Prioritizing public health and wellbeing for youth and communities

When David Wechsler introduced the world to the concept of “therapeutic jurisprudence” in 1987, he opened the eyes of the juvenile justice system to a complex challenge faced by stakeholders: How do we counterbalance the parallel mission of upholding the law while also bringing about positive “therapeutic” change in the people served by that system? Striking this balance is a struggle in a juvenile justice system which not so long ago favored a very punitive lens.  

In the past 20+ years, the juvenile justice system evolved from overusing detention and incarceration for minor offenses, and viewing offenders as “super predators”, to a system which takes into account a youth’s treatment needs, their history of trauma, and adverse childhood experiences. The system now weighs culpability against what we know about adolescent brain development and increasingly acknowledges the role played by race, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  

In spite of great progress over the years, we still have a long way to go. Our mission at Reclaiming Futures is to support juvenile justice and school systems in maintaining fair and just practices, which maximize health and wellness, and mitigate against the collateral consequences of an overly punitive system.

Updated: January 07 2018