Blog: Community Engagement

Juvenile Justice Reform: Community Organizing to Stop the Rail to Jail - Apply Now!

juvenile-justice-reform_stopping-the-rail-to-jail-coverFor parents, family members, and community advocates who care about young people in the juvenile justice system:
The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) are pleased to announce the application process for "Organizing 101: Community Organizing to Stop the Rail to Jail!" (See CJNY's publication, "Stopping the Rail to Jail" by clicking the image at right.)
This will be an intergenerational organizing intensive taking place August 11-15, 2011 just outside of Washington D.C. We are excited to offer change makers from across the U.S. an opportunity to gain skills and the means to be able to attend this intensive.
The goals of this organizing 101 intensive are:

  • Build community with like-minded individuals
  • Deepen participants' community organizing skills
  • Introduce participants to effective strategies to hold their local juvenile justice systems accountable

FY 2011 Funding Opportunities from OJJDP

juvenile-justice-system-money-close-upThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has announced the following funding opportunities:
1. Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program - deadline May 23, 2011
2. Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities Initiative -- deadline May 16, 2011
3. State Juvenile Justice Formula and Block Grants Training and Technical Assistance Program -- deadline May 16, 2011
To obtain further information about the above and other current OJJDP solicitations, including eligibility criteria and application deadlines, visit

National Mentoring Month and More - a Roundup

positive-youth-development_old-TV-that-says-newsJanuary is National Mentoring Month

Youth Mentoring: Kicking it Up a Notch

positive-youth-development_Seattle-CARES-event-flyerRecruiting mentors for youth in the justice system is all about making personal appeals to small groups of people. But finding those people who will step up with funds and their time is a continuing challenge.
That's why I'm spotlighting an upcoming event to be held in Seattle on October 15, 2010. The 4C Coalition -- one of the key partners in Reclaiming Futures Seattle-King County -- has banded together with other organizations to host an evening with Susan L. Taylor, Founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement (click on the image at left to see the invitation). The CARES movement is focused on "[guiding] struggling Black children to academic and social success." And it appears to be growing -- its "mentoring circles" are, by my count, in 60 communities across the country. 

2010 Recovery Month Toolkit is Now Available!

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-recovery_SAMHSA-Recovery-Month-2010-coverWant to plan an event for teens celebrating and promoting recovery from substance abuse? Want ideas from others?
SAMHSA recently released a toolkit to help individuals and organizations plan recovery events in conjunction with Recovery Month 2010, and to provide you with tools and educational materials to distribute in your community.
As we discussed in a previous post, 2010 marks Recovery Month’s 21st year, and we are celebrating with the theme “Join the Voices of Recovery: Now More Than Ever!” The theme emphasizes how high levels of stress may contribute to or exacerbate alcohol or drug use, which can lead to a substance use disorder or relapse. The toolkit also raises awareness about the increasing level of stress in society and the impact it has on addiction.
The toolkit, available online and in hard copy, is divided into three sections: media outreach, targeted outreach, and resources. The media outreach section includes tips and template documents to help plan and promote your events. The targeted outreach section provides details about substance use disorders that are tailored for specific audiences. The resource section shares information to help you prepare for events and suggests organizations in which you could consider partnering.

Mentors for Teens in the Justice System - Reclaiming Futures in Dayton Issues Call to Community

juvenile-court-mentors_top-story-WDTN In June, Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County in Dayton, OH, held a successful event asking members of the community to mentor teens in the justice system struggling with alcohol and drug issues. (Dayton already has a great track record in this area, having already recruited and trained over 190 "natural helpers" for these youth.) 
The event garnered a news story in the Dayton Daily News, “Kids in Juvenile Court in Need of Mentors,” and it was the "top story" (see right) on the evening news, in a story called, "Helping Teens with Mentors
Great work, team!

Related Post: Reclaiming Futures sites in Bristol County, MA, and Forsyth County, NC, also recently reached out to the community for assistance in working with teens involved in drugs, alcohol, and crime.
Bonus Related Post: Having trouble organizing successful outreach? You may be missing a key element from the community: families with children involved in the juvenile justice system. Check out this post for tips on how to engage these families and others.

