Pin It

Blog Categories

  • Celebrating 10 Years of Natural Helpers in Montgomery County, Ohio!

    On October 16, 2013, Montgomery County Juvenile Court, Judge Nick Kuntz and Judge Anthony Capizzi hosted the 10th annual Natural Helper Recognition Banquet. As one of the first Reclaiming Futures sites, this year’s celebration was significant as Montgomery County was celebrating its 10th year of our Natural Helpers Program. Volunteers and community partners that have made this initiative a success were recognized for their achievements. This year’s event was held at The Salvation Army, Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Dayton Ohio. Over 100 community leaders, partners, natural helpers and juvenile court staff were in attendance.

    The evening also showcased the talents of many students from two local high schools. Kettering Fairmont High School Acapella Group, Eleventh Hour, and Stivers School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble provided entertainment for the evening. Special guest speaker Scott McGohan, CEO of McGohan Brabender provided an inspirational message for all in attendance. Judge Nick Kuntz and Judge Anthony Capizzi gave special recognition to 12 natural helpers for their years of service, assistance on advisory projects, and for their distinguished services to the youth of Montgomery County.




  • Horse Therapy as Intervention Strategy for Young People

    Winston Churchill once said, "There’s just something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." Horse therapy has indeed been proven effective in several different cases regarding mental health, addiction, physical therapy, and human development. Hardin County, Ohio is putting this idea to the test.

    Hardin County Reclaiming Futures has partnered with Serenity Stables Therapeutic Center Inc. to provide horse therapy to youth in the juvenile system through the Horse and Youth program (H.A.Y.).

    The H.A.Y. program will provide intervention strategies for the adjudicated youth who need a way to build self-confidence, leadership skills, and group interaction capabilities. The young people will have 12 weekly sessions to create a bond with their horse, as well as the people, of Serenity Stables.

    “The horses do not care who you are, what trouble you have been in, or what problems you may have. Each youth will be able to establish a bond with an animal that is totally non-judgmental,” Judge Christopher, Hardin County Juvenile Court, explains.

    This type of bond will serve to build confidence in the young people of Hardin County and help them develop a new, healthier mindset. Judge Christopher also believes the people of Serenity Stable, who have ample experience working with challenged youth, will serve to be positive role models for the participants.

  • Fitness Program Encourages Healthy Lifestyle in Hocking County Juvenile Justice

    Preventing drug use before it begins, especially among our youth, is a cost-effective way to reduce substance abuse and its negative consequences. A great way to achieve this is by encouraging an overall healthy lifestyle, which is exactly what the Hocking County Juvenile Court (HCJC) did this summer in Ohio.

    HCJC partnered with North’s Fitness Center, a local gym, to invite 14 court-involved young people to exercise in their facility at no cost for the duration of the six-week summer program called “Crush-It Fitness”.

    Similar to programs like SPORT and InShape, Hocking County’s Crush-It Fitness was designed to channel the youth’s free time into something positive and guide them toward a healthier lifestyle—a tactic that can be very effective to prevent substance abuse and reduce recidivism.

    A celebration ceremony was held on Sept. 12, 2013 to recognize the young people who completed the program. They received t-shirts and positive affirmations. Participants gave mixed reviews on the program—mandating exercise is tough business! But, a combination of logistic and planning feedback came in that will help Hocking County succeed if they continue the “Crush-It Fitness” program in summer 2014.

  • 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 Court Awarded $975,000 in Montgomery County, Ohio

    Congratulations to Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County!

    Under the leadership of Honorable Anthony Capizzi, this Juvenile Drug Court was recently awarded $975,000 from the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    The three-year Drug Court Expansion grant supports Montgomery County's efforts to unite juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Through this grant, Ohio will be able to serve an additional 45 families per year and 135 over the grant's three-year span.

    Together, they are improving drug and alcohol treatment and connecting teens to positive activities and caring adults.

