Quick Facts

In 2009, 10 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users: 7.3 percent used marijuana, 3.1 percent engaged in non-medical use of prescription-type psychotherapeutics, 1.0 percent used inhalants, 0.9 percent used hallucinogens, and 0.3 percent used cocaine.F1

In 2009, 1 in 30 youths aged 12 to 17 (3.2%) reported they had carried a handgun at least once; an estimated 3.2 percent had sold illegal drugs, and 4.4 percent had, at least once, stolen or tried to steal something worth more than $50.F2

In 2009, 1.16 million people younger than age 18 were arrested by law enforcement agencies in the United.F3

Overall, there were 8.9 percent fewer juvenile arrests in 2009 than in 2008, and juvenile violent crime arrests fell 10.5 percent, while juvenile arrests for property crimes dropped 4.7%, continuing a recent decline.F4

"…[O]nly 1 in 20 arrests of young people are for serious, violent crimes like murder, rape or aggravated assault. About 80 percent of those taken in state custody are locked up for drug offenses, misdemeanors or property crimes."F5

The Problem

Nearly one in five youth (17%) at the door of the juvenile justice system meet criteria for substance abuse disorders; in detention, 39% do; and among youth put in secure placements after adjudication, nearly half (47%) have substance abuse disorders. When youth who meet criteria for other behavioral health disorders are also counted, the total numbers rise: 35% of teens have mental health or substance abuse disorders at intake; 59% in detention have them; and 64% in secure post-adjudication placements meet criteria for a behavioral health disorder.P1

Teens in the juvenile justice system are more likely to commit crimes as adults because delinquent behavior is "contagious", according to a 20-year research project in Canada.P2

Lack of Treatment

Nearly half of all teens entering publicly-funded substance abuse treatment are referred from the juvenile justice system.LT1

In 2009, 23.5 million people ages 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem. Of these, only 2.6 million (1.0 percent of persons aged 12 or older and 11.2 percent of those who needed treatment) received treatment at a specialty facility.LT2

Only about half of probationers who have a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder access treatment services.LT3

Treatment Works

Research suggests that treatment can cut drug abuse in half, drastically decrease criminal activity, and significantly reduce arrests.TW1

Youth participating in the national Adolescent Treatment Models initiative showed reductions in substance abuse three months following treatment, particularly among youth in residential treatment.TW2

When you ask the people who work in the juvenile justice system what is the best way to address youth crime, their top answer is effective substance abuse treatment.TW3

Longer stays in juvenile facilities do not reduce offending. However, continued probation supervision and community-based services provided after a youth is released do make a difference, at least in the six months following release.TW4

Substance use is strongly related to continued criminal activity among juveniles who commit serious crimes. In fact, a study of nearly 15,000 serious juvenile offenders shows that treatment for substance use can reduce offending – though only if it involves the youth's family.TW5

However, only about 25% of juvenile males who commit serious crimes and receive substance abuse treatment are given family treatment.TW6

Treatment Saves Money

For every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs, $4 to $7 is saved on drug-related crimes.TS1

Every dollar spent on drug treatment is estimated to return more than $18 in benefits to the community.TS2

Reclaiming Futures Works

Communities that piloted the Reclaiming Futures approach to helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime reported significant improvements in juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment.RF1

Eight communities that piloted the Reclaiming Futures model have improved the social networks that juvenile justice and substance abuse agencies use to communicate and cooperate with one another.RF2

References

F1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4856Findings). Rockville, MD.

F2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4856Findings). Rockville, MD.

F3 Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Crime in the United States 2009. See Table 32, "Ten-Year Arrest Trends, Totals, 2000–2009", retrieved September 6, 2011 from http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_32.html.

F4 Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Crime in the United States 2009. See Table 36, "Current Year Over Previous Year Arrest Trends Totals, 2008–2009," retrieved on September 6, 2011, from http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_36.html.

F5 New York Times, editorial, "Fewer Teens in Lockup," September 19, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/opinion/fewer-teenagers-in-lockups.html.

P1 Butts, Jeffrey A. " How Prevalent are Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in Juvenile Justice? The Answer May Surprise You," Reclaiming Futures, February 16, 2011. Accessed October 24, 2011, at: http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/blog/node/1461.

P2 Gatti et al. Latrogenic effect of juvenile justice. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.02057.

LT1 United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. Treatment Episode Data Set -- Admissions (TEDS-A) -- Concatenated, 1992 to 2009 [Computer file]. ICPSR25221-v4. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2011-06-28. doi:10.3886/ICPSR25221. Accessed table, "Other Substance Abuse Measures by Client Characteristics," sorted by age group, on September 15, 2011, at http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/SAMHDA/index.jsp. To see the table, go to http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/sites/default/files/images/referred-from-CJ-system-SAMHDA-TEDs-data-2009.JPG (click to enlarge).

LT2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4856Findings). Rockville, MD.

LT3 Wasserman, Gail. "How Juvenile Probation Officers Identify Youth Mental Health Needs," Reclaiming Futures, March 11, 2011. Accessed October 24, 2011, at: http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/blog/node/1478.

TW1 The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES): Highlights. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 97-3159. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Office of Evaluation, Scientific Analysis and Synthesis, pp. 241–242. 1997.

TW2 Dasinger, L, Shane P, Z. Martinovich. Assessing the Effectiveness of Community-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 36(1): 85-94, 2004.

TW3 Mears, Daniel P., Tracey L. Shollenberger, Janeen B. Willison, Colleen Owens, and Jeffrey A. Butts (forthcoming, 2009). Practitioner views of priorities, policies, and practices in juvenile justice. Crime and Delinquency.

TW4 Models For Change, Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice. December 2009. Research on Pathways to Desistance. Available online at http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/239.

TW5 Models For Change, Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice. December 2009. Research on Pathways to Desistance. Available online at http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/239.

TW6 Chassin, L.,George Knight, Delfino Vargas-Chanes, Sandra H. Losoya, and Diana Naranjo. Substance use treatment outcomes in a sample of male serious juvenile offenders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36(2):183-194, March 2009.

TS1 National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2006. NIDA InfoFacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction. pgs 1-2.Online at http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/InfoFacts/Treatment06.pdf.

TS2 Aos, Steve, Marna Miller, and Elizabeth Drake. 2006. Evidence-based public policy options to reduce future prison construction, criminal justice costs, and crime rates. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Online at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov; Aos, Steve. 2003. The criminal justice system in Washington State: Incarceration rates, taxpayer costs, crime rates and prison economics. Olympia: Washington State Institute of Public Policy.

RF1 Butts, Jeffrey A. and Roman, John. Changing Systems: Outcomes from the RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative on Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse. A Reclaiming Futures National Evaluation Report. Portland, OR: Reclaiming Futures National Program Office, Portland State University, 2007.

RF2 Yahner, Jennifer and Jeffrey A. Butts. Agency Relations: Social Network Dynamics and the RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative. A Reclaiming Futures National Evaluation Report. Portland, OR: Reclaiming Futures National Program Office, Portland State University, 2007.