreasing the Number of Filings in Adult Court: Nebraska is one of the few states in the nation that frequently processes nearly half of children and youth through adult court, where few rehabilitative opportunities are available. Dr. Anne Hobbs, director of the Juvenile Justice Institute, pointed out the links between adult court involvement and higher rates recidivism. [download her materials]
    3. Creating a System Consistent with the Needs of Children: Youth with involvement in Nebraska’s juvenile justice system shared their desire for more consistency, more contact and support from family and other significant adults in their lives, and more voice and choice in juvenile justice cases. Dr. Kayla Pope talked about the need to build trauma-informed juvenile justice systems acknowledging the mental health needs and histories of youth who come through its doors. [download her PPT presentation]
    4. Bolstering Community-Based Services: Many states rely on incarceration and detention because of a lack of community-based juvenile justice services. Betsy Clarke and Jim McCarter from Illinois shared the success of the Redeploy Illinois program in improving community safety, effectively serving youth, and saving state dollars. [download their PPT presentation] Jeanette Moll and Marc Levin presented a paper on Nebraska’s juvenile justice system that highlighted the need for greater County Aid dollars.

  • The Role and Purpose of Juvenile Detention in the 21st Century

    Across the nation, perspectives on juvenile detention are changing. Several experts share how they believe modern juvenile justice is implementing more rehabilitative models and what the ultimate dividends may be for both young people and U.S. society as a whole

    Mike Rollins, executive director of Coosa Valley Youth Services (CVYS) in Anniston, Ala., has been at the facility for more than 30 years. His experiences, however, aren’t just limited to working there.

    At 17, Rollins walked into CVYS for the first time. “I was engaged in drug use,” Rollins said. “I was a teenager, and my parents, really, became aware of my activities and turned me into the police department.”

    After being released by the Department of Youth Services, he returned to the facility looking for part-time employment. Starting off in a maintenance position, he eventually rose to the position of executive director after working at the facility for more than three decades.

  • Top 16-20 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012
    by LIZ WU

    Continuing our countdown of the top juvenile justice blog posts of 2012, here are numbers 16-20:

    20. Lessons from Death Row Inmates: Reform the Juvenile Justice System
    In looking for ways to reduce the number of death penalty cases, David R. Dow realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies -- they started out as economically disadvantaged and otherwise troubled kids.

    19. Youth Transfers to the Adult Corrections System More Likely to Reoffend
    Juveniles transferred to adult corrections systems reoffend at a higher rate than those who stay in the juvenile justice system, according to a recent report from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).

    18. Beating the School-to-Prison Pipeline by Focusing on Truancy, Absenteeism
    There is a strong correlation between missing school in the elementary years and winding up in jail, explains a Superior Court Judge.

  • Top 21-25 Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | 2012
    by LIZ WU

    This has been quite a year for our juvenile justice blog. Not only has readership more than doubled (thank you!) but we've partnered with a number of great organizations and journalists to provide you with more frequent analysis, research and ideas for reform.

    As last year, our articles explaining why "Scared Straight" tactics do more harm than good, continue to be some of our most-read and shared posts. But this year, we also took a look at the effects of trauma on kids, raise-the-age efforts and the Supreme Court decision to ban life without the option of parole for juveniles. 

    This week, we're doing a countdown of the top 25 stories from 2012.

    25. Mentoring: Best Practices for High Risk Youth
    Mentoring has been shown to reduce drug and alcohol use and help justice-involved teens get back on track. Jessica Jones share five best practices for a successful mentoring program.

    24. Inside the Juvenile Justice System: A Look at How the System Works
    While readers may be familiar with the criminal system through tv shows, the juvenile system is less well-known and understood. The County of San Diego explains the juvenile system.

  • Removing the Blinders: Acknowledging the Unique Needs of Girls of Color in the Juvenile Justice System

    As anyone who knows about the juvenile justice system will tell you, girls who are in the system are there because of a history of abuse. But why girls are there and the unique needs faced by girls of color is something largely ignored, even by those working in the justice system. For example, we know that girls’ brains develop earlier than boys do; we also know that so do their bodies. Unique factors such as these are precisely why I recently wrote and presented, “Blind Discretion: Girls of Color and Delinquency in the Juvenile Justice System.”

