Blog: Juvenile Justice Reform

Statistical Briefing Book: A Place to Find Facts on Juvenile Justice Topics

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently released a Statistical Briefing Book that offers statistics on various juvenile justice topics. The Book documents where states stand on a plethora of juvenile justice issues, with data analysis tools that will allow users to create custom analysis of juvenile populations, arrests, court cases and residential placement.
The book displays documentation on the extended age of jurisdiction, how the courts classify status offenses, and administration of community supervision and aftercare services. Easy access guides to juvenile populations, juvenile arrest rates by offense, sex, and race, arrest statistics and the census of juveniles in residential placement are also featured.
The national overviews include access to FBI arrest statistics including data through 2010 and National, State, and County arrest estimates. Access to Juvenile Court statistics including national estimates of the more than 30 million delinquency cases processed by the nation’s juvenile courts between 1985 and 2010 and sections devoted to Juveniles in Court and Juveniles on Probation.

'Supper Club' Brings Stable Connection; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • For Juvenile Detainees, 'Supper Club' Brings Stable Connection (The Baltimore Sun)
    The one-year-old Supper Club program is designed around a time-tested principle — that sharing regular meals with caring grown-ups provides young people with a sense of stability and connection. It's an experience that teens inside these walls may be only passingly familiar with.
  • [OPINION] Juvenile Justice System Broken, Needs Oversight (
    "No child should ever be subject to mistreatment, and this report will hopefully incentivize our policymakers to ensure that incarceration is truly the last resort, used only for the safety of the child and the public."
  • Forum Focuses on Juvenile Justice (
    For the second straight month, the Time and Space Limited theater in Hudson hosted a meeting on juvenile justice in conjunction with the newly formed Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center. At Wednesday’s event, TSL co-Director Linda Mussman welcomed moderator and sociologist Richard Smith, and a panel of local legal experts to discuss issues facing Hudson youth in the juvenile justice system.
  • OP-ED: Families: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice (
    "In 2006, the mother of a teenage daughter involved in the juvenile justice system in Hawaii contacted a small, non-profit in Lake Charles, La., more than 4,000 miles away. The mother was seeking support from someone who could understand her plight in navigating the juvenile justice system and possibly help her find the treatment and services her daughter desperately needed."

Pushing Your Juvenile Justice Program to Excellence

Project Director Margaret Soukup, Reclaiming Futures Seattle-King County, discusses how the Reclaiming Futures model has improved their work with young people in King County. Since implementing Reclaiming Futures 10 years ago, they have become more:

  • Collaborative,
  • Supportive, and
  • Inclusive 

To learn more about helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime, please visit

To Give Up or Not? An Open Letter To Parents with Justice-Involved Teens

Dear Parents,
Teenage years can be the most tumultuous times for parents and families. However, this is nothing new. The on again off again chaotic interactions of parent versus child often impair the family unit.
When parents are blindsided by gone-astray youth, not knowing what or who to ask causes a strain on everyone. The biggest complaint I receive is that parents don’t know what to ask when experiencing a traumatic crisis. The desire to flee from their environment is the greatest urge most parents feel.
However, most stay and I call it operating under a symptom called “functional numbness”. Meaning parents are physically present, but can be emotionally detached from their teens’ problems. Some consider it self-preservation.
As parents, we have to decide whether or not we want to be “right or happy.” This was and continues to be one of Dr. Phil’s mantras. Yet, it took me some time to incorporate it into my ongoing exchanges of my own.