Juvenile Justice System - Reclaiming Futures Sites Appeal to Community

juvenile-justice-system_Judge-Reingold-Forsyth-County-TVReclaiming Futures sites have been appealing to their communities for caring adults to help teens with drug and alcohol problems who are in trouble with the law. A community event in Forsyth County, NC recently made the TV news (the Honorable William B. Reingold is pictured at left), the paper, and also netted a positive editorial from the Winston-Salem Journal.  [LATER: Reclaiming Futures Forsyth County also appeared in a second paper, the Winston-Salem Chronicle. To see it, follow the link, then click on "Archive" and choose the paper for June 17, 2010. Then navigate to page 3. The article is titled, "A Different Approach."]
And our Bristol County, MA site also made the paper a few weeks ago with a community meeting of its own on helping drug-involved youth
Great work, everyone!
P.S. Want to bring attention to juvenile justice reform in your community? Check out this communications toolkit for justice initiatives from the Center for Court Innovation and the Bureau of Justice Affairs.

A Leadership Institute for Juvenile Justice Advocates

juvenile-justice-reform-leadership-institute_NJJN-logo[UPDATE: According to the NJJN, the Institute must be postponed until 2011. If you want to participate -- or be involved in the planning -- email Annie Balck. - Ed.] 
Anyone who has worked in the juvenile justice knows how hard it is to recruit, organize, and train advocates from the community to implement juvenile justice reform. But we also know they're out there. 
Fortunately, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is here to help.
This summer, the NJJN is offering its first ever Juvenile Justice Leadership Development Institute. They want to

create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies, with a particular focus on cultivating and supporting leaders of color, youth and family members.

The Institute will be held in New Orleans July 11-16, and will include a year of distance learning and being mentored.  Applications are due March 12, 2010. NJJN will pay transportation to and from New Orleans for those who get accepted to the program.

Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth

juvenile-justice-reform-youth-violence-prevention_cover-of-reportIt's safe to assume that we'd all like to see youth violence reduced if not eliminated. And there's plenty of work going on in this area.
But there are some major obstacles to successfully addressing youth violence in a systemic, effective way, argue Lori Dorfman, DrPH, and Lawrence Wallack, DrPH, authors of a fascinating paper called, "Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth." [Dr. Wallack is a colleague of Dr. Laura Nissen, the national director of Reclaiming Futures.]
One of the most important obstacles: violence is almost always framed -- especially in the media -- as the responsibility of an individual. And while it's true that individual choice is part of the explanation, it's not the whole explanation. By talking about violence only in terms of individuals, we subtly suggest that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. That makes it difficult for anti-violence advocates, who know that violence can be reduced and prevented by a broad-based focus on the environmental factors that contribute to it.

Teens in Your Juvenile Justice System Have Nothing to Do? They Can Help

juvenile-justice-system-adolescent-substance-abuse-resources-community-youth-mapping-logoOne of the key parts of the Reclaiming Futures model is "beyond treatment":  connecting kids in the juvenile justice system with a network of positive adults, services, and activities that will sustain them when they leave probation, incarceration, or treatment.
No problem, right? Well, as anyone who's ever wrestled with this problem knows, it's a huge problem. It can be hard for probation officers and treatment counselors to keep up with what's available. Then, too, there's the always-tricky issue of what services or activies are appropriate for which kids. 
So here's an idea from Community YouthMapping (CYM): ask the kids to help you map the services; together, you can canvass neighborhoods in search of places to go and things to do. It's a great opportunity to harness their energy, given them skills, and model pro-social behavior, and you'll often find resources you wouldn't find otherwise. 

Catch Kids Doing Things Right!

[Working with kids from a strengths-based perspective can be a powerful tool for juvenile justice reform. Don't believe me? In British Columbia, where the program described below originated, juvenile crime has reportedly dropped 41% in three years. While the cause of the drop can't be proven, the correlation is certainly compelling. The program is a great way for Reclaiming Futures sites to consider involving police officers, and should also inspire applications to teens on probation. -Ed.]