    The juvenile justice system was designed to empower its decisionmakers with a wide grant of discretion in hopes of better addressing youth in a more individualistic and holistic, and therefore more effective, manner. Unfortunately for girls of color in the system, this discretionary charter given to police, probation officers, and especially judges has operated without sufficiently acknowledging and addressing their unique position. Indeed, the dearth of adequate gender/race intersectional analysis in the research and stark absence of significant system tools directed at the specific characteristics of and circumstances faced by girls of color has tracked alarming trends such as the rising number of girls in the system and relatively harsher punishment they receive compared to boys for similar offenses. This willful blindness must stop.

  • When Locked up Students Misplace Their Inner Child

    Two years ago I fell into what I call my “happy place”—a volunteer teacher position working with newly incarcerated women in a Northeast prison. The experience has made me abandon an 18-year succession of nicely compensated jobs in non-profit fundraising. I know now that this is the work I was meant to do.

    When I first started working with the women in a weekly workshop, I devised a curriculum that I called “sensory memoir writing.” As part of the course I asked my students about their dreams. After all, we all have a dream, the ultimate end-point, our “eyes on the prize” of something. It should go without saying that at no point in a person’s life is prison the “pot at the end of the rainbow.” Yet that wasn’t the case with these women. In trying to get them to uncover the dreams they once had, I led them through an exercise that I hoped would “uncrush” their spirit in the process.

    One student remembered her love of figure skating and how becoming an instructor of kids was something she always wanted to do. She was able to re-live the freedom of spinning around on the ice and how freeing that was for her. A beautiful 20-year old Latina talked about becoming a professional guitar player, a skill she picked up as a teenager as a way to bring her closer to a checked-out father. While another woman, white, in her 40s, hardened by years of heavy drug abuse, said she lost her dreams at 10 when her mother shot her up with heroin for the first time.

  • Illinois Teens in the Juvenile Justice System [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    The Chicago Reporter has a great infographic looking at the juvenile justice system in Illinois. The flowchart explains how teens are charged, sentenced and punished for crimes, depending on their age.


    Click through to see the full version.

  • Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | November 2012
    by LIZ WU

    Here are the top ten most read blog posts from November 2012. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

    10. Real-World Solutions for Crossover Youth: Coordinating Care in Practice and Policy
    Georgetown Public Policy Review speaks with Shay Bilchik about a multi-systems approach to care for crossover youth and reform options.

    9. How to Use Language in Court that Youth Understand: Get the New Models for Change Guide 
    A new guide from TeamChild, helps courts implement colloquies to bridge the gap between what is said in court and what kids understand.

    8. Why Missing School Matters
    Research shows that missing school lowers outcomes for youth, says the Media Awareness Project. But why do kids miss school in the first place?

    7. Crossover Youth: Intersection of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice 
    The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice looks at how best to meet the needs of crossover youth, those who are in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

  • Let’s Start With a Story: Why You Should Talk to the Media

    In September, I traveled to Florida for a journalism conference largely based on my enthusiasm for a panel tantalizingly named “The Maddening World of Media Access to Prisons.” Although it didn’t specifically address juvenile facilities, the discussion aimed to help journalists like me get better information from people at correctional centers.

    Over the last 10 to 15 years, the biggest change in reporting on prisons is how every state agency now has multiple Public Information Officers, “people whose job it is to deny you access to things,” said panelist Charles Davis, a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri. It was “frustrating and ironic,” Davis said, that as the journalism industry struggles financially and “as boots on the ground in terms of journalists go down, the number of minders is going up.”

    When journalists can’t get access, one of the results is an abysmal lack of public awareness about important issues, said panelist Jessica Pupovac, a Missouri journalism graduate who spent a year-long fellowship compiling a reporter’s toolkit for accessing state prisons.

  • Celebrating the Holidays Behind Bars: Ideas for Connecting with Justice-Involved Youth
    by LIZ WU

    Isolated from their families, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time for the tens of thousands of children behind bars. But the holidays also offer us a unique opportunity to reach out and make meaningful connections with justice-involved youth. 

