Piper Kerman, author of the memoir "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison" and executive consultant to the Netflix series by the same name, has a unique perspective on what teens in prison need to be successful.
In this three-minute video, Guy, a well-known graffiti artist in Snohomish County, Washington, describes his transformation as a Promising Artists in Recovery (PAIR) participant.
Now is the time to help young people struggling with drugs, alcohol and crime. Partner with us to bring Reclaiming Futures to your community!
Our model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment providers and the community to reclaim youth. Together, they work to improve drug and alcohol treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
“Reclaiming Futures is not a program. Rather, it is an organizational change and system reform that uses a six-step model...to interact with the community and improve outcomes for youth in the justice system.”

National Institute of Justice Announces Funding Opportunity To Increase School Safety

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced the fiscal year 2014 funding opportunity, Investigator-Initiated Research: The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to improve the knowledge and understanding of school safety and violence, and enhance school safety programs through social and behavioral science research.

Under the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, NIJ will allocate approximately $15 million for multiple grants to fund research that will address school safety issues directly and strive to achieve the following:

  • Examine the root causes of school violence
  • Develop new technologies
  • Apply evidence-based practices
  • Test pilot programs to enhance school safety

As a starting point, Congress has identified a number of factors and issues related to school safety programs that investigators might consider for research and evaluation:

  • The school-to-prison pipeline
  • Gaps in the nation’s mental health system
  • Exposure to violence in the media
  • Bullying prevention programs or other violence prevention programs/initiatives
  • Crisis/emergency management
  • Efforts to address disparate treatment of students (based on race, disability, sex, etc.)
  • School discipline alternatives and restorative justice
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The Important Change to Juvenile Justice You Have Not Heard About; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

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Words Unlocked Continues to Inspire Incarcerated Teens

Last year, we reported about a new poetry initiative designed to introduce young people involved with the juvenile justice system to the therapeutic power of writing, give them hope, and inspire them to persevere in overcoming challenges posed by addiction and crime. Developed by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), Words Unlocked is a month-long poetry curriculum culminating in a nationwide competition open only to incarcerated teens.

We’re excited to see that Words Unlocked is happening again this April, this year with the theme “Boundaries.” Via Words Unlocked:

Boundaries exist in all shapes and forms; boundaries can be physical, social, emotional, or personal. Through Words Unlocked we hope to encourage thousands of students who are locked up to explore this theme and not let the boundaries prescribed by their locked rooms or the razor wire that they see every day limit their creativity, seriousness, or passion for writing and expression.

Far too many young people are locked up around the country. Through this initiative, we intend to ensure that their words are not.

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Report Finds Family Visits Improve Behavior and School Performance of Incarcerated Teens

A report from the Vera Institute of Justice, Ohio Department of Youth Services and the Public Welfare Foundation underscores the importance of family involvement for incarcerated youth. The Families as Partners: Supporting Youth Reentry Project’s findings reveal the positive correlation between family visitation and behavior and school performance, and suggest juvenile correctional facilities should change their visitation policies to promote more frequent visitation with families.

In the study, teens who were never visited earned the lowest GPA scores and had three times as many behavior incidents as those who saw their families at least once a week. Conversely, youth who had regular family visits experienced the lowest levels of behavioral incidents and earned the highest GPAs.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Youth who were visited regularly committed an average of four behavioral incidents per month, compared to six among those visited infrequently and 14 among those who were never visited.
  • Youth who had never received a visit exhibited the highest rates of behavioral incidents.
  • Average GPAs for youth who never had a visitor was 80.4, compared to 82 for those who had visits infrequently and 85 for youth who had frequent visits.

Find the full report from the Families as Partners: Supporting Youth Reentry Project.

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Upcoming Webinar on Building Relationships with Policymakers to Help your Community

Mark your calendars! This Wednesday, March 19, at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is hosting, “Show Policymakers How Your Court Helps Your Community: Five Steps for Building Relationships that Last.”

This webinar will provide insight on how building relationships with policymakers can help your community, including by raising public attention for your issue, building new community support, or even increasing funding. It can take time to establish the strong relationships necessary to reach these results.

Guest speakers Mac Prichard and Jessica Williams of Prichard Communications will share lessons learned and tips from their experiences helping juvenile courts and nonprofits in Washington, DC, and across the country, focusing on three learning objectives:

  • Understand the benefits of building relationships with policy makers.
  • Share strategic principles for working with elected officials in your
  • community.
  • Review case studies of juvenile courts in Dayton, Ohio, and Seattle.

To register for Wednesday’s webinar, email Jessica Pearce at jpearce [at] ncjfcj [dot] org.

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Washington State Passes Law Sealing Juvenile Records; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Changes Sought in Parole Hearings For Ex-Juveniles (The Boston Globe)
    A dozen Massachusetts inmates sentenced as juveniles to life sentences for first-degree murder have received invitations to appear before the state Parole Board, the first time such offenders have had a chance to seek freedom. But just how these unprecedented parole hearings will be structured is causing its own challenges.
  • Washington State Passes Law Sealing Juvenile Records (JJIE.org)
    A measure restricting access to juvenile records passed the Washington state Legislature Wednesday. As JJIE reported March 6, the bill, HB 1651, restricts access to all juvenile records except the worst felony offenses, such as violent crimes and sexual assaults.
  • "Kids For Cash" Captures A Juvenile Justice Scandal From Two Sides (NPR)
    Kids for Cash chronicles the story of Judge Mark A. Chiavarella, who was convicted in 2011 for sending thousands of children to a juvenile detention facility from which he'd received a "finder's fee."
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4 Lessons Learned from the Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference

As reported last week, Reclaiming Futures staff and I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Children’s Mental Health Research & Policy Conference at the University of South Florida. See below for our top takeaways from the presentations.

1. Prevention and Treatment Saves Money
Dr. Michael Dennis of Chestnut Health Systems explained during his presentation, “Like any other chronic disease, [substance use disorder] is all about prevention and treatment.” He continued, “We have the opportunity to do the right thing and save money! Ten percent of the population effects 74 percent of the costs. We need good case management.”

2. Research and Evaluation are Key
Another highlight that emerged from the conference was the increasing emphasis on research and evaluation. Programs today need hard data in order to demonstrate effectiveness and develop future plans.

3. Treatment Provider Relationships Build Success
Approximately thirty percent of a young person’s success is due to their relationship with a treatment provider, no matter what evidence based treatment model is used. 

4. It’s all Connected
Speakers emphasized that substance abuse, mental health, and juvenile justice are inextricably interconnected. This is why our model works to ensure that teens get the treatment they need.

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The Startling Data Behind “My Brother’s Keeper"

Young men of color drop out of school, come into contact with the criminal justice system, and become victims of violence at alarmingly high rates compared to their white peers. My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently announced by President Obama, aims to change that. Here are some startling figures that underscore the need to address this problem, which Obama calls “an issue of national importance:”

  • 86 percent of African-American boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels–compared to 54 percent of their white peers–by the time they’ve hit fourth grade.
  • African-American and Hispanic young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.
  • African-Americans make up 16 percent of the overall youth population but account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests and 37 percent of prisoners and jail detainees.

Manuel Criollo, an organizer with the Los Angeles Labor-Community Strategy Center, calls the announcement of the new initiative “an important breakthrough for the movement and for institutions and foundations that have been working on this issue.”

Ten foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have committed to raise and provide $200 million over the next five years for programs for the initiative and will take a collaborative approach to increase opportunity and unlock the potential of young men of color.

In addition, a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will review policies and programs to determine what’s working, how the initiative can become more effective, and highlight programs with the most positive impact.

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