Juvenile Justice and Teen Substance Abuse Treatment - News Roundup

  • Teen alcohol and drug treatment is often paid for with funds from the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds. So it was especially good news to hear that 4 million more children will be covered by the federal program.
  • No word on who the permanent new Drug Czar will be. In the mean time, an interim Drug Czar was named by Obama.
  • Even alcohol and drug policy groups at the state level can be subject to politics: in New Jersey, the State Comptroller audited the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for the first time in its 20-year existence, and said its $10 million budget would never produce "measurable results."
  • Should teens be prosecuted if they bring a friend who's overdosed to the hospital, or should they receive "safe haven" in order to encourage them to save lives? That's the policy question at the heart of a tragic case of a Chicago teen who overdosed on heroin recently.
  • Connecticut is one of three states in the nation that automatically prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-old kids in adult court. The state had plans in place to begin handling these teens in juvenile court instead -- plans that are now on hold because of cuts in the Governor's budget. True, it costs more to serve teens in the juvenile system in the short-term, but kids who are served in the adult system are more likely to be victimized by older offenders -- and more likely to recidivate as violent offenders than if they're served in the juvenile system.  Is that a price tag we're willing to pay? [UPDATE: Youth Today says that local communities in Connecticut were worried about an "unfunded mandate", and has information about why that perception may be inaccurate.]
  • When it comes to providing harsh punishment to juveniles, Connecticut has company. According to the New York Times, "Only eight people in the world are serving sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed when they were 13. All are in the United States. And there are only two people in that group whose crimes did not involve a killing. Both are in Florida, and both are black."
  • Then again, the juvenile justice system isn't always so hot, either. Living conditions in a Wyoming juvenile detention center have been described as "appalling" and the ACLU describes it as "a lawsuit waiting to happen"; and there's a class-action lawsuit filed in New Orleans, where the teens awaiting trial are housed in a detention center featuring amenities like rats, mold, no educational services, and so few staff that the youth are kept in their cells for 20+ hours a day. Why do we treat our kids so badly?


Updated: February 08 2018