    Looking for ways to connect? Our friends at the Campaign for Youth Justice have a Holiday Event Toolkit that includes ideas for holiday projects, letters and events for incarcerated youth.

    Check it out and let us know if you have any ideas to add!



  • Real-World Solutions for Crossover Youth: Coordinating Care in Practice and Policy

    Georgetown Public Policy Reveiw's Executive Interview Editor Josh Caplan recently talked with Shay Bilchik—founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute—about at-risk youth, the criminal justice system, and options for reform.

    If you’d like more information about this topic and other youth issues, please be sure to attend GPPI’s annual LEAD Conference, “Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth: Improving Lives Through Practice and System Reform.”

    Georgetown Public Policy Review: What is the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), and what is your primary focus?

    Shay Bilchik: The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University (CJJR), established in 2007, advances a balanced, multi-systems approach to reducing juvenile delinquency that promotes positive child and youth development, while also holding youth accountable. Housed at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, the Center is in a unique position to provide strong and sustained national leadership in identifying and highlighting the research on policies and practices that work best to reduce delinquency and achieve better outcomes for this nation’s children.

    A particular focus of the Center’s work is on youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also known as “crossover youth.” As Center Director, I work closely with Georgetown’s other policy centers, faculty, and departments in leading the Center’s efforts.

    GPPR: What are “crossover youth”?

  • Crossover Youth: Intersection of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

    Crossover youth is more than the latest buzzword in the often jargon-filled lexicon of juvenile justice. Instead, the term reflects a growing understanding of the dynamic between child abuse, neglect and delinquency. This population of young people has contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

    Addressing child welfare is challenging enough, let alone when joined with deeper problems of delinquency. Abused young people often carry scars of trauma and pain, which can inform delinquent behavior that leads to subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. However, the complex challenges and needs of crossover youth often prove too much for each system alone to address. Practitioners must find a reasonable solution that ameliorates these issues or crossover youth may re-enter the child welfare system or go on to commit more serious offenses. Instead, an integrated approach, which builds on each system’s unique strength, is the ideal approach.

    Who are these young people?

  • Juvenile Justice and Performance Incentive Funding

    The idea that our tax dollars should be directed toward programs that deliver positive outcomes to the community is neither novel nor radical—but there are some interesting and innovative “pay for success” strategies for achieving this. Social impact bonds, which are being piloted in the United Kingdom, New York City, and Massachusetts, are perhaps among the best known of these. In the field of criminal justice, performance incentive funding (PIF) is another promising approach being tried in the United States.

    PIF programs encourage local jurisdictions to supervise more offenders in the community and achieve better outcomes, namely lower recidivism and fewer prison commitments. They are premised on the idea that if the supervision agency or locality succeeds in sending fewer low-level offenders to prison—thereby causing the state to incur fewer costs—some portion of the state savings should be shared with the agency or locality. By delivering fewer prison commitments, agencies or localities receive a financial reward, which is reinvested into evidence-based supervision programs.

    A new report from Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections—Performance Incentive Funding: Aligning Fiscal and Operational Responsibility to Produce More Safety at Less Cost—details how PIF programs can lead to better offender outcomes while reducing overall corrections costs. It presents the findings of a summit held in September 2011, which was convened by Vera, the Pew Center on the States, and Metropolis Strategies, to discuss the key challenges and tasks that states must address to develop and implement a PIF program.

  • California's County-By-County Youth Crime Trends Defy Conventional Theory

    Earlier this week, CJCJ launched its California juvenile justice interactive map, displaying a plethora of data regarding local youth arrest and confinement practices by county. This is particularly pertinent given that California’s statewide trends are so extraordinary: Youth crime in California is at its lowest level since statewide statistics were first compiled in 1954.

    The county-by-county data paint a more nuanced picture of juvenile justice in California. Among its 58 counties, the application of juvenile justice policy is radically varied, and with mixed results.