    There is statewide interest in Ohio to expand the Reclaiming Futures model beyond the four current sites. If you know community leaders interested in breaking the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, or philanthropies investing in juvenile justice reform, we'd like to hear from you. 

    For more information about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community, please call Susan Richardson at 503-725-8914 or email

    Map at right illustrates current (blue) and potential (orange and green) Reclaiming Futures communities in Ohio. 

  • We Need Mentors: Lucas County, Ohio, in the News

    Have you ever wondered how you could make a difference in the lives of young people in your community?

    Less than one year into a $1.3 million grant, Lucas County Reclaiming Futures Project Director LaTonya Harris breaks it down for Leading Edge guest host Rob Wiercinski in Toledo, Ohio.

    Watch this video to learn how they are decreasing recidivism and increasing drug court graduation rates. They will make even greater strides with more mentors to provide positive activities for teens:

  • Report from the Field: Hardin County, Ohio

    Despite the fact that synthetic marijuana use is soaring around areas like Hardin County, Ohio, we continue to successfully break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime using our proven six-step model. At a recent site visit, we found that Reclaiming Futures Hardin County has: 

    • Strong, committed teamwork that uses a holistic, seamless, coordinated system of support for teens
    • Effective, solid partnership with Ohio Northern University – good evaluation and site analysis with the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) data, and impressive internship development
    • Cohesion: Probation, Behavioral Health Services and Recovery School all under one roof
    • Superb GAIN rates, particularly upon follow up
    • Many Evidence-Based Treatment options
    • Well-implemented service coordination, with many positive pro-social activities (fishing, scrapbooking, archery, 4-H club, and community service opportunities) 
    • Great local partnerships, for example, teen financial literacy training with the local credit union 
    • Strong sustainability strategy
    • Good representation at Juvenile Treatment Court staffing/team meeting, with input from many partners around the table
    • Good communication with parents, evident by their attendance at the Juvenile Treatment Court hearing and positive interactions during family updates and high school graduation celebration at court
    • Excellent feedback from youth and parents during interviews after court
    • Wonderful community activities and exceptional fundraising events

    Kudos to the Reclaiming Futures team in Hardin County, Ohio!

  • Successfully Tackling Generations of Substance Abuse and Crime

    Leaders in Hardin County, Ohio, are using the proven Reclaiming Futures six-step model and strong collaboration to break the generational cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime in their community.

    In the video below, Wade Melton, program director of Hardin County Juvenile Court and director of Hardin Community School, describes how Reclaiming Futures positively impacts his work:

    Stay tuned for an update about my recent site visit to Hardin County, Ohio.

  • RECLAIM Ohio: A Promising Alternative to Teen Incarceration

    PEW recently published a report revealing the effectiveness of the RECLAIM (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to Incarceration of Minors) funding initiative in Ohio. The report found RECLAIM to be highly successful in lowering recidivism rates and saving the state millions of dollars:

    RECLAIM is an initiative funding program that allows county courts to implement community based programs in order to provide alternatives to juvenile incarceration for juvenile offenders or youth at risk of offending. The increased funding for counties is based on an equation that refunds counties for the time juvenile offenders would have spent if they had been committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) state facility.

    Like many states in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Ohio saw an increase in the incarcerated youth population. By 1992, the state reached an all-time high of 180 percent of capacity with many of the youth being first-time nonviolent offenders. The idea was that by better serving low to medium risk offenders through locally tailored community programs, admissions would decrease as well as recidivism rates.

  • Celebrating Success in Hardin County, Ohio

    Reclaiming Futures Hardin County recently hosted our first annual Run for Recovery 5k Run/Walk & Kids Dash. The event was held in order to involve the community in the services offered from both Hardin Community School and Reclaiming Futures, while encouraging our youth to live a healthier lifestyle. The name Run for Recovery was chosen in order to incorporate Hardin County youth in all aspects of recovery, including education, along with recovery from drugs, alcohol, crime, and mental health problems.