Past Traumatic Experiences Common Among Detained Juveniles; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Efforts Sought to Rehabilitate Troubled Youth (
    While there have been drastic changes in the juvenile justice system in the wake of the “Kids for Cash” scandal, some advocates believe Pennsylvania has so far failed to widely embrace efforts to fully focus on rehabilitating troubled young people. One of the more innovative efforts in Pennsylvania involves the use of youth courts, in which young people themselves mete out justice for their peers.
  • Bad Food, a Bible, and a Blanket: 24 Hours in Juvenile Solitary Confinement (
    As a photographer, how far would you go to get in the heads of your subjects? For Richard Ross, it meant 24 hours in solitary confinement at a juvenile detention center. Over six years, Ross has photographed hundreds of detention centers and interviewed more than a 1,000 children for a project called Juvenile-in-Justice that aims to educate people about the juvenile justice system. He’s as familiar as any outsider with the subject, but he decided it wasn’t enough.
  • Past Traumatic Experiences Common Among Detained Juveniles (
    Most young people placed in detention have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, according to a new report from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). “PTSD, Trauma and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders in Detained Youth,” released Tuesday, included findings culled from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, which assessed more than 1,800 young detainees in Chicago between 1995 and 1998.
  • Nebraska Gov. Heineman Signs Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, Focusing on Youth Rehabilitation (
    Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has signed a juvenile justice reform bill into law. The measure by Sen. Brad Ashford, of Omaha, is designed to shift the state's focus toward rehabilitation for youths who break the law. Heineman approved the legislation on Wednesday during a news conference.
  • Gov. Heineman Signs Juvenile Justice Reform into Law (
    The state embarked on a new approach in dealing with troubled juveniles Wednesday. Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a major reform bill that shifts the focus from incarceration to treatment for youthful offenders and puts state probation officers in charge of that rehabilitation work instead of state social workers.

Reclaiming Futures in Anchorage, Alaska

Tom Begich, coach and former project director in Anchorage Alaska, describes how Reclaiming Futures has transcended anything they ever imagined to create a safer, healthier community. 

  • Crime and substance abuse rates are down
  • Graduation rates are up 
  • Evidence-based practices are driving change

Celebrating Success in Hardin County, Ohio

Reclaiming Futures Hardin County recently hosted our first annual Run for Recovery 5k Run/Walk & Kids Dash. The event was held in order to involve the community in the services offered from both Hardin Community School and Reclaiming Futures, while encouraging our youth to live a healthier lifestyle. The name Run for Recovery was chosen in order to incorporate Hardin County youth in all aspects of recovery, including education, along with recovery from drugs, alcohol, crime, and mental health problems.
The race was held Saturday May 25th, 2013 at Hardin Community School/Lifeworks Center. Roughly 160 runners/walkers and youth took place in the 5k and kids dash. Each participant received a goody bag filled with local offerings and a Run for Recovery 5k t-shirt.
Businesses, organizations and individuals from the community astounded us with their overwhelming support months leading up to the race! Nearly 40 separate entities showed their support with monetary donation, door prize donations, post-race refreshment, prizes for the kid’s dash, participants’ goodie bag contributions, and sponsorships for kid’s entry fees, not to mention the countless volunteers who helped with race preparation.
Race morning was no different! Our team was greeted race morning with over 20 volunteers to help us organize. Volunteers from the Sheriff’s Office, Kenton Police Department, mentors, Hardin Community Schools’ 4-H chapter, and Hardin County Vietnam vets were on site to assist our team. Throughout the race, public bystanders lined the streets to watch as the race participants passed by their homes and offices. A huge hit for the crowd was seeing Hardin County Juvenile Court’s K9, Cory, complete the 5k with her handler Sheriff Deputy Rushing.

Justice Reform Paying Off Sooner than Expected; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • [AUDIO] Juvenile Justice System Overhaul Signed into Law (
    Nebraska will shift how it treats juvenile offenders under a bill signed into law by the governor. Gov. Dave Heineman has signed LB 561e, juvenile justice reform approved by the legislature. Heineman, during a news conference in his Capitol office, called the bill complex. Still, he has hopes for a simple outcome.
  • Dramatic Reform of Juvenile Justice Takes Shape in Legislature (
    Juvenile criminals would be rehabilitated at home, with help from probation officers, under a bill advancing in the state Legislature.
    Lawmakers advanced LB 651, aiming to overhaul Nebraska’s juvenile justice system. The bill would transfer responsibility for the state’s roughly 3,000 juvenile offenders from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Office of Probation Administration.
  • Nebraska Governor Vetoes $200K in Golf Tournament Funding (
    Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman used a line-item veto Tuesday to strike $200,000 from a budget bill that was approved to promote the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament in Omaha. The Republican governor said the budget item was unjustified, given the state's other spending priorities on education and reforms to the state's juvenile justice services.
  • Justice Reform Paying Off Sooner than Expected (
    When Gov. Nathan Deal prompted the Georgia General Assembly to undertake sentencing reform for the adult criminal justice system (to be followed the next year by juvenile justice reform), he acknowledged that he didn't expect to see any substantial changes for a few years. In terms of the state prison population, that's certainly the case so far. In fact, the state inmate count actually rose slightly from the end of 2010 through last year.
  • Massachusetts House Votes to Move 17-Year-Olds into Juvenile Justice System (
    The House unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that would move 17-year-old offenders into the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts, ending the practice of routinely incarcerating 17-year-olds in adult corrections facilities.

