Blog: Juvenile Justice Reform

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.”

What Brain Science Tells Us about Kids in the Juvenile Justice System and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

adolescent-substance-abuse-and-juvenile-delinquency-lecture-videoWhoa. My brain is full.
I just finished watching, "Brain Science as a Means of Understanding Delinquency and Substance Abuse in Youth," a video you can watch online or download to your computer. It records two faculty lectures given at the University of Washington in 2006. The video's about 75 minutes long, but I assure you, it's worth watching. 

Adolescent Substance Abuse Data and ADAM II

adolescent-substance-abuse-data-ADAM-II-report-2008I'm a huge fan of the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program, now run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The program tracks, as you might imagine from its name, drug use among arrestees. Because data is taken from multiple cities around the U.S. -- and variations from city to city can be quite large -- the data's used to track and predict drug use trends over time.
The program was axed in 2003 because of budget constraints, so I was pleased to learn today that ADAM was reinstated in 2007, this time as ADAM II.

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.

Risk Assessments in the Juvenile Justice System: a Relevant Critique

juvenile-court-risk-assessments_sign.jpgOne of the more important developments in the juvenile justice system (as well as the criminal justice system) of the last few decades has been the adoption of assessment tools to classify youth by their risk to reoffend.
This is critical, since research has shown that teens (and adults) are more likely to return to the justice system the more contact they have with it; as a result, interventions need to be different depending upon whether youth are classified as low-, medium-, or high-risk. (In its most simplest form, this means keeping lower-risk kids out of detention. While this can be difficult for communities to do, it seems to result in lower incidence of crime.)

Roundup: Assessing Gender-Specific Programs for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System; New Data Center on Kids' Well-Being from Casey; and More

  • juvenile-justice-resources-trainings-and-news_oldTV.jpgInterested in what restorative justice looks like when it's implemented in juvenile court? Here's a long article about two restorative justice programs in Oakland: one uses a peer court to address low-level offenders; the other works with kids leaving detention after many months.
  • Want data on the well-being of kids in your state? Want to know how your state ranks compared with others? Check out the KIDS COUNT Data Center just launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which also released its KIDS COUNT Databook for 2009.

Can Puppets Keep Kids Out of the Juvenile Justice System?

keep-kids-out-of-the-juvenile-justice-system-with-puppets-video-stillCan puppets keep kids out of the juvenile justice system? Surprisingly, the answer is "yes."
Because “early onset aggression in children as young as age 3 is the single most-important predictor of later delinquency, substance abuse and violence," Professor Carolyn Webster-Stratton at the University of Washington developed the curriculum, "The Incredible Years," part of which involves using puppets to communicate with young, at-risk children.

Juvenile Delinquency Report Card Underscores Need for Reclaiming Futures and Early Intervention

[This post was written by Ashley Edwards, Kelly Graves, and Claretta Witherspoon, of the Reclaiming Futures site in Guilford County, NC.]
juvenile-justice-reform-North-Carolina_Old-report-cardNorth Carolina’s Action for Children recently released the 2009 Youth Delinquency Prevention Report Card.  The release of these data will inform service delivery and outreach to adolescents throughout the state, and can be instrumental in helping us advocate for continued investment and expansion of the Reclaiming Futures program. 

Juvenile Justice Reform - the Missouri Model on Video

Last March, Missouri's successful juvenile justice reform efforts (the so-called "Missouri Model") hit the national headlines because of their focus on treatment and rehabilitation vs. punishment, offering alternatives to incarceration, and working with teens in small groups outside of detention centers.
If you want to see the program for yourself, the Ash Institute at Harvard now has an inspiring 29-minute video describing Missouri's innovative innovative juvenile justice system. Check it out. 

Roundup: Juvenile Justice System Increases Teen Recidivism as Adults; Test "Predicts" Likelihood of Gang Involvement; Heavy Drinking Linked to Teens' Mental Health Problems; and More

  • juvenile-justice-news-adolescent-substance-abuse-news-old-TVTeens in the juvenile justice system are more likely to commit crimes as adults because delinquent behavior is "contagious", according to a 20-year research project in Canada. The solutions? More investments in prevention programs for pre-adolescents, and ending the practice of grouping delinquent youth together in services designed to help them. (No advice on how to accomplish the latter item.)

Juvenile Justice Reforms in S.C. Threatened by Deep Budget Cuts

juvenile-justice-reform-threatened-NYT-videoDrastic cuts to the juvenile justice system in South Carolina are reversing significant gains made by reforms there, according to a New York Times story (see left for a still from the accompanying video, "Beyond the Fence.")
The Center for the Study of Social Policy's blog calls cuts to juvenile justice programs like these "shortsighted," because they avoid future costs and keep the community safer.
(UPDATE: Interestingly enough, budget woes seem to be driving states to adopt alternatives to incarceration -- including drug courts -- in the adult justice system.)
But what do you think? Leave a comment. 

Roundup: A Guide for Juvenile Defenders in Juvenile Court; New E-Guide for Parents on Adolescent Substance Abuse; and More

  • juvenile-court-adolescent-substance-abuse-news-TVDo too many teens in your juvenile court waive their right to counsel? The Southern Juvenile Defender Center (of the Southern Poverty Law Center) just issued a teen-friendly brochure for Florida teens in juvenile court to convince them not to waive counsel. Best of all: you may be able to have the brochure adapted for your state by contacting Marion Chartoff.  

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.  

The Juvenile Justice System on TV: Lake County, Indiana

juvenile-justice-system-screenshot-from-MSNBC-show-Lockup-Lake-County-IndianaAbout six weeks ago, I noted that MSNBC was going to air six episodes on the Lake County, Indiana juvenile justice system on its show, "Lockup."
In an unusual move, the judge in Lake County gave MSNBC full access to film the youth. I haven't seen the show, but here's a local review [removed because of dead link]. You can catch a riveting -- and heartbreaking -- 5-minute trailer for "Lake County Juvenile Justice here.
Has anyone had a chance to see the actual show? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought. 

Juvenile Justice Reform: A New Strategy for Addressing Disproportionate Minority Contact

Anyone who's serious about juvenile justice reform wants to address disproportionate minority contact (DMC), and several major foundation efforts have been chipping away at the problem for over a decade.
Now, TimeBanks USA hopes to bring the "practice of sending minority youth to confinement to a screeching halt."