    The race was held Saturday May 25th, 2013 at Hardin Community School/Lifeworks Center. Roughly 160 runners/walkers and youth took place in the 5k and kids dash. Each participant received a goody bag filled with local offerings and a Run for Recovery 5k t-shirt.

    Businesses, organizations and individuals from the community astounded us with their overwhelming support months leading up to the race! Nearly 40 separate entities showed their support with monetary donation, door prize donations, post-race refreshment, prizes for the kid’s dash, participants’ goodie bag contributions, and sponsorships for kid’s entry fees, not to mention the countless volunteers who helped with race preparation.

    Race morning was no different! Our team was greeted race morning with over 20 volunteers to help us organize. Volunteers from the Sheriff’s Office, Kenton Police Department, mentors, Hardin Community Schools’ 4-H chapter, and Hardin County Vietnam vets were on site to assist our team. Throughout the race, public bystanders lined the streets to watch as the race participants passed by their homes and offices. A huge hit for the crowd was seeing Hardin County Juvenile Court’s K9, Cory, complete the 5k with her handler Sheriff Deputy Rushing.

  • Team Offers Positive Choices for Teens in Hocking County, Ohio

    Thanks to the teamwork of Hocking County Reclaiming Futures, many teens in Southeast Ohio are receiving the support they need to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.

    Learn how this team creates healthy activities for young people. In a story, published by the Logan Daily News on April 1, they:

    • Hiked trails with a soil & water conservation education specialist,
    • Created art from recycled and reclaimed items, and 
    • Learned to identify trees and shrubs in the Hocking Hills

    Reclaiming Futures teens are learning to give back too. By donating art objects for programming at the Bishop Educational Gardens, they are creating goodwill in the community. 

    Kudos to Hocking County Reclaiming Futures for building educational partnerships for court-involved young people. Together, they are connecting teens to positive activities and caring adults.

  • 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.

  • Ohio Leaders Brave Blizzard to Help Teens

    Despite snow, ice, fog and temperatures around 15 degrees on January 25, nearly 70 leaders interested in juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance abuse treatment, public policy and philantropy gathered at the Columbus Foundation in Columbus, Ohio, to learn about Reclaiming Futures, a proven model for helping teens break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.

    We were joined by Harvey Reed, Director of Ohio Department of Youth Services, to discuss how to unite probation officers, judges, substance abuse treatment professionals and community members to help teens in the justice system.

    The following counties expressed interest in the technical assistance, training, webinars, leadership institutes, fellowship support and coaching available to members of the Reclaiming Futures community:

    • Coshocton
    • Franklin
    • Henry
    • Logan
    • Marion
    • Perry
    • Pickaway
    • Drake

  • Teens Learn Teamwork and Patience by Building Gingerbread Houses

    Hardin County Reclaiming Futures was recently invited to speak to a local church group about their Recovery School (Hardin Community School) and Hardin County Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Drug Court. The church members loved hearing about the community initiative and wanted to reach out to the local youth by donating funds for a gingerbread house project.

    The project began on December 10, 2012 for the Recovery School students who had a week to complete their houses. Now that the houses are finished, we are holding a contest on our Facebook page for the best houses. Hardin County’s Reclaiming Futures Fellows are also invited to come in for judging and awarding prizes.  Almost the entire student body at the recovery school turned out to participate in the project.

    Most students anticipated doing their own gingerbread house, but quickly realized that the task was not as easy as one would think and most began working together as teams to build the walls and the roofs. The houses were made of graham crackers and held together by a special icing to help hold the structure together. Decorations were available as multiple assortments of candies.  

  • Right-Sizing Virginia’s Juvenile Justice Facilities

    There are a few immutable functions of government—and public safety is paramount amongst them. We expect our state and local governments to use our tax dollars to keep the public peace, to punish those who do wrong, and ensure streets remain safe for prosperous economic development.

    But as with all uses of taxpayer dollars, we expect Virginia to accomplish these goals effectively and efficiently.

