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The Crime Report's Person of the Year; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • The Crime Report's Person of the Year (
    A New York University law professor who persuaded the Supreme Court to extend its ban on mandatory sentences of life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles to young people convicted of murder—and thereby dramatically transformed the landscape of juvenile justice—is The Crime Report’s choice for Criminal Justice Person of the Year in 2012.
  • Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform Recommendations Would Lock Up Fewer to Save Millions (
    Georgia should save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year by diverting some juveniles away from detention facilities and into community-based programs, according to a group tasked with reviewing the state’s criminal justice system. The state’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians recommends reversing some of the harsher policies of the 1990s on how Georgia punishes its youngest offenders.
  • Discussing Juvenile Justice with "Pure Politics" In Kentucky (
    Last month, Right On Crime’s Jeanette Moll traveled to Kentucky to present research on juvenile justice to stakeholders involved in reforming several aspects of the state juvenile system — including how it handles status offenders. A task force in Kentucky is studying the issue, and it is looking for lessons from Texas’s experience.
  • Department of Justice Enters into Agreement to Reform the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee (
    The Department of Justice announced that it has entered into a comprehensive memorandum of agreement with the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., to resolve findings of serious and systemic failures in the juvenile court that violate children’s due process and equal protection rights.
  • Improving Juvenile Justice (
    Florida Department of Juvenile Justice officials and staff are traveling around the state to educate stakeholders and citizens on the reach of its new “Roadmap to System Excellence” plan. What the plan does is sets Florida on a new path in this endlessly fraught area of juvenile delinquency and its prevention. As president/CEO of the Florida Network, I stand with DJJ secretary Wansley Walters and this bold plan.
  • Harsher Discipline Often Dispensed to Minority, Disabled Students (
    Students of color and those with disabilities receive harsher punishment in schools, punishments that are often a precursor to their entry into the juvenile justice system, The Washington Post reports. Each year, more than 3 million children are expelled or suspended from schools, according to Civil Rights Data Collection figures released last spring by the Education Department. During analysis of 72,000 schools in the 2009-10 academic year, at least 240,000 students were referred to law enforcement.

[New Report] Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its annual report on mental health, The 2011 Mental Health Findings Report (PDF download), with new insights about mental disorders of 12 through 17 year olds.

Estimates in the report include major depressive episodes (MDE), treatment for depression (among youths with MDE), and mental health service utilization. The report focuses mainly on trends between 2010 and 2011 and differences across population subgroups in 2011. Major findings from the report are included below.

Teens were mostly likely to seek mental health services for depression. Additional reasons are included in the chart below:

Experts Say Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy Could be Powerful and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Court Reform Details Emerging (
    Shelby County, Tennessee, Juvenile Court Chief Administrative Officer Larry Scroggs describes the court as being “sort of at the end of the beginning” in a review process by the U.S. Justice Department. And after this summer’s scathing report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division of the court’s due process practices, Scroggs told those at a public hearing this week that the plan for systemic changes at the court will likely be a three- to five-year process.
  • Juvenile Justice Judge Speaks to At-Risk Students about Staying in School (
    As students celebrate Red Ribbon Week, the Burke County Alternative School in Georgia invited juvenile justice judge Doug Flanagan to talk to them about the importance of staying in school. Judge Flanagan says this is one of the best schools in Burke County.
  • After the Violence, the Rest of Their Lives (The New York Times)
    At a time when the homicide rate in Chicago has risen sharply, jumping 25 percent over all since last year and 100 percent or more in a few gang-heavy neighborhoods, the research project offers a portrait of both the perpetrators and the victims in struggling, gang-ridden neighborhoods.

