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.”

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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Juvenile Justice Resource Hub Launches New Section to Cover Racial-Ethnic Fairness

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) recently launched a new section of its Resource Hub on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. Via the website:

Step into juvenile delinquency courts throughout the country, and you will usually find the number of children of color who appear there are far out of proportion to their numbers in the surrounding community. For decades, they have been over-represented (and treated more harshly for the same behavior as their non-Hispanic white counterparts) at every stage of the delinquency process – from arrest, to secure detention, confinement, and transfer to the adult system. The causes are varied and have often proved resistant to change.

However, in recent years, better data collection and analysis in many localities has helped spur the development of strategies to reduce disparities among youth in contact with the juvenile justice system. This work is paving the way for a more equitable juvenile justice system that will treat youth fairly regardless of their race or ethnicity.

The Racial-Ethnic Fairness section of the Resource Hub will provide you with an overview of salient issues and links to information on each approach, as well as the most recent research, cutting edge reforms, model policies, best practices, links to experts, and toolkits to take action.

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Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Behind 'Juvenile In Justice': A Discussion With Photographer Richard Ross (KMUW.org)
    There are about 70,000 young people in juvenile detention centers or correctional faculties in the United States. Richard Ross spent the past seven years documenting the lives of American juveniles who have been housed in these facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist, and, occasionally, harm them.
  • Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens (ReclaimingFutures.org)
    For over a decade now the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Based Probation (SBP) program has worked to reduce recidivism in teens and made impressive gains in combatting the school-to-prison pipeline. Since the program was instituted in the 2002-2003 school year, SBP has provided “a safety net to those students who might be tempted, through peer pressure or otherwise, to fall into delinquency patterns.”
  • Juvenile Solitary Confinement: Modern-Day ‘Torture’ in the US (JJIE.org)
    As a 17-year-old, Michael Kemp says, he felt like a caged animal. For six months, his world was reduced to the size of a Washington, D.C., jail cell measuring maybe 8 feet by 10 feet. During much of his time in solitary confinement, he spent 23 hours a day alone in the cell.
  • "Kids for Cash" Details a Disturbing Juvenile Court Kickback Scandal (DenverPost.com)
    Deeply shocking and continually surprising, "Kids for Cash" examines the scandal surrounding a Pennsylvania judge's draconian imprisonment of kids for minor hijinks, in exchange for kickbacks from a juvenile detention center.
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Annual Children's Mental Health Research & Policy Conference Wraps Up

Greetings from the Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference, hosted March 2-5, 2014, by the Department of Child & Family Studies at the University of South Florida. 

It has been a busy week with a robust agenda to expand research; translate the science to practice; expand initiatives to strengthen and sustain healthy communities; and improve the quality of life for children and families.

Research has shown a strong link to between substance abuse and teens seeking mental health care.

Stay tuned for lessons learned.

Photo at right: Portland State University was well-represented, as you can see from the contingency (left to right) John Ossowski, Janet Walker, Susan Richardson, and Nancy Koroloff.

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Program in Loudoun County, Virginia Reduces Recidivism in Teens

For over a decade now the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Based Probation (SBP) program has worked to reduce recidivism in teens and made impressive gains in combatting the school-to-prison pipeline. Since the program was instituted in the 2002-2003 school year, SBP has provided “a safety net to those students who might be tempted, through peer pressure or otherwise, to fall into delinquency patterns.”

It’s working. As a direct result of this program, Loudoun has seen its juvenile crime and discipline incidents fall dramatically while its school population has grown.

SBP’s data shows that having a probation officer at school improves attendance, academic performance and student behavior. In addition, SBP reduces recidivism, which lends to a safer school environment and community-at-large.

Keeping teens out of the juvenile justice system isn’t the program’s only goal though. According to an SBP brief,

While recidivism rates for court-involved youth are target, a child with an improved attendance record will perform better academically, and overall behavior in school and the community will improve as well. Truancy often leads to delinquent behavior for many youth. The school based probation officer monitors attendance on a daily basis. The communication gaps between schools and Probation Officers have been greatly reduced.

For more on the Loudoun County School Based Probation, download the PDF >>

For more on the school-to-prison pipeline, see our past reporting >>

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Sneak Peek: Recovery Month 2014

September 2014 is still several months away, but SAMHSA is already busy preparing for the 25th anniversary of Recovery Month. The trailer below gives a sneak preview of what was accomplished in 2013, along with a look ahead to 2014's Recovery Month.  

Learn more about how you can help support Recovery Month 2014 >>

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Medicine Abuse Through the Eyes of a Teen; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • The School to Prison Pipeline Issue (Corrections.com)
    The phrase “School to Prison Pipeline” has been widely used to describe what happens when school misconduct is answered with suspension, expulsion, and police intervention, as opposed to primarily internal consequences and sanctions. This “criminalizing” of student behavior, it is suggested, unfairly targets minority juveniles, often injecting them into the juvenile justice system, and increasing the opportunity for premature incarceration as a juvenile offender.
  • Rewrite of Juvenile Justice Statute Would Include Prevention, Trauma-Informed Care (WGCU.org)
    The Florida Legislature is moving to overhaul the law governing the Department of Juvenile Justice during the session that starts March 4th. The rewrite would focus on preventing kids from coming into the juvenile justice system in the first place.
  • Young Voices Become Strong Through WritersCorps (JJIE.org)
    Nine young people stood on a stage last week in San Francisco to read their poetry — and two others detained in juvenile hall had their recorded voices presented. "You can feel the heat and desperation," read student K.M. from his poem about the sun, recorded at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.
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How About a Caring Adult for Every Teen?

Community leaders in Snohomish County, Washington, are helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol, mental health issues and crime.

They have a lofty goal: To have a caring adult help every teen.

The Herald of Everett, Washington, recently highlighted mentors who spoke out on behalf of young people involved in the juvenile justice system: 

"They're not bad kids. A detour has taken them off the road to success," Litzkow says, repeating a mantra favored by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss. Weiss presides over the juvenile drug court at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center. He also is a champion for the county's Reclaiming Futures project. The pilot program was launched in 2010 in the county's juvenile court system. It's modeled after a national initiative aimed at providing effective treatment for drug- and alcohol-addicted teens, and caring for their needs once they're out of the criminal justice system. A large part of that initiative is connecting kids with positive role models.

Deena Eckroth, 49, believes young people need support regardless of some of the bad decisions that they may make. "They've had enough people abandon them," Eckroth said. The Mukilteo mother of two grown children recently was paired up with a 15-year-old girl. Eckroth said she was compelled to volunteer with at-risk youth in part because of her experience as a human resources manager. She has had to turn people away for jobs because of their past mistakes. "It made me wonder what happened in their life and what could have helped that person turn around," she said. "This really makes sense for me." Eckroth now is recruiting co-workers and others to become mentors.

This effort builds on the success of the Promising Artists in Recovery program that is still going strong in Snohomish County. 

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