    Outdated juvenile justice systems present an excellent example of the inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. For decades, juvenile justice systems have over-relied on secure confinement of juvenile offenders in state facilities. Unfortunately, this process of seeking to rehabilitate juvenile offenders is the most expensive and, typically the least effective option.

    Juvenile justice systems are unique from other public safety agencies as juveniles are treated differently than adult offenders, largely due to their age and capacity for change. Therefore, rehabilitation is an even more important goal for juveniles. The public benefit and cost savings that result from diverting a youth from a lifetime of crime, and putting them on the right track to a law abiding and productive life, are immense and should be prioritized.

    Regrettably, the evidence suggests that Virginia is falling short of this goal. More than 700 youths are in state lockups on any given day. Taxpayers pay $221 per day, per juvenile, and at an average time spent in the facility of 14 months, the resulting tab is almost $100,000.

  • Celebrating Our “Natural Helpers” Who Work With Justice-Involved Teens

    We are so thankful for our youth mentors! On October 22, 2012, over 100 people came together at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center to celebrate our “Natural Helpers.” Natural Helpers are mentors who have been trained and matched with Court involved youth to provide “whatever works” types of support to youth and their families. Judge Nick Kuntz and Project Director Michelle White, recognized our Natural Helpers in three categories: Years of Service, Special Recognition and Distinguished Service. It is truly amazing to see people giving of themselves for the care of others.

    The program included a fantastic dinner followed by a selection from a local vocalist, Billi Nicol. The attendees were then treated to the words and encouragement of motivational speaker, Alfred “Coach” Powell. Coach Powell shared personal stories with the group that included how he was mentored by one of our current Natural Helpers.

  • Hocking County, Ohio, Celebrates Recovery Month

    In beautiful Hocking County, Ohio, about an hour southeast of Columbus, Juvenile Court intake numbers are high due to drug-related offenses. The court has seen the kinship population grow (grandparents and other relatives taking over care of youth) mainly due to the increase in drug abuse and drug-related offenses.

    Like all of the 29 Reclaiming Futures sitesHocking County is partnering with courts, treatment providers, juvenile justice, communities and families to meet the urgent needs of young people in the juvenile justice system.

    Judge Richard Wallar says it best in a Recovery Month letter in the Logan Daily News:

    Please do not lose hope because there is good news. Many local people, including neighbors, relatives and friends, are receiving help and are in recovery from mental health or substance abuse disorders. They are contributing to our businesses, connecting with their families, and giving back to the community. But if we want more people to join them on a path of recovery, we need to take action — now. Too many people are still unaware that treatment works, and that these conditions can be alleviated, in the same way that other health disorders, such as diabetes and hypertension, are being treated. We need to work together to make recovery the expectation.

    In celebration of Recovery Month, we honor the Reclaiming Futures Hocking County team for:

  • Juvenile Justice Reform with Tyler the Poodle and More; News Roundup

    Juvenile Justice Reform

    • Summer Work Program Brings Change; Teens Congratulated for Personal Growth (
      Jackson, Tennessee Mayor Jerry Gist’s Gang Prevention Task Force gave jobs to 43 "at-risk" youth between the ages of 15 and 18 at different locations across Madison County. The young people worked and received mentoring. The county has seen a much lower juvenile arrest rate during this same period.
    • Project to Help Juveniles Make Successful Transition (
      The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission on Tuesday announced the start of a demonstration project to reduce the recidivism and improve the outcomes of juvenile offenders. The project will provide intensive reintegration services to help youth transition back into their communities.
    • Prosecutors Share Details of Juvenile Justice System (
      Juvenile justice is one of the most difficult parts of the law, but a necessary one designed to do what is in the best interests of the children involved.
    • Kids in Court Have a Friend in Tyler the Poodle (
      Tyler [the poodle] is one of thousands of certified pet-therapy dogs nationwide, but rather than visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, schools or libraries, he helps kids in the juvenile court system.
    • Ohio Delegation Visits NJ To Study Juvenile Detention Reform Efforts (
      A delegation from the state of Ohio including judges, court administrators, representative from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, and other stakeholders, are in New Jersey to attend a two-day working session designed to help Ohio replicate New Jersey’s success in juvenile detention reform.