    For example, San Francisco County has the highest youth arrest rate in the state, due primarily to the fact that San Francisco is the only county comprised wholly of a city. Most arrests involve youth of color from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Despite high rates of violent crime, the county utilizes confinement infrequently, displaying very low levels of state youth correctional commitments and lower than average use of its local custodial facilities; 49% of beds in the county’s two juvenile justice facilities (juvenile hall + camp) were occupied in 2010. Driving this commitment to rehabilitate even the hardest-to-serve youth in the community is a wealth of nonprofit service providers and dedicated local government leadership.

  • Recapping the 2012 Missouri Juvenile Justice Association Conference

    On October 24-26, the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association (MJJA), a statewide organization whose mission is dedicated to promoting justice for children, youth, and families within Missouri, hosted the 2012 Missouri Juvenile Justice Association Conference. The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) and partners led a three-day track, Examining National Trends in Juvenile Justice Reform: Exploring Multi-Strategy Efforts in Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System.

    On Wednesday, October 24, Dr. Ken Callis (Southeast MO State University) and Erin Davies (Children’s Law Center) presented on the importance of adolescent brain development and the role of this research in recent U.S. Supreme Court cases. Jessica Sandoval (CFYJ), Erin Davies, and Stephanie Kollman (Children & Family Justice Center) shared the current national trends on youth incarceration. The audience was very interested in learning about the progress states like Ohio and Illinois have made in decreasing youth incarceration. Davies enlightened the audience by sharing the different ways youth are tracked into the adult system and what legislative reforms state leaders are implementing to decrease the number of youth in adult courts. Kollman detailed out the process Illinois used to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for 17-year-old misdemeanants and the impact "Raise the Age" is having on juvenile arrests, probation, detention and incarceration in Illinois.

  • Registration Now OPEN for Georgetown Conference on At-Risk Children and Youth

    Georgetown University, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI), and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the inaugural Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference (Leadership. Evidence. Analysis. Debate.): Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth: Improving Lives Through Practice and System Reform.

    The Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference is an annual national event that brings together experts and key stakeholders to examine a particular policy challenge and discuss potential solutions. This year’s inaugural event will invite attendees to explore the following issues related to at-risk children and youth:

  • Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | October 2012
    by LIZ WU

    Did you miss some of our blog posts last month? Not to worry - here's a round-up of our most popular posts from October 2012.

    10. [NEW REPORT] Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble
    Over the past few years, Texas has shifted youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities to smaller community programs. And they're seeing great results.

    9. October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
    Last month, over 20 states are holding events to raise awareness about youth justice issues and the juvenile justice system.

    8. 7 Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice
    A new article from the New York Law School Law Review examines problems with the juvenile justice system and offers solutions for a more productive youth justice system.

    7. NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic 
    Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, young people in North Carolina partnered with police officers and community members to create a short movie against bullying.

  • Connecting Teen Fathers Behind Bars with their Children

    The Baby Elmo Project provides parenting education for incarcerated teen fathers through the use of media and experiential learning to develop and strengthen relationships between young parents and their babies. Each educational session is followed by a visit between the incarcerated teen parent and his child. Below, a young father incarcerated at Cuyahoga Hills describes his experience with the Baby Elmo program at the facility, piloted by the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

    My daughter was born on June 30, 2011, after I had already been locked up for two months. I saw my daughter for the first time through glass and was unable to hold her, so I held her for the first time in October 2011. Before I was transferred to Cuyahoga Hills, I was only able to see my daughter the last Saturday of each month for 1 hour. It didn’t seem like enough time because as soon as she would warm up to me it would be time for them to go.

    I was transferred to CHJCF in January 2012. Things were very different there: I only saw my daughter once between January and May 2012 because visits with children required a “special visit request.” I wanted more time.

  • Why I’m a Reclaiming Futures Advocate: Evidence-Based Practices and Community Engagement in North Carolina

    Juvenile crime is decreasing nationwide. But here in North Carolina, our drop in teen crime is almost double the national average. In fact, violent crimes committed by teens 16 and younger have dropped by nearly 37%. So how did we accomplish this?

    In 2003, we shifted our approach to focus on prevention and treatment. More recently, we’ve begun implementing the Reclaiming Futures model to coordinate care and improve drug and alcohol treatment for justice-involved youth.

