Juvenile Justice Reform: What Happens When You Lose a Team Member?

juvenile-justice-reform_moody-picture-of-treesOn Monday, April 19th 2010, Nassau County’s Family Court Deputy County Attorney’s Office was advised that the county was restructuring the department. Our Juvenile Treatment Court prosecutors, Gregg Roth and Arianne Reyer, were advised their services were no longer needed as of Friday, April 30th. Arianne was later given a temporary reprieve, but Gregg is gone.
This move was devastating to the treatment court and to the Reclaiming Futures initiative here, which had built a cohesive working group over the last three years. Just as when I was younger and my brother left home for the military, it had never occurred to me that anyone would ever leave our team. I am left feeling abandoned and alone with Gregg’s departure, just like I did when my brother went off to the Army. Our Nassau County Juvenile Treatment Court/Reclaiming Futures Change Team is family, and one of us is no longer here.

Given our lofty goals of systems change and comprehensive services for adolescent offenders in Nassau County, I used to think that we were insulated against the ills of normal life, floating above little “p” politics on a cloud of social reform, best interests, and good intentions. I was disillusioned, let down and disappointed; I had to face that what is best for the children in our communities isn’t always what others may think necessary as a line-item in their agenda.
I wish the rest of us adopted certain military ideals, like never leaving a man behind, because if we have to always consider the political and legislative climate in fixing what’s damaged in our communities, we’ll always have “a bogey on our six,” as changes occur on “a need-to-know basis” and we’re often left feeling like “we need cover because we’re going in”…alone.
In losing Gregg, the Nassau County Juvenile Treatment Court/Reclaiming Futures Site has lost its Juvenile Justice Fellow, Education Sub-Committee Chair, and one-half of our dynamic prosecutorial team -- who’ve been our biggest champions and cheerleaders all along. We’ve lost a colleague, friend, and family member to the rigors of legislative warfare. We expect our clients to pick up the pieces after experiencing trauma, whether significant or miniscule, yet how can we expect them to do something with their still-developing minds, when we struggle with the very same?
And the tragedy of this PTSD moment is that the ones now left feeling truly abandoned and alone are the kids who became attached to their prosecutor; the same ones brought before the court, in part, because of their own loss, pain, and insecurity. The loss of our family member not only affects those of us still in the trenches every day, but the ones we’re trying to lift up and save.
Even though unfortunate, this is the exact moment when we must renew our commitment to change. We can still embrace the Reclaiming Futures model and see adolescents diverted from the juvenile justice system by accessing juvenile-focused treatment and evidence-based practices. We can, we should, and we will. There are adolescents with serious needs who can’t afford for us to have emotional breakdowns and fail them.
So, even though we're sad for our team’s loss, we are encouraged that others are still here to pick up Gregg Roth’s mantle. We will work even harder to provide our juveniles with the tools they need to reinvent themselves drug-free, to see the world around themselves with new eyes. Gregg Roth’s tireless efforts, enthusiasm, and commitment to Reclaiming Futures will be deeply missed. But the best way to honor him is to continue the work he championed as Deputy County Attorney, Education Sub-Committee Chair, and Juvenile Justice Fellow. After all, we do have futures to reclaim.

juvneile-drug-courts_Warren-GrahamWarren K. Graham is a NYS Office of Court Administration Project Director, who oversees the administration of Nassau County Family Treatment Court and the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court. He is a NYS Licensed Master Social Worker, Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), and School Social Worker. Warren has nine years experience in the field of addictions, criminal justice, and child welfare proceedings, is active as a member of the National Association of Social Workers, and has been recognized by the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Warren begins Ph.D studies at Adelphi University Fall 2010. 

Photo of trees from image by josef.stuefer.

Updated: February 08 2018