  • Scrapbooking Connects Troubled Teens With Family

    A group of volunteers is helping young people improve communication skills and build better family relationships in Juvenile Court in Kenton, Ohio. We are mentors, recruited by Reclaiming Futures Hardin County.

    For the past year, scrapbooking workshops have provided a conversation-starter for the families of our court-involved young people. On Thursday evenings, mothers and children gather and assemble "Life Books" that help them tell their personal stories. Families open up and get to know one another better. The results have been amazing!


  • Ohio: Treatment is the Goal in Juvenile Justice System

    Some see the juvenile justice system as a way for youth to "get off light" for serious crimes. Those who work in the system see it as a way to preserve the futures of Marion, Ohio's troubled youths.

    "The juvenile justice system is based on the idea of treatment," Marion Family Court Judge Robert D. Fragale said. "The idea is that as juveniles we have the ability to work with these children and do whatever we can to provide the opportunity to change their behavior to become productive members of our community.

  • Children’s Law Center Releases Two Publications on Ohio Youth in the Criminal Justice System

    The Children’s Law Center (CLC) recently released a report titled “Falling Through the Cracks: A New Look at Ohio Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System” and an accompanying publication called “In Their Own Words.” The report focuses on youth in Ohio who are transferred to the adult court system or held in adult jails and prisons, while the second document highlights the stories and experiences of eight individuals – four family members and four youth – who have been personally affected by Ohio’s policy of transferring (or binding over) youth to the adult system.

    In recent decades, changing Ohio laws have caused more youth to come into contact with the adult criminal justice system. Although the state has more recently taken steps to change this, the current process has resulted in over 300 youth placed in adult courts or adult jails and prisons each year throughout Ohio.

  • JMATE 2012: Ask a Judge: Demystifying Juvenile Court and How Judges and Treatment Providers Can Partner Together Successfully
    by LIZ WU

    Earlier this afternoon, I sat in on a JMATE panel with three juvenile court judges who discussed how Reclaiming Futures works in their courts and why other courts should consider implementing the model. 

    Judge Anthony Capizzi of Dayton, Ohio, began the presentation with the problem: too many teens today are struggling with drugs, alcohol and crime. Eighty percent of the youth Judge Capizzi sees have alcohol or other drug problems and many are self medicating. And this is not unique to Ohio.

    As a juvenile court judge, Judge Capizzi finds that treatment helps reduce recidivism, saves money and builds safer communities. BUT most juvenile courts are not set up to detect and treat substance abuse or provide mental health services. And this is where the six step Reclaiming Futures model comes in. Under the Reclaiming Futures model, court teams are set up with a judge, probation officer, treatment provider and community members. The teams work together to make sure that kids are screened for alcohol and other drugs at intake and sent to treatment when needed.

  • Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Requiring Youth Sex Offenders to Register for Life
    by LIZ WU

    Earlier today, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down part of a law mandating certain youth sex offenders to register for life, because the punishment is cruel and unusual.

    Under Ohio's Adam Walsh Act, teens classified as the most dangerous sex offenders must register - for the rest of their lives - with law enformencement and have their photos, addresses and criminal histories distributed to neighbors and schools.

    In a 5-2 opinion, Ohio's Supreme Court ruled the punishment violates both Ohio and US constitutions because it is cruel and unusual and because it violates a defendant's right to due process. 

    From the Associated Press:

    Not only is the requirement unconstitutional, it also defeats the purpose of the juvenile court system, Justice Paul Pfeifer said, writing for the majority.

    The mandatory registration "undercuts the rehabilitative purpose of Ohio's juvenile system and eliminates the important role of the juvenile court's discretion in the disposition of juvenile offenders and thus fails to meet the due process requirement of fundamental fairness," Pfeifer wrote.