    When I first learned of Reclaiming Futures, my heart beat faster over the prospects of what it could accomplish. I immediately recognized early on what I’ve now come to describe as Reclaiming Futures’ “practice principles” – those elements of daily and organizational practice that make it work, and that improve or reform the system in which they are embedded.
    These principles are of my own modification. Yet to me, they capture the essence of juvenile court reforms as catalyzed by Reclaiming Futures:

    • Evidence-based (data driven) decision making – we should attempt with all intention to take our personal values and cultures out of the decisions we make regarding vulnerable youth. Reclaiming Futures drives this through evidence-based screening, assessment and the use of evidence-informed clinical interventions.
    • Judicial leadership and court management – that’s right, without the judges’ buy-in, nothing in the juvenile court flies. And I’ve found that Reclaiming Futures judges buy in because they become significantly better informed by the data collected, the teams giving input around the table, and clear options for kids under their supervision and care. This “stakeholder buy-in” includes a commitment from judges to regularly bring cases back into the courtroom for reviews to recognize both the positive and negative changes that may be occurring with youth.
    • Engaged communities with court staff having a primary case management function (if the youth is on supervision or an agreed-upon court plan) – sort of a corollary to the judicial leadership bullet, having a focal point in the juvenile justice system for coordinating services, engaging formal and informal helping systems, and balancing public safety with treatment, intervention and pro-social engagement makes perfect sense…and Reclaiming Futures sets up this organizational picture by virtue of the 6-step model. This does not mean that the court staff “control” the process; rather, they are the accountable hub in the wheel of collaboration and case management since they are required by law to be accountable for case outcomes to the juvenile court judges.
    • Continuous quality management and improvement – Reclaiming Futures is designed to be driven by constant monitoring, feedback, team meetings and data consideration. In my view, every juvenile court should be doing the exact same thing (with or without Reclaiming Futures). By necessity, these processes will require sharing of information and data within and across agencies and systems --- and after all, shouldn’t we be finding ways to do this so that the system adapts to the child/family and not the other way around? These principles drive excellence that the methodology for measuring both process and outcome.

  • Minnesota Reports on Disproportionate Minority Contact in its Juvenile Justice System

    Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs has been researching Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) in their state in order to better understand why minority youth have contact with the juvenile justice system at different rates than white youth. Their new report, “Disproportionate Minority Contact in Minnesota’s Juvenile Justice System,” is an exhaustive investigation measuring DMC in Minnesota, along with strategies for reducing it.

    Disproportionate Minority Contact is often dismissed by people not involved with the juvenile justice system with the thought that minority youth commit more crimes than white youth. The data, however, suggests otherwise. Via the report:

    While data suggest white youth and youth of color may have different rates of offending for some crimes, the levels of disparity observed are too great to be explained by differences in youth offending patterns alone. Furthermore, once youth of color are in the system, research reveals they receive harsher consequences than white youth with similar offenses and criminal histories.

    The report continues with an explanation of why DMC may be occurring:

    A host of factors potentially contribute to disparate rates of justice system contact for youth of color. These include the inequitable distribution of resources in communities, bias within the policies and practices of juvenile justice agencies, and underlying social conditions of communities, particularly poverty.

  • Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System and More; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Kids Count Report Demonstrates New Jersey’s Successes In Juvenile Justice (
      Advocates for Children of New Jersey today released a special juvenile justice Kids Count report entitled, “Measuring Change in New Jersey’s Treatment of Young Offenders.” The report details the successful reforms in juvenile justice since the implementation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in New Jersey.
    • Tough Times For Girls In Juvenile Justice System (
      [AUDIO STORY] The number of boys locked up for crimes has dropped over the past decade, but the number of young women detained in jails and residential centers has moved in the other direction. Experts say girls make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, with more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges every year.
    • Common Sense Discipline In Denver Schools (
      Between 2009 and 2011, enrollment in Denver schools rose six percent. But even with an increased number of students, expulsions dropped 44 percent, from 185 to 104. That’s because the school district has adopted alternatives to zero-tolerance, such as restorative justice and conflict resolution, which seek to defuse and resolve disciplinary issues before they rise to a level demanding expulsion.
    • South Dakota Counties Export Effective Juvenile Justice (
      Minnehaha and Pennington County, in South Dakota, have dropped juvenile detention rates by one-third and one-half, respectively, in just two years. Now the rest of the state is hoping to follow their lead.

