JMATE 2012: Ask a Judge: Demystifying Juvenile Court and How Judges and Treatment Providers Can Partner Together Successfully

Earlier this afternoon, I sat in on a JMATE panel with three juvenile court judges who discussed how Reclaiming Futures works in their courts and why other courts should consider implementing the model. 
Judge Anthony Capizzi of Dayton, Ohio, began the presentation with the problem: too many teens today are struggling with drugs, alcohol and crime. Eighty percent of the youth Judge Capizzi sees have alcohol or other drug problems and many are self medicating. And this is not unique to Ohio.
As a juvenile court judge, Judge Capizzi finds that treatment helps reduce recidivism, saves money and builds safer communities. BUT most juvenile courts are not set up to detect and treat substance abuse or provide mental health services. And this is where the six step Reclaiming Futures model comes in. Under the Reclaiming Futures model, court teams are set up with a judge, probation officer, treatment provider and community members. The teams work together to make sure that kids are screened for alcohol and other drugs at intake and sent to treatment when needed.

Judge Beth Dixon from Rowan County, North Carolina, stressed that through Reclaiming Futures, her court is saving money and putting kids on the path to recovery. She explained that she may not even see some of the troubled youth, because they are assessed at intake and may be diverted to treatment programs. Out of all the kids sent to treatment last year, only 9% failed to complete it. In her court, recidivism is at 11% which is much better than the statewide average of 34%. Judge Dixon stressed that folks need to let their juvenile judges know that they can do better than the status quo and Reclaiming Futures is a viable (and proven) option. 
Judge Bruce Weiss of Snohomish County, Washington discussed the importance of building relationships between the court, probation and treatment providers. As a juvenile court judge, he's implemented Friday night game nights where probation, treatment, court and community members come together to get to know each other and strengthen their relationships.
Judge Weiss also noted the importance for troubled teens to have positive adult role models and mentors. Many of the kids he sees in court lack positive adult relationships so in Snohomish County, they are working on partnering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Questions ranged on the role of families in the Reclaiming Futures model (very important in steps 3-6), the cost (Judge Capizzi said the cost is zero when savings are factored in) and how to learn more about Reclaiming Futures (click here).
The panel ended with Judge Dixon saying, "what we do is we try our best to keep these kids at home with their families." The role of juvenile court judges is to help troubled young people get treatment and back on the path to success.

Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.

Updated: February 08 2018