More Treatment, Better Treatment and Support Beyond Treatment

Thank you to Sadric Bonner, Great Expectations certified family partner, who talks about how Reclaiming Futures supports her work.
Ms. Bonner has contributed on as a parent in One Parent's Experience with the Juvenile Justice System, and as a social service partner in Youth Mentoring Has Lifelong Benefits -- for the Mentor, Too.

Juvenile Justice Shows Progress; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Shows Progress (Illinois Times)
    When the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice was created in 2006, the state’s youth prisons held 1,500 juvenile offenders. Today, there are fewer than 900 kids behind bars in Illinois juvenile justice system. It’s one sign of progress for the relatively new department, which was previously part of the adult-oriented Illinois Department of Corrections.
  • Forsyth County Clerk of Court Wants to Turn Old School into a Juvenile Court (
    Forsyth County, N.C., Clerk of Court Susan Frye wants to see the now closed Hill Middle School in Winston-Salem turned into a one-stop shop for the more than 1,300 offenders who come through juvenile court each year. Frye says the courthouse is out of space and can not house the services the young offenders are often sentenced too. Hill closed last year after consolidating with Philo Middle School.
  • Pennsylvania Finds 20 Percent of Juveniles Re-offend Within Two Years (
    A new report issued by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission finds that among juveniles whose cases were closed in 2007, one-in-five recidivated within two years. The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report found juvenile recidivism rates to be as high as 45 percent in some counties, with the average length between case closure and recidivism to be 11.5 months.

Oregon Teen Wins Poetry Award For Jailed Youth

Back in March, we published a blog post about Words Unlocked, a new poetry contest for students incarcerated in juvenile detention. Today we're happy to congratulate Oregon teenager, Brianna Nicole Ireland, for winning the contest with her poem, "Hell's Angel." Listen to Oregon Public Broadcasting's coverage below, along with a reading by Brianna. 


Mark Your Calendars: Faces & Voices of Recovery Awards on June 26

We're excited to announce the Faces & Voices of Recovery event, America Honors Recovery, recognizing the impact that individuals can have on recovery. 

Faces & Voices of Recovery will honor leaders in the addiction recovery movement, highlighting the extraordinary contributions of the country's most influential recovery community leaders and organizations at America Honors Recovery. The event, sponsored with Caron Treatment Centers, honors the exceptional energy, commitment, dedication and creativity of these individuals and organizations in advocating for the rights of people and their families in or seeking recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
WHERE: Carnegie Institute for Science, 1530 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
WHEN: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Family Visitation is More than Just a Nice Perk

After years of research, Vera’s Family Justice Program has implemented new programs which will contribute to easier access for family members seeking out their incarcerated loved ones. Considering youth school performance and behavior are both directly affected by family visitation, the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) partnered with the Vera’s Family Justice Program on the Families as Partners project to promote support from the family members of incarcerated juveniles.
Through research gathered February 2010 through March 2013, the Families as Partners project discovered incarcerated adults and juveniles with a strong tie to loved ones progress better in prison and pose less of a threat once they are released. This family relationship and contact is described as critical to the accomplishments of youth in juvenile justice facilities.
Despite the lasting benefits family visitation has on incarcerated juveniles and the community, families often face obstacles when visiting their loved ones. Thus, the research gathered sought to support staff-to-family encouragement on emotional and material support, scheduled visits and overall involvement in treatment and reentry plans.