Troubled Teens Could Benefit from Online Access to Health Records and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Why So Many Hawaiian, Samoan And Filipino Youth In Justice System? (Honolulu Civil Beat)
    Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and mixed-race youth are disproportionately represented in Hawaii's juvenile justice system, a recent study concludes. The statewide analysis found that Hawaiian, Samoan and Filipino youth "fare worse than Caucasians at the stages of arrest," a pattern that continues as the young people move through detention, probation and protective services.
  • More Juvenile Offenders Put Through Diversion Programs, Less Locked Up (
    Fewer young people in New Jersey are being locked up for offenses they commit, so states a report issued Wednesday by Newak-based children’s advocacy group Advocates for Children of New Jersey. The “Kids Count Special Report: Juvenile Justice” states that last year, the state incarcerated nearly 7,000 fewer juveniles than it did prior to the start of an initiative to bring down the what ACNJ deemed to be over use of juvenile detention.
  • Minorities Prevalent in Juvenile Justice System (
    In Minnesota, juveniles who are minorities are three times as likely to be arrested than young people who are white. A report from the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs compares rates of minority youth in the state's juvenile justice system to those of white youth. The report finds that youth of color are more than one and a half times more likely to be securely detained than white youth.
  • 'A Door to Anywhere': Juvenile Justice Center Aims to Get Kids on the Right Track (
    "When the juvenile court system started in Chicago 110 years ago, they realized that there's hope for children," Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Brutinel told an audience of 300 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for the new Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center in Prescott.
  • Study Reveals Disparities in Juvenile Justice (New America Media)
    Youth-of-color are disparately represented at all stages of justice-system processing in Minnesota, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs. The OJP report compares rates of involvement of youth-of-color at key stages of Minnesota’s juvenile justice system to those of white youth.

Supporting Systems Change in Reclaiming Futures Communities

Reclaiming Futures has helped communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime for 10 years. But how exactly does Reclaiming Futures accomplish systems change? We sat down with National Executive Director Susan Richardson to learn about the model and benefits of becoming a Reclaiming Futures site.

Lori Howell (LH): What makes Reclaiming Futures successful in a variety of communities across the country?  

Susan J. Richardson (SJR): Reclaiming Futures offers powerful tools and resources to communities helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. We work to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.

LH: That sounds like quite a feat! How do you accomplish this? 

SJR: Reclaiming Futures unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, teen mental health treatment and the community to reclaim youth.

Should 24-Year-Old Offenders be Considered Juveniles? This Story and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Youth Crime's Decline (
    The new approach to juvenile crime hasn’t just worked. It has worked spectacularly. A report last Sunday by The News & Observer’s Thomasi McDonald said that the number of young people under 16 charged with violent crimes has dropped by nearly 37 percent. The arrests in that same age group for property crimes are down 40 percent.
  • Georgia Considers Juvenile Justice Reforms (The Augusta Chronicle)
    After overhauling its adult criminal justice system to provide alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders and reduce skyrocketing prison costs, the state of Georgia is turning its attention to the juvenile justice system.
  • DJJ Launches Roadmap to System Excellence (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice)
    The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) invited the people of Florida today to participate in a conversation about the Roadmap to System Excellence. The Roadmap builds on reforms already underway at DJJ and guides Florida on the path to becoming the national model for juvenile justice administration.
  • Should 24-Year-Old Offenders be Considered Juveniles? (
    When the National Partnership for Juvenile Services annual symposium opened in Las Vegas, Jason Bowser, a youth service director from Columbus, Ind., told an executive committee that one of the standing committees was focusing on the question of “What is a juvenile?”
  • Counties Push to Bypass State Youth Lockups (
    Counties in Texas might soon be allowed to incarcerate all their teenage lawbreakers locally rather than send them to state-run lockups that have been plagued by violence, high recidivism rates and gang activity in recent years, officials confirmed Wednesday.
  • Juvenile Justice and the Campaign (
    California's second largest county is coping with widespread gang violence and prescription drug abuse among youth. But as election day nears, juvenile justice remains a whisper in a monsoon of economic rhetoric.
  • [Opinion] Adolescents in Grown-Up Jails (The New York Times)
    The practice of confining young people to adult jails and prisons is both counterproductive and inhumane. Adolescents who are locked up with adults are more likely to be raped, battered or driven to suicide than young people who are handled through the juvenile justice system. After the trauma of doing hard, adult time, young people often return home as damaged individuals who are more likely to commit violent crimes and end up back inside.
  • Florida To Completely Privatize Juvenile Correctional Facilities (
    In an effort to reduce costs, Florida's state-run residential programs for juveniles will soon be completely privatized. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice announced Monday that the state will relinquish control of the five remaining public youth residential centers by October 2013.
  • Dog Trainer Teaches Empathy at Tehama Juvenile Hall (
    When dog trainer Gary Watts faces a group of kids detained in juvenile hall, he's focused on his mission. With a Labrador retriever named Abby in tow, he puts her through her paces and methodically demonstrates the fine points of canine obedience.