“Positive Tickets are issued to youth by Police Officers for staying out of trouble or performing good deeds. The Positive Ticket is simply a coupon, voucher, token, or note, that has value for goods, services or some type of credit, acknowledgement or appreciation. The Positive Ticket is just the beginning of a multitude of proactive, intentional, positive activities that can transform communities and shift mindsets and attitudes.”

Insulating the Education Pipeline for Teens in the Justice System

Increasingly, I find myself representing “youth development” and “youth services” in education discussions where the primary focus is on improving high school and college graduation rates. The singular focus on preparing kids academically tends to ignore supports that are critical for many children in the education “pipeline” -- those in the juvenile justice system, for example. So I’ve honed a simple but effective way to get my minority views inserted into deep “education system” focused conversations about improving the education pipeline. Building on plumbing analogies, I’ve begun to talk about the importance of good insulation.

A Juvenile Court Reaches Out to the Community

juvenile-court-outreach_community-gatheringBlue skies, a beautiful park and live music set the stage for the 3rd Annual Community Awareness Fair we hosted on Saturday, June 27, 2009. The Juvenile Office in Greene County, Missouri organizes this event to connect youth and families with local resources. The fair also allows us to expand beyond the walls of the courtroom and detention center, and into the community.

Hope, Help & Healing: Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction - Part 2 of 2

[Steve Pasierb is President and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. This is Part 2 of a 2-part post; find Part 1 of Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction here. -Ed.]

Lesson 6: A comprehensive intervention Web site is an essential tool.
Treatment messages must include a "call to action" to a phone line and, importantly, a web resource to learn more about options for help. It was found that a dedicated Web site was an essential resource for the public on addiction issues, and that media can effectively promote this resource, generating strong traffic and lengthening visit time.

Hope, Help & Healing: Using Media to Connect People with Help for Addiction - Part 1 of 2

[Steve Pasierb is President and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. This is Part 1 of a 2-part post. -Ed.]
A research-based communications exploratory by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) produced a set of 10 “lessons learned” that can be applicable to all working to communicate with the public on addiction treatment. It also became the foundation of the Partnership’s ongoing collaboration with the Treatment Research Institute (TRI), which has produced a range of innovative, useful new intervention tools like Time To Act.
Lesson 1: Public attitudes are indeed barriers to help-seeking.
Our work with RWJF identified three public attitudes that must be counteracted:

Helping Teens in the Justice System: Tapping the Community

The juvenile justice field has been one of the last to accept a strength-based or asset-based community development approach to working with young people and to working with communities to reduce juvenile crime.
However, based on pioneering work on a strength-based bill of rights for juvenile offenders developed by Laura Nissen, Executive Director of Reclaiming Futures and many other asset-based practitioners, the idea of a community development approach to juvenile justice has been slowly taking hold.  

Social Media Webinar - Register Now

Maybe you're still wondering, like me, how we got from rotary phones to "social media." Or maybe you're wondering if tools like Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, and the like are relevant for juvenile justice or alcohol and drug treatment for teens.
Well, you're in luck: the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, in partnership with Reclaiming Futures, invites you to attend a free Webinar on the ever-growing world of social media. The event will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 2, 2009.

Mentors for Youth of Color in the Justice System

Many jurisdictions want models on how to recruit mentors of color for youth in the justice system, so here's two: the Reclaiming Futures site in Dayton, Ohio site is a great example (I plan to feature them in more detail in the near future), and so is the Seattle Reclaiming Futures site, whose 4C Coalition I featured in December.

Who's Responsible for Ending Youth Violence? An Op-Ed from a Reclaiming Futures Site

 Karen Carpenter, the Community Fellow for our site in Rowan County, North Carolina, let me know that her op-ed on who's responsible for ending youth violence appeared in yesterday's Salisbury Post.
A sad occasion -- the shooting death of a teen in Salisbury -- but an eloquent call for mentors for teens who need them. Good work, Karen!