  • [NEW REPORT] Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble

    The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition published a report this month, Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble, detailing improvements in their state’s juvenile justice system. Texas has made many changes over the past several years, most notably shifting youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities--often far from teens’ homes--to smaller community programs. Via the report (emphasis mine):

    Texas is building a more effective juvenile justice system. The old system – which sent thousands of kids to large remote state facilities each year – fostered dangerous conditions for incarcerated youth, likely increased recidivism, and wasted millions of tax dollars. As we learn from those mistakes, our new system is making a wiser investment in county programs that connect kids and their families to community resources. Research and Texas’ experience confirm that these community programs are better at getting our kids on the right path and keeping them on the right path, at a fraction of the cost of state secure facilities.

  • When Native Americans Meet the Juvenile Justice System

    What do Native American juvenile justice systems look like? And how can they more effectively deal with juvenile problems while simultaneously conveying their own communities’ unique cultural values? These are the questions I examined in a recent law review article entitled, “The Kids Aren’t Alright: An Argument to Use the Nation Building Model in the Development of Native Juvenile Justice Systems to Combat the Effects of Failed Assimilative Policies.” The article appears in the most recent Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law and can also be found on the Project for Indigenous Self-Determination website. It covers three main topics:

    First, the article examines how Native American juveniles interact with justice systems – both on- and off-reservation. This section demonstrates that when Native youths are forced to interact with state or federal justice systems, they are exposed to values and policies designed by foreign (i.e. non-Native) governments. The consequences of such interactions are that, over time, relationships between Native peoples and their children are disrupted. Fortunately, more and more Native American communities are utilizing their own systems to adjudicate their youths. That said, oftentimes juvenile justice systems on Native American reservations mirror the Anglo-American systems used by the states and federal government and, thus, do not reflect Native concepts of justice.

  • New Report Examines Needs of Justice-Involved Girls, Parents and Staff

    “Girls get judged too much—it’s OK for guys to get into trouble because they’re guys, but not for girls; this is not fair.”

    “The system didn’t realize that the whole family was scared and didn’t understand what was happening.”

    “There are not enough adequately trained people to effectively deal with child abuse and neglect issues. As a society, we don’t do a good job of treating these issues; we don’t do a good job of treating the whole being.”

    This small sampling of comments represents what justice system-involved girls, their parents, and staff, respectively, shared during listening sessions held nationwide by the National Girls Institute (NGI). The purpose of the listening sessions was to assess the current training, technical assistance, and informational needs of state, tribal, and local entities serving girls who are justice-involved or at risk of involvement as well as their families.

    A report detailing the results and implications of the listening sessions, “Voices From the Field: Findings From the NGI Listening Sessions,” was recently released by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). An executive summary of the report is also available.

    The Numbers

  • The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study -- the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard Of

    This is Part Three of a three-part overview of the CDC's Adverse Childhood Experience Study -- the ACE Study. "Adverse childhood experiences" has become a buzzword in social services, public health, education, juvenile justice, mental health, pediatrics, criminal justice, medical research and even business. Many people say that just as you should know your cholesterol score, so you should know your ACE score. But what is the ACE Study? And do you know your own ACE score?

    In the last 14 years, Drs. Robert Anda, Vincent Felitti and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published more than 60 papers about the CDC's Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in prestigious peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Other researchers have referenced their work more than 1,500 times. Anda and Felitti have flown around the U.S., Canada and Europe to give hundreds of speeches.

    Their inquiry "changed the landscape," says Dr. Frank Putnam, director of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and professor at the University of Cincinnati Department of Pediatrics. "It changed the landscape because of the pervasiveness of ACEs in the huge number of public health problems, expensive public health problems --- depression, substance abuse, STDs, cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes."

