Blog: Juvenile Justice Reform

Roundup: Judge Opens His Own Alternative School; Restorative Justice Pays Off; South African Teens Get High on Anti-AIDS Drug; and More

Strength-Based Focus, Positive Youth Development and Rekindling Hope

strength-based-positive-youth-development-hope-mailbox.jpg"Strength-based” and “developmentally appropriate” models are frequently mentioned and often encouraged throughout justice and treatment programming for young people. But between managed care mandates, budget cuts and staffing reductions, the reality is that one’s strength-based mindset and focus on youth development can sometimes be lost. So as we build and protect improved systems of care and opportunity for young people (as Reclaiming Futures tries to do), how do we assure that we maintain a rigorous focus on strength-based approaches for diverse groups of youth, families, organizations, and communities?

Effective Mental Health Screening in Juvenile Justice - 10 Key Steps: a Webinar

juvenile-mental-health-screenings-self-portrait-of-teen.jpgYouth Today tipped me off to an upcoming one-hour webinar on conducting mental health screenings and assessments in the juvenile justice system.
It's sponsored by The Council of State Governments' Justice Center and will be held June 30, from 3pm - 4pm EST. Among other things, the webinar will "showcase '10 steps' that have proven to be necessary for effective implementation of mental health screening in juvenile justice settings."
Follow the links to register.

*Photo copyright Adam Foster | Codefor; reposted under Creative Commons license.

Juvenile Delinquency: an Alternative Explanation, circa 1950

juvenile-delinquency-causes-Postum-ad-previewOver the years, you've probably seen various theories to explain why teens turn to crime, but I'm pretty sure you haven't run across this one: caffeine. 
Yes, that's right. Here's a 1948 ad for an instant coffee substitute called Postum, in which "coffee nerves" cause a woman to drive her son (who's apparently also over-caffeinated) into the streets. He promptly steals fruit from a local market. 

Roundup: Charging Families of Detained Kids Proposed; Swine Flu in Baltimore Juvenile Justice Facility; and More

Obama Administration To Increase Funding for Drug Courts

drug-court-funding-may-double-MicrophonesNew Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske (i.e., director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)) was interviewed on NPR earlier this week when he visited an adult drug court in California.
In the interview, you can hear him talk about the value of drug courts as a crime prevention tool; the Administration's plans to double funding for them; and his dislike of the term "war on drugs."
Juvenile drug courts weren't specifically mentioned; it's unclear if the proposed funding increases would be proportionate.

Connecticut’s Shrinking Juvenile System in National Spotlight

juvenile-justice-report-Connecticut-graphConnecticut’s juvenile court caseloads dropped by a third in the past four years as prevention and early intervention paid off. A report released by the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, Turning It Around: Successes and Opportunities in Juvenile Justice, shows how Connecticut’s system has improved since 1993, when it was so bad a federal judge had to step in to protect kids in detention.

Changing Lives Through Literature in Bristol County, Part 2

This is part 2 of my interview with Estella Rebeiro, senior juvenile probation officer at the Reclaiming Futures site in Bristol County, MA, about a local implementation of the Changing Lives Through Literature program. (See part 1 of her interview.)
Why do you think the program works?
The use of literature aids in the development of self-esteem, mindfulness and emotional well-being.  The topics of discussion promote core values, compassion, hope, respect, integrity and responsibility for self and community.

Changing Lives Through Literature in Bristol County, Part 1

Recently, I interviewed Estella Rebeiro, senior juvenile probation officer at the Reclaiming Futures site in Bristol County, MA, about a local implementation of the Changing Lives Through Literature program, which I introduced in a post last month. Ms. Rebeiro is also a certified schoolteacher and has served as co-facilitator of the Changing Lives through Literature Program for the local juvenile court since 2001. (See part two of her interview here.)  
What are your overall impressions of Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL)?
It’s the most exciting and rewarding thing I do as part of my job at the court. I’m elated to even talk about it.

Latino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System - Key Facts

Latino-youth-in-justice-system-cover-of-policy-briefA few weeks ago, America's Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice was issued by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). I already posted about it, but now that I've had a chance to scan it, I thought a few of pieces of information in it were worth calling attention to. (It's an unusually lucid and readable document, and well worth reviewing on your own.)

NCJFCJ's Juvenile Justice Conference

Still a little bit of lead time on this one: the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) will hold its annual national juvenile justice conference in Chicago July 12-15, 2009.
The agenda will cover juvenile and family law topics, including trauma, custody and visitation, divorce, child abuse and neglect, truancy, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, crossover youth, substance abuse, and Reclaiming Futures.
Registration is open to "all judges, prosecutors, family law attorneys, defense counsel, administrators, planners, social workers, psychologists, mental health professionals