New Findings on Youth Brain Development and Decision Making

The National Juvenile Justice Network recently published new research exploring the significant differences in teens’ brains compared to adults’. The latest research, “Using Adolescent Brain Research to Inform Policy: A Guide for Juvenile Justice Advocates,” looks at specific areas of the brain and how they function when involved in particular activities and thinking. This has allowed researchers to learn a great deal about how teens and adults differ when using their brains.

Major findings from the report include:

  • Brain development takes place in stages and is not fully complete in adolescence. The frontal lobe, tasked with decision making, planning, judgement, expression of emotions and impulse control may not be fully mature until the mid-20s.
  • The limbic system, which helps to process and manage emotion, is also developing during adolescence. This causes adolescents to experience more mood swings and impulsive behavior than adults.
  • Levels of dopamine production shift during adolescence. As a result, activities that once were exciting to youth may not be so as they enter adolescence, and thus they may seek excitement through increasingly risky behavior.
  • When adolescents make choices involving risk, they do not engage the higher-thinking, decision-and reward areas of the brain as much as adults do. This can lead adolescents to actually overstate rewards without fully evaluating the long-term consequences or risks involved in a situation.

[OPINION] Florida is Poorly Equipped to Deal with Juveniles Accused of Murder and More; News Roundup


Juvenile Justice Reform

  • DJJ Offenders Meet Their Victims In New BARJ Program (
    Tuesday there was a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Department of Juvenile Justice's Broad River Road complex in South Carolina as officials announced the implementation of a program called Balanced and Restorative Justice, or BARJ. The program allows young offenders to collaborate with their parents, the victim and officers to come up with solutions to their crimes.
  • New Term for U.S. Supreme Court Prompts Reflection on Children's Rights (Juvenile Law Center)
    Since 1917, the first Monday in October has been the official opening day of the annual term of the United States Supreme Court. For the first time in many years, there are no cases currently set for review that raise large questions about children’s status under the Constitution. So … it seems like a good time to pause and reflect on how children and youth have fared in recent years.
  • Feds End Monitoring of Juvenile Justice Spending (
    The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice has satisfied federal auditors that it no longer requires intensive monitoring, members of the state agency’s board learned Thursday. The monitoring began last winter when officials from the U.S. Department of Education issued citations to the state agency for how it was handling $3.3 million in federal funds earmarked for schooling children in detention.
  • [OPINION] Florida is Poorly Equipped to Deal with Juveniles Accused of Murder (
    The twists and turns in the case of 13-year-old Cristian Fernandez show how ill-equipped Florida is to deal with juveniles in such cases. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an Alabama case leaves the young man facing charges for murder for which there are no applicable penalties.

Middle Schools Add a Team Rule: Get a Drug Test and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Does the Juvenile Justice System Really Work? (
    A five-month-long investigation spearheaded by Ashley Luthern of The Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio examined the successes and tragedies produced as local courts, probation and schools struggle to address “disproportionate minority contact rates.”
  • Frequency Of Kids Sent To Detention Varies Widely (
    Juveniles in the Hartford, Connecticut judicial district who break the law are far more likely to be locked in a pre-trial detention center following arrests or referrals than juveniles from the state's other districts, an analysis of data from the judicial department shows.
  • 12 Investigates: Can Brain Injury Lead to Prison? (
    Are more kids ending up in jail because of a traumatic brain injury? A study underway of Virginia's Juvenile Justice system recently revealed as many as 20% of the children incarcerated right now have a traumatic brain injury.
  • Juvenile Justice System Youths Express Themselves in Play (
    Over the summer, a group of youths in the Clackamas County, Oregon juvenile justice system prepared a performance that was central to who they are. They received a standing ovation for their show, "Choices," and for their courage in telling their stories.

Study Pushes Early Identification Of Kids’ Mental Health Problems

Josue, 15, was born to a 12‐year‐old mother. Exposed to domestic violence and abuse, he struggled in school early on and received a special education evaluation in Grade 4 that found weaknesses in reading, math and writing.

By 13, he had been diagnosed with symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Yet, he started high school with limited support services and ended up suspended from school and referred to the juvenile justice system.

His path through public school is not uncommon in Connecticut cities, according to a new report by the Center for Children’s Advocacy, a Connecticut nonprofit that provides legal support for abused and neglected children. The report, which examined school records of 102 youths referred to the Center, found that early warning signs of mental and behavioral health problems often went unheeded until the middle school years—when interventions came too late.