    He also said it defeats another goal of the juvenile court system: cloaking children in confidentiality and allowing them to avoid stigma once they have served their time in the juvenile system and become adults.

    "Confidentiality promotes rehabilitation by allowing the juvenile to move into adulthood without the baggage of youthful mistakes," Pfeifer said. "Public exposure of those mistakes brands the juvenile as an undesirable wherever he goes."

  • Reassessing School Safety in Light of Monday's School Shooting Tragedy in Ohio

    As policymakers and the general public grapple with responding to and making sense of Monday's tragic shooting in Ohio, the Justice Policy Institute, which has studied school violence prevention for more than a decade, emphasizes that communities should increase the use of practices proven to keep schools safe, and avoid ineffective policies that would lead to worse outcomes for youth and communities.

    "Yesterday was a tragic day in Ohio, and for all of us who want safe schools, and safe communities for our young people," stated Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. "As we all try to understand how and why an event like this happened, we need to soberly reflect on what really works to reduce school-violence and help at-risk kids before something goes wrong, and resist the temptation to seek solutions that sound tough, but are ineffective."

    Based on recent research conducted by JPI and leading educational researchers, practices proven to improve school safety include the following:

    • Implement evidence-based initiatives proven to improve safety in schools: School districts should work toward abandoning zero tolerance and law enforcement responses to student behavior and begin relying on evidence-based programs that include peer mediation, mentoring and peaceable education.
    • Hire more counselors: Guidance counselors and school psychologists are trained to be mentors and work with youth, and are a positive investment in schools. However, schools are not fully staffing according to accepted standards. The American School Counselor Association says that school counselors should consider their roles to include skills in conflict-resolution particular to schools, to intervene in cases of bullying and harassment, and to prevent and intervene in cases where there might be substance abuse issues or the potential for violence. Fully implemented guidance counselor programs have also been found to promote feelings of safety in both poorer and wealthier schools.
    • Invest in education over an increased justice system responses to student behavior: With the array of negative collateral consequences associated with involvement in the juvenile justice system, it is important that policymakers and administrators focus efforts to better our education system as opposed to relying on increased justice system interventions. Some ways to both improve student achievement and promote safer schools include increased hiring of quality teachers, staff, counselors, and other positive role models; building safe, clean schools; and providing training and supports for teachers and staff related to behavior management.
    • Avoid policies that will make schools less safe, and harm kids: Unnecessary referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt a student's educational process - practices that can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other alienation from school. These negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs to the youth themselves, their families, their communities and to taxpayers. More police in schools, including School Resource Officers (SROs) have not been shown to create more safety, and can have negative impacts both on school environment and on youth, as schools rely on arrests rather than school-based responses, pulling youth into the justice system.

  • Budget Crises, High-Needs Kids and Juvenile Justice Reforms

    As California and the nation continue to struggle with budget crises, creative and cost-effective approaches in the provision of services for high-needs youthful offender populations are becoming increasingly necessary.

    Leaders in California, Georgia and New York have recently called for reform or “realignment” of their out-of-date state-run juvenile justice systems. While the urgency for reform in many states is a result of strained state budgets, it serves as an opportunity to engage juvenile justice stakeholders to restructure their juvenile justice systems in a more efficient and effective manner.

    One population to pay particular attention to when planning for juvenile justice realignment is the disproportionate number of youth with mental health needs in juvenile facilities, known as the “crossover caseload.”

    These highest-needs youth have historically been neglected during times of reform, when in fact they are the youth most in need of quality, individualized care. As a result of 1980s mental health system reform, juvenile justice systems, in effect, replaced public psychiatric hospitals in the care of mentally ill youth; despite the fact that the juvenile justice system lacks the resources to provide adequate services for this population.

    Although rates of juvenile incarceration have been declining, a disproportionate number of youth in this crossover caseload are still being confined, between 50-70 percent nationally and 42 percent in California, according to conservative estimates.