  • Experts Offer Strategies for Preventing Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Crossover

    “We knew the pathway existed,” Shay Bilchick said during the opening of Preventing Youth from Crossing Over Between the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems, a webinar held recently by the National Training & Technical Assistance Center, a program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    As a prosecutor working the family court circuits in Florida, Bilchik — now the founder and director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute — noted an apparent connection between child abuse and neglect and delinquency cases, referring to such crossover youth as a “challenging” population.

    Shortly after Bilchik joined the Public Policy Institute in 2007, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Casey Family Programs worked together to create the Crossover Youth Practice Model. This model stems from the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Integration Breakthrough Series Collaborative, developed in the mid-1990s by the Associates in Process Improvement, Casey Family Programs and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

    According to Bilchik, certain methods, policies and practices can “interrupt the trajectory” of crossover between child welfare and juvenile justices systems. Serving as the webinar’s moderator, he introduced three speakers with extensive experience in “crossover prevention.”

  • Restoring Rehabilitation to the American Juvenile Justice System

    Quantel Lotts was fourteen years old and not yet five feet tall when he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Like most children who are involved in a serious crime at a young age, Quantel's childhood [PDF] was bleak. Quantel spent the early years of his life in a blighted St. Louis neighborhood with his mother, who used and sold crack cocaine. When he was removed from her home and placed in foster care at age eight, child welfare workers observed that he "smelled of urine and had badly decayed molars as well as numerous scars on his arms, legs and forehead." Quantel lived in three different foster homes before he was eventually reunited with his father and younger brother. When Quantel was about ten, his father, Charlie Lotts, moved the boys to rural St. Francois County, Missouri and into the home of Tammy Summers and her two sons. Charlie and Tammy later married.

    By all accounts, Quantel developed a close relationship with his new step-siblings, including Michael, who was three years older. On November 13, 1999, however, Quantel and Michael got into an argument. Michael hit Quantel with a blow dart, Quantel responded with a toy bow and arrow and a fight ensued. Michael was stabbed and later died. Quantel was charged with first-degree murder, tried and convicted as an adult. His sentence was mandatory: under Missouri law anyone convicted of first-degree murder must be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Over the objections of his stepmother and Michael's biological mother, Tammy, fourteen-year-old Quantel was sentenced to die in prison.

  • Rethinking Juvenile Justice: Promoting the Health and Well-Being of Crossover Youth

    There are many reasons to be concerned about systemic failures that impede the promotion of healthy lifestyles for youth growing up in America’s economically challenged communities. Among the most notable are diminished academic institutions, lack of access to quality health care, limited exposure to the world of work, and trauma-induced behavioral and physical health effects associated with victimization and exposure to violence. And concerned we should be, as a growing body of research provides compelling evidence that these experiences persist far beyond adolescence.

    As research linking childhood and youth experiences to adult health status has evolved, two subpopulations—youth in child welfare and juvenile justice systems—have become the primary focus of policy and practice reform. Recent research, however, suggests we may be paying too little attention to a third and perhaps more vulnerable group—youth with histories in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Increasingly referred to as “crossover youth,” a recent path-setting report funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation found “membership in the crossover group to be a strong and consistent predictor of less desirable [adult] outcomes,” including heavy use of public services, high likelihood of criminal justice involvement, lower educational attainment, and extremely high use of outpatient mental health treatment (Culhane et al. 2011).

  • Coming of Age in Prison

    As a college educated man, Reginald Dwyane Betts reflects on his 8 ½ years of incarceration in county jail during a C-SPAN interview with Cure Violence’s Eduardo Bocanegra, a Violence Interrputer. In this interview, Betts speaks about growing up in prison and his book, "A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison."

    Betts, an honor student and class treasurer at Suitland High School, was incarcerated at the age of 16 for armed carjacking. He was the only juvenile in the county jail.

    Though prison is a disturbing reality for a 16 year old, Betts described his time behind bars as a learning experience where he gained a deeper understanding of the world around him. “As much as prison was a terrible place, it was the most diverse place I had ever been,” he explained. Being in prison gave Betts a chance to speak with African-American elders and he was able to understand a history of failures and successes in his own culture. He considers himself fortune for having a desire for knowledge and learning which allowed him to grow as a person, even in the confinement of prison.