Youth court: where teenagers hear from the people they respect the most: their peers
Tina Rosenberg, writing in the New York Times' online Opinionator column in a piece published last week, voiced support for the Youth Court of the District of Columbia, while also dissecting public misconceptions surrounding it:
While most commenters praised youth courts for taking a humane approach, reader Beliavsky from Boston wrote, "Letting young criminals (excuse me, 'troubled youths’) be judged by other young criminals does not seem right to me. There should be a real, non-criminal, adult, judge."
Beliavsky is assuming that Youth Court is the soft option. It’s often not so. As reader Andrew Rasmussen of New York said: "The appropriate comparison would be kids who do something and are taken home by the cops to their parents."
Rosenberg contends the DC Youth Court is about more than just bypassing a broken system:
There is evidence that youth courts do more than simply divert teenagers from juvenile justice: they actively create pro-social behavior. The Urban Institute study found a clue: the courts that give the most autonomy to the teenagers themselves work best ... Youth court is one of the few places where teenagers hear disapproval of their behavior from people whose respect they crave the most: their peers.
Juvenile Drug Courts: Free Online Incentives and Sanctions Training
Creating a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles in the Justice System
Good morning. My name is John Roman and I am a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where I have studied innovative crime and justice policies and programs for more than a decade. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about integrating innovative practices to better serve juveniles involved with the justice system and to improve public safety.
Using Lessons from Recent Innovations to Create a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles
Over the last decade, across the United States, there has been tremendous interest in reforming juvenile and criminal justice systems to both improve their performance and to improve public safety by reducing crime and delinquency among adjudicated youth. What I would like to describe today is how those innovative practices—the Reclaiming Futures initiative, drugs courts and other alternatives to commitment, and Project HOPE—might be integrated to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs.
In the first phase of Reclaiming Futures, begun in 2002, multidisciplinary teams in ten communities worked collaboratively to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. All ten projects relied on judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, interorganizational performance management, enhanced treatment quality, and multiagency partnerships to improve their systems of care for youthful offenders with substance abuse problems.
Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 5 of 5 - A Day in Juvenile Drug Court
Just joining us? This is part five of a five-part series. >>Start from the beginning. This segment focuses on the juvenile drug court Kyle Boyer participated in after being arrested at age 15 for burglarizing houses for prescription painkillers.
Part 5: A Day in Drug Court
Cobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program.
One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids. The assigned probation officer and counselor chime in, giving her an update on how the week had gone for the juvenile.
For these kids, failing a drug test, disregarding a curfew or skipping out on house arrest, most likely means the judge isn’t going to let them go home. More often than not, someone shows up on Wednesday night with one or both of their parents, and ends up being taken to the county Youth Detention Center (YDC) here in suburban Atlanta.
Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 4 of 5
Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning.
Part 4: Redemption and Temptation
Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean.
His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.
John, his father, had just had shoulder surgery. He'd been diligent in having his prescribed Vicodin on his person at all times, just to help ease the temptation.
Kyle once stumbled across it when his dad left them on the counter.
"I just grabbed the bottle and tossed it at him, like, 'Really?'"
The second time he wasn't thinking as clearly.
"I went into his briefcase to get an adapter and they were there," Kyle said. "It surprised me and I just poured some in my hand and took them without even thinking about it. I immediately told my parents and I felt so rotten with shame and guilt."
Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 3 of 5
Just joining us? This is part three of a five-part series. >>Start from the beginning.
Part 3: A Friend and a Reason for Hope
Kyle Boyer, 15-year-old prescription drug addict, duped his parents once again, faking a stomach ache to stay home from school. But instead of staying in bed, he went out to do what had become his norm – breaking into houses and stealing whatever the medicine cabinets within had to offer. Only this time he didn’t get away with it. This time the cops caught up with him.
Kyle pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted breaking and entering. He was placed on 24-month probation and three months of house arrest.
The house arrest was only a little better than Youth Detention Center. The loneliness was almost overpowering at times, Kyle said. Whenever he’d try to get sober, detox was awful.
“Physically, at their worst, the withdrawals hurt every bone in my body,” he said. “Every muscle was cramping and it was like the absolute worst flu possible, times two.”
Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 2 of 5
Just joining us? This is the second part of a five-part series. >>Start at the beginning.
Part 2: The Sympathetic Judge
Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who presides over Cobb County, Georgia’s Juvenile Drug Court has gotten to know Kyle quite well the past three years.
Yes, he was one of the most dangerously addicted kids she’s seen. And she’d seen plenty of heartbreaking cases that ended in tragedy.
In the more affluent suburban high schools in Cobb County, north of Atlanta, Stedman said drugs, particularly prescription painkillers, stimulants and benzodiazepines (or benzos) are easy to obtain. And sometimes, these drugs aren’t dealt with seriously inside kids’ homes.
“There’s a sense that, ‘it’s only alcohol’, or ‘at least it’s only marijuana’, or ‘it’s just a pain pill,’” Stedman said. “To some permissive, or head-in-the-sand parents, as long as they don’t hear words like crack, heroine or meth, then it can’t be all that bad.”
Webinar Reminder - Youth Have Stories
Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Check out the video above for an example.
You'll notice that the youth, "Mitchell," didn't choose to talk about recovery, but chose to explore instead a religious split in his family, and what it means to him. To learn more about how youth chose topics or the strategy the staff used in helping youth with their stories, check out my interview with them.
And don't forget, we have a webinar next week on this topic:
Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 1 of 5
Part One: Darkness Visible
It wasn’t too bad, he told them. “Go on to work, I’ll sleep some more and feel better soon.”
A couple of hours later, Suzanne got a phone call that changed the trajectory of the Boyers’ lives forever.
“Ma’am I’m with the Cobb County police department. Is this Suzanne Boyer?”
“Do you have a son named Kyle Boyer?”
Juvenile Justice Youth in "3D" (Interview and Webinar)
Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff, and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Their efforts were given great coverage in the Dec. 27, 2010 issue of The Columbian.