  • Dayton, Ohio Appoints New Reclaiming Futures Project Director

    Judge Nick Kuntz, Judge Anthony Capizzi and the Montgomery County Juvenile Court welcome Michelle White to the Reclaiming Futures Team in Dayton, Ohio. Michelle began her career with the Court nine years ago as a Probation Officer. Throughout her tenure with the Court, Michelle has served as a Gender Specific Probation Officer and as the Intensive Probation Supervisor. Michelle is very passionate about working with families, volunteers and the community. She has been involved with the Reclaiming Futures movement in Dayton throughout her time with the Court and is looking forward to building on earlier successes.

    Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Wright State University and a Master's Degree in Justice Administration from Tiffin University. She is happily married to her husband of nine years and has a two year old son.

  • Are we reducing crime by limiting the use of incarceration?

    When casual readers of the news media search for stories about juvenile crime and justice today, they find a lot of good news. Other than the perennial media coverage of individual crimes and victimization, an online search about juvenile justice today generates dozens of stories about states uncovering abuses in their youth corrections systems, reducing their rates of juvenile incarceration and increasing their reliance on community-based programs for young offenders.

    Many of these stories refer to the ongoing decline in crime and violence as possible proof that these changes in policy and practice are improving public safety. But, a prudent reader will stop to ask about the direction of causality in these explanations. Are we reducing crime by limiting the use of incarceration, or is incarceration down because crime is down? The question is more than a topic for academic study. We need to consider our answer carefully if we hope to sustain these recent improvements over the long term.

    The number of juvenile offenders being held in secure correctional institutions has been falling nationwide. Advocates in the juvenile justice field welcome this reform because reductions in the use of secure confinement allow state and local jurisdictions to intervene with young offenders in their own homes and communities, which is less costly and can be more effective than incarceration in reducing recidivism and preventing crime.

    My colleague Douglas Evans and I recently reviewed the most prominent juvenile correctional reform models from the past 40 years, and we concluded that some models of reform were likely to be more sustainable than others. Specifically, we recommended the "realignment" approach now being implemented in California and those established in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan since 2000.

  • The role of families in supporting incarcerated youth in Ohio

    In March of 2010, I wrote a piece for Reclaiming Futures about the importance of family for youth in the juvenile justice system and highlighted the Juvenile Relational Inquiry Tool (JRIT). I write with an exciting update that the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) is the first juvenile justice agency to take the tool state-wide with the support of training and technical assistance from Vera’s Family Justice Program.

    DYS’s innovation around family engagement was recently highlighted at OJJDP’s annual conference. More detailed research from the first year of Vera’s partnership with DYS—specifically the roll out of the JRIT at two facilities—is now available. The research brief describes the motivation and emotional support families provide to youth, the cost associated with staying in touch during incarceration and reactions of juvenile correctional officers to incorporating the JRIT into their practice.

  • Reclaiming Futures in Ohio
    by LIZ WU

    In Ohio, Reclaiming Futures fellow Carol Martin was featured in the Logan Daily News Reporter for her work to combat drug abuse by providing educational materials to local educators and agencies.

    After learning about local teen drug abuse, Carol ordered booklets from the Foundation for a Drug-Free World (which you can request here) and began bringing them to schools. The booklets detail each kind of drug, its nicknames, and short and long term effects on the human body and mind. It also includes information on what happens when teens combine drugs and other substances.

    From the article:

    Carol Martin, a member of Reclaiming Futures, a community coalition designed to mentor and assist youth in the community, says she believes the materials will be useful to both educators and parents. “I thought it would be great for the schools, and it’s a different way than just sitting and talking about drugs,” she said.

    After using the booklets in North Carolina, that state saw a 40% decrease in the number of deaths or accidental poisonings, and Carol is hopeful that they will have a similar effect in Ohio. 

    Great job, Carol! Keep up the good work and please keep us updated on your progress.