Fewer Memphis Juveniles are Being Transferred to Adult Court; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Fewer Memphis Juveniles are Being Transferred to Adult Court (The Commercial Appeal)
    More juveniles charged with crimes are being given a chance to turn their lives around, dodging transfer to adult court where prison is a common outcome, according to court statistics.
  • Treat all 17-Year-Old Offenders as Juveniles, Illinois Senate Decides (Quad-City Times)
    The Illinois Senate Tuesday approved legislation that would send all 17-year-olds charged with a crime in Illinois first to juvenile courts.
  • Natrona County Launches Juvenile Justice Data Collection Pilot Program (Megan Cassidy)
    A program that organizes information on juvenile offenses in Natrona County may grow and help law enforcement efforts across Wyoming. Rep. Keith Gingery said problems the state has addressing juvenile justice issues are compounded because of a lack of uniform data. Few legislators believe law enforcement agencies in Wyoming target minorities when arresting juveniles, for example, but there has been no statewide data to consider.
  • Troubled Teens Art Featured at Austin Auction (
    Those who oversee the program called Project Bridge say it's a way to help the kids realize they can be successful after they leave juvenile detention. “It opens their eyes to future possibilities, of things that might be on their horizon that they've never considered,” said Travis County 98th District Court Judge Rhonda Hurley.

Road Map for Change: A Report on the 2013 Leadership Institute

The 2013 Leadership Institute, a working conference for Reclaiming Futures leadership teams helping communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, was held in Ashville, N.C., May 7-9, 2013.
Interactive workshops, plenary sessions and fellowship discussions provided opportunities to share and learn proven approaches and best practices for communities adopting, implementing and sustaining the Reclaiming Futures approach as the standard of care in communities across the nation.
Here is a sample of the topics that were addressed:

  • One Family at a Time by Michael Clark, Center for Strength-Based Strategies
  • Rest Stop: Self-Care and Leadership Survival by Laura Nissen, Special Advisor, Reclaiming Futures National Program Office, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Portland State University
  • One Faith Community at a Time by Michael Dublin, Consultant, Faith Works Together Coordinator
  • Evaluating the Impact of Adding the Reclaiming Futures Approach to Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts by Michael Dennis, Director, GAIN Coordinating Center, Chestnut Health Systems
  • How to Manage Yourself and Others Through the Stress of Change by Kathleen Doyle-White, Founder and President, Pathfinders Coaching

We'd like to hear from you. If you attended the Leadership Institute, What new skills, perspectives or strategies will you use? What insights will reinforce the efforts of your local Reclaiming Futures team?
It’s not too late to share ideas, photos and resources from the 2013 Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute. Please use the following hashtag via Twitter: #RFutures13

Courage and a Plan: Guest Post from the Justice Policy Institute

Since 2003, Washington D.C. has seen a 43 percent decline in children placed in foster care. Though some progress has been made we are still seeing greater numbers of families struggling to access the resources they need to stay together when compared to the rest of the country. Our nation’s capital has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country with nearly 50 percent of youth in Ward 8 and 40 percent of youth in Ward 7 living below the federal poverty line. In 2011, Ward 8 had the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
These same wards are predominantly African-American and have the highest rates of children entering the child welfare system, of which 99 percent are youth of color (93 percent African-American and 6 percent Latino) according to research in Fostering Change, the latest report put out by the Justice Policy Institute. Fostering Change shows how family and neighborhood poverty are two of the strongest predictors of child maltreatment, and that the conditions poverty creates can ultimately lead to a child being removed from their home.
When considered in a broader socioeconomic context, poverty becomes more than the absence of income and or earning potential—that is, a lack of work opportunities, quality or not, to support oneself and her or his dependents. It is also dealing with the collateral effects of not being able to take care of basic needs such as buying food, medical care, school supplies and adequate clothing or paying for transportation, utilities and rent. These are just some of the conditions that can lead to children being maltreated. JPI’s report found that abused and neglected children are 59 percent more likely to be arrested, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30 percent more likely to commit a violent crime. In 2011, half of youth under the supervision of the District’s juvenile justice agency, Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services (DYRS), were from Wards 7 and 8.

