Improving State Juvenile Justice Systems and More -- News Roundup
- Why Are All the Black Kids in Special Ed?
Minority students (and especially Black students) are disproportionately diagnosed with disabilities and placed in special education or lowest-level courses. The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia makes the case for seeking a second opinion.
- Lasting Drop in Smoking, Delinquency, Drug Use
Study shows that tenth-graders in towns using Communities That Care, a prevention system developed by University of Washington researchers, are less likely to have tried drinking or smoking compared with teens living in towns that had not adopted the system. Delinquent behavior, including stealing, vandalism and physical fights, decreased too.
- Kids-for-Cash Sentencing Set for November 4
Robert J. Powell, the former co-owner of two juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania who testified he paid kickbacks to two judges, may serve 21 to 27 months in prison for failing to report a felony and abetting tax evasion.
Visit Reclaiming Futures at the OJJDP Conference and Win a Free iPad!
If you're lucky enough to attend the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) conference on juvenlie justice in Maryland next week, October 12-14, 2011, then you might just be lucky enough to win a free iPad.
Make sure you stop by the Reclaiming Futures booth (#209) in the exhibition hall at the conference, where we'll be showing off our blog (ahem) and answering your questions about Reclaiming Futures. We'll be there:
Tues 10/11 - 10/11 1pm-6pm
Wed 10/12 - 7:30am-6pm
Thur 10/13 - 7:30am-6pm
Leave your business card with us to subscribe to our e-newsletter -- (and what the heck - you may as well sign up all your co-workers and friends, if they're willing) -- and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a free iPad! (If you're already a subscriber, your entry will still count in the drawing.)
OJJDP Pre-Conference Livecast: Reclaiming Futures and the Juvenile Drug Court
• Define and describe the increasing challenge of substance abuse (and other behavioral health issues) for juvenile offenders.
• Define and describe Reclaiming Futures as a standard of care to address this challenge.
• Begin the process of assessing readiness and preparing to retool local juvenile justice responses to substance abuse and delinquency.
• Take steps to assess community recovery capital and increase direct community engagement options at the local level.
Can't tune in for the whole thing? Here's our agenda:
County Jails a Bad Place for All Children, Especially Girls
Now imagine that these girls’ caretakers have little or no experience working with children, little or no familiarity with the medical and mental health needs of emotionally and physically battered girls, little or no support for formalized training on child development and no supervision by professionals with child-specific experience either. Then consider extremely limited resources for the care, health services and education of these particularly vulnerable and needy children.
This scenario sounds like it would lead straight to public calls for vastly improved child protection and investigations into government agencies’ poor management and improper use of taxpayers’ dollars. Unfortunately, it accurately describes legislation that was rushed through by the 2011 Florida Legislature (Senate Bill 2112) and signed into law.
Connecticut Gets A+ in Reducing School Arrests
Reclaiming Futures: Improving Treatment for Youth Involved with the Juvenile Justice System
Our mantra at Reclaiming Futures sums up our goals for youth in the juvenile justice system: more treatment, better treatment, and beyond treatment.
While not every young person who uses or abuses drugs and alcohol is addicted, we know that addiction is a disease that usually has its onset in adolescence, so intervening early is important. But the problem is particularly acute in the juvenile justice system, which refers nearly half of all teens who enter publicly-funded substance abuse treatment.
We also know that nearly one in five youth at the door of the juvenile justice system have diagnosable substance abuse disorders-- and that the percentage goes up, the deeper youth penetrate the system. Of youth in post-adjudication placements, 47% have alcohol and drug disorders. Furthermore, the groundbreaking Pathways to Desistance research on serious juvenile offenders found that substance use was strongly related to their continued criminal activity.
The good news is that substance abuse programs that involve an individual’s family in the intervention are one of the few things that reduced recidivism. That's why, in the communities we work with, we promote the expansion of treatment – more treatment – and the implementation of evidence-based screening and assessment tools, such as the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) – better treatment. Many times, trauma or other unmet needs can be a contributing factor in a youth's negative behavior choices and need to be addressed.
The Many Things Wrong with A&E’s “Beyond Scared Straight” Program
The "Beyond 'Scared Straight'" message, "In prison for a day to stay out for life," certainly appeals to a television audience. The hit series from Disney’s A&E Network became the most-watched original series launch in the network’s history with an audience of 3.7 million people. The show is a spinoff of the multiple award-winning documentary films also produced by Arnold Shapiro.
But do "scared straight" programs really work to reduce juvenile crime?
“No,” claimed Professor James Finckenauer, Ph.D., from Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, in his address to the National Conference of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in New York City in July. Finckenauer, author of Scared Straight! and the Panacea Phenomenon Revisited, cogently explained why those programs don’t work by examining the concept of “deterrence” as applied to teenage thinking and behavior.
I confess I was one of the judges who accepted the evidence that “scared straight” programs didn’t work, but I couldn’t figure out why. After all, I thought, I certainly would have been “scared straight” after experiencing a day in prison, including being yelled at by brutal inmates, clanging bars, menacing guards, etc. Why wouldn’t it work on at-risk teens? What was wrong with the headline, “They think they’re fighters. Will it change when they can’t fight back?”
Less Scared Straight, More 'Talk Therapy'
The other day I watched the A&E program Beyond Scared Straight for the first time. I'm familiar with the original 1979 Academy Award winning documentary, Scared Straight!, that inspired many states across the country to institute similar programs in an attempt to deter juveniles already involved with the criminal justice on some level from a future life of imprisonment. These kids are taken on a tour of a jail and introduced to prisoners who recount horror stories of their time behind bars. The hope is that once given a taste of the grim reality of prison life, these 13-19 year old kids will want to go "straight" and avoid incarceration. Executive produced by the director of the original, Arnold Shapiro, this new "reality" series is the highest rated original program in A&E's history.
The show has been met with harsh criticism. In an op-ed for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, director of Justice Programs at Governor's Office for Children and Families in Georgia, Joe Vignati wrote: "The scared straight approach is an inappropriate and unacceptable means for disciplining children. This approach has been shown to cause short -and long-term harm and actually INCREASES the likelihood of re-offending among some participants."
A January op-ed for the Baltimore Sun titled "Scary -- and ineffective," written by Laurie O. Robinson and Jeff Slowikowski, two Justice Department officials, sites research that says those who participated in a scared straight type program were 28 percent more likely to offend than youths who had not participated. The Campaign for Youth Justice is calling for the show to be pulled from A&E.
In the episode I saw, there was a young man named Brandon who lived in Detroit. Brandon sported a tattoo on his right forearm of a skull and the word "Heartless" underneath and said he lived by the creed "MHD," which stands for "Money, Hoes, Drugs." Money brings women, and drugs bring money, Brandon explained. The worst he had ever done, he admitted, was shoot someone.
North Carolina Governor Announces Statewide Expansion of Reclaiming Futures to Help Teens Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime
Raleigh, N.C. (September 14, 2011) -- North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue today announced a partnership between state agencies and two North Carolina foundations that will expand the successful Reclaiming Futures program from a model to a statewide initiative that helps youths in the juvenile justice system beat problems with drugs and alcohol. This tested and proven program will help put teenagers on a path toward finishing high school ready, for a career, college or technical training.
"This program takes my priority of making government more efficient, taps into the expertise and resources of the private sector and uses them for the most important purpose imaginable - protecting the future of our young people," Governor Perdue said. "This is an investment in turning young lives around."
Recognizing All Victims of Crime
Over the last few decades, the victims' rights movement has been effective in highlighting the needs and concerns of victims of crime. This movement –- born out of the women’s right era of the early 1970s -– continues to pick up steam as states amend laws and policies to give victims more defined rights and services. However, as the victims' right movement has evolved, so must its recognition of and treatment of victims.
When you hear the word “victim,” seldom do you associate that with young African American men. Society, through sensationalist media reporting, scapegoating and rhetoric-laden politicking, has done a thorough job of painting what a “perpetrator” and a “victim” look like. One of those paintings uses more color than the other.
The irony of such mischaracterization is that young black males are victimized at a higher rate than any other demographic. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2008, blacks are victimized at a personal crime rate of 26.6 percent in comparison to whites, who are victimized at a personal crime rate of 18.6 percent –- yet when victims are talked about, this population doesn’t enter the discussion.
Going into my senior year in high school, I worked an entire summer from sun-up to sundown to save enough money to help my mother buy me a car. When I finally got that car, it was broken into not long afterward. I felt angry, stranded, violated, sad and a whole host of other emotions, but for whatever reason, I never felt like a victim.
Why not? I had obviously just been victimized.