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D.C.'s juvenile justice system could be restructured and more -- news roundup
  • On TV: "Young Kids, Hard Time"
    On Sunday, November 20 at 10 pm EST, MSNBC will premiere a one-hour documentary that throws back the veil on the reality of young kids serving long sentences in adult prisons. (Hat tip to the Campaign for Youth Justice.)
  • Reform: D.C.'s juvenile justice system could be restructured
    Council member Jim Graham, charged with overseeing the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, is considering a radical change to the agency via, "job development programs, we would have literacy, we would be dealing with this marijuana addiction, having mental health because a lot of these kids are abused. It would be different."
  • Civil citations are key to Florida's juvenile justice reform
    On July 1, 2011, Florida law began requiring counties to establish a local civil citation process for youth that requires them to admit to the offense, perform community service and possibly participate in intervention services. The non-recidivism rate is 93% in one FL county that has been using this program for two years.
  • New community care option for girls in Baltimore
    Girls going through the juvenile justice system now have an alternative to detention while waiting to be adjudicated - an alternative that’s been available to boys for years. Some can now attend a youth monitoring program that allows them to live at home and attend a reporting center.

Life sentences for juveniles subject to U.S. Supreme Court review and more -- news roundup
  • New report on dual involvement
    A study in Los Angeles shows dual involvement connects to major struggles in adulthood. Young people who exit both foster care and juvenile justice earn less as young adults and cost the public more than youth who only exit foster care, and are more than twice as likely to have been treated for a serious mental illness.
  • Advice to a parent with a teen struggling with drug addiction
    Cherie Miller talks with Grant Voyles, a certified addiction counselor, about the warning signs and the importance of education.  Of course practice, patience and consistency don't hurt either.
  • Life sentences for juveniles will be subject to U.S. Supreme Court review
    Less than a year and a half after ruling that such sentences are unconstitutional for youths convicted of a crime other than murder, the justices accepted two inmate appeals that would extend that conclusion to homicide cases, at least for children 14 and under.

CyberShoutout to shatter the myths about adolescent substance abuse and more -- news roundup
  • Thanks for Participating in the CyberShoutout October 28
    The National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is aimed at educating teens about drug abuse. All you have to do is tweet, blog or Facebook to spread the word about NDFW and help shatter the myths about drug abuse.
  • Inaugural Issue of Journal of Juvenile Justice Available
    The Journal is an accessible, practical tool for a diverse researcher and practitioner audience. The semi-annual, peer-reviewed journal is sponsored by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention addresses juvenile victimization, delinquency prevention, intervention, and treatment.
  • Scientists Create Vaccine Against Heroin High
    Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have developed a highly successful vaccine against a heroin high and have proven its therapeutic potential in animal models. (Hat tip to Robert Ackley.)

New National Poll: Strong Support for Youth Rehabilitation Over Incarceration and More -- News Roundup
  • New National Poll: Strong Support for Youth Rehabilitation Over Incarceration
    Poll highlights critical and timely information on youth in the justice system, showing overwhelming public support for treatment and rehabilitation of youth over incarceration and automatic prosecution in adult criminal court. This survey, a sample of 1,000 American adults, was commissioned by the Campaign for Youth Justice.
  • Sustainability: Impact Beyond Grant Programs
    These slides and guides from Pennsylvania State University are very helpful for juvenile justice programs and prevention work. (Hat tip to Paul Savery)
  • Feds Tell California Marijuana Dispensaries to Shut Down
    U.S. attorneys say they will prosecute landlords who rent space to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. The attorneys said they suspect these dispensaries of using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales.

Juvenile Justice Reform - Tell the Right Story & Keep Going!



What a Long Way We've Come
Almost exactly three years ago, I was asked if I would be interested in launching, writing, and editing a blog for Reclaiming Futures, focused on juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment.

My answer then: Would I ever!

Seven hundred and eighty-six posts later -- many authored by some of the leading experts in the field -- it's time for me to lay my figurative pen down. (Fortunately, I know I'm leaving the blog in very good hands; you can count on Reclaiming Futures to remain a go-to source for information in the fields of juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse treatment.)

When I began, hardly anyone else was using blogging or social media to talk about juvenile justice or adolescent treatment. To say that's changed is an understatement. There's been a virtual explosion of skilled and thoughtful people disseminating news, opinion, new research, and best practices (in juvenile justice, anyway; teen treatment has a ways to go).

I think that's great. But it's not enough.

Where is Due Process in Juvenile Court?

juvenile-court_juvenile-court-hearings-room-sign“They can’t do that!”

This quickly became my mantra when I started as a juvenile defender nearly a year ago.

My colleagues heard it so often they joked about recording me and just playing it back while I was observing court proceedings so that I wouldn’t have to speak. Unfamiliar with the differences between how the criminal justice system treats juvenile and adult offenders, I was clearly unprepared for some of the things I witnessed when I first arrived in juvenile court.

You see, juvenile courts are quasi-criminal, meaning many of the aspects I expected to see in a criminal court are present, but the result of juvenile delinquency proceedings is supposed to be more rehabilitative than punitive, and “in the best interest of the child.”

What I learned this to mean is that prosecutors, judges, and a state’sdepartment of juvenile justice have much more latitude to make recommendations for a child’s “best interests.”  Because of this latitude, I have actually heard a judge say, “Don’t even think about requesting bond until you tell us where the weapon is,” at a detention hearing.

What happened to the presumption of innocence, or the right to avoid self-incrimination?  Decidedly, this judge believed it to be in the child’s best interest to explain what had happened, even if doing so would implicate the child’s own involvement.

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!

juvenile-justice-system_iPad-with-OJJDP-logoIf 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.)


Photo: mikepetrucci under Creative Commons license/edits Benjamin Chambers

OJJDP Pre-Conference Livecast: Reclaiming Futures and the Juvenile Drug Court
juvenile-justice-reform_broadcast-antennaReclaiming Futures will be hosting an all-day workshop on October 10, 2011 at the the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) pre-conference next week, the Monday before the full juvenile justice conference gets underway. 
Best of all - we'll be livecasting it: you can watch it right here on our blog. The workshop is called, "Reclaiming Futures and Juvenile Drug Courts." It kicks off at 8:30 am EST, and finished up at 4:45 pm EST.
To sit in, tune in on Monday, October 10, right here at
At the end of the day, participants will be able to:

•    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

juvenile-justice-reform_pensive-girlImagine a group of young girls who suffer from depression, severe neglect, sexual and physical abuse and are in the care of a government agency. 

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.