You see, in the end, these children grow up. For all people currently incarcerated in the United States 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men report a history of abuse as children. So, when we think about the needs of children in poverty, equal thought must be extended to that child’s family on whom she ultimately depends.
How many hardships would be mitigated and lives spared the trauma of family separation and or justice system involvement if they had access to quality jobs, mental health services and for the child, an uninterrupted education? Fostering Change cites parental incarceration, substance abuse and inadequate housing as some of the leading causes for youth involvement in the child welfare system. Nationally, 80 percent of children entering foster care are a result of at least one parent experiencing a substance abuse disorder. In 2010, 1 in 6 District youth entering foster care had an incarcerated parent. Think if substance abuse were treated like a public health issue rather than a criminal one? Or if instead of building exorbitantly priced condos, there were parallel investments made in maintaining and increasing the availability of affordable housing that kept pace with the need, as articulated by the city’s poverty levels?

Analysis of Georgia's Juvenile Justice Reform; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Broken Families, Parents Without Skills, Kids in Juvenile Justice 
    Clayton County, Georgia, Juvenile Court Chief Judge Steven Teske said, “We are having a lot of low risk kids who have very high needs because of family dysfunction...(that) don’t belong here. We’re making them worse, resulting in a 65 percent recidivism rate when they get out.”
  • Judge Among Backers of Plan to Raise Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction 
    Massachusetts considerers proposals to give the juvenile court jurisdiction over 18-year-olds. Lawmakers, a judge, and a sheriff testified before the Committee on Children and Families Tuesday in support of legislation to treat 17-year-olds as young offenders.
  • One Case Makes the Case for Community Based Services 
    Opinion: We cannot miss the opportunity to recognize what good policy means to real people -- the police, probation and detention officers, social workers and therapists. Most importantly, we should seize this opportunity to explain how juvenile policy affects a real kid in a real family.

Global Youth Justice Launches 250 Youth Justice Web Sites; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Looking Back: Top Five Juvenile Justice Blog Posts of 2013

We're a third of the way through 2013 and found it to be a good time to reflect on stories that caught our readers' eyes. Below you'll find the top five blog posts so far this year, and we're excited to continue to build on our momentum throughout the rest of 2013. 

  1. Reclaiming Futures Hiring in Portland, Oregon
    Do you support juvenile justice reform and want to help communities break the cycle of drugs, alchohol and crime? Join our staff in Portland, Oregon, where Reclaiming Futures is improving the experience for teens in the juvenile justice system by providing adolescent substance abuse and mental health treatment in 37 communities around the country.
  2. Q&A: Trauma, Young Men of Color and Transformational Healing
    Ahead of the Reclaiming Futures webinar with the National Compadres Network (NCN), I (Liz Wu) had the pleasure of chatting with Jerry Tello and Juan Gomez about trauma, young men of color and transformational healing.
  3. The Role and Purpose of Juvenile Detention in the 21st Century
    Across the nation, perspectives on juvenile detention are changing. Several experts share how they believe modern juvenile justice is implementing more rehabilitative models and what the ultimate dividends may be for both young people and U.S. society as a whole.
  4. A Community Approach to Juvenile Justice
    This Fall, the Adler School Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ) and its partner organizations with the Cook County Juvenile Justice Task Force published a concept paper (PDF download) outlining community-based, trauma-informed, restorative solutions to youth crime and conflict in Cook County, Illinois. The report provides guiding thoughts on how the juvenile justice system can better support young people while making communities safer. It also recommends alternatives to existing centralized juvenile detention approaches in Cook County.
  5. Affordable Care Act Expands Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits for 62 Million Americans
    According to an issue brief released Feb. 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act will extend mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 32 million and federal parity protections to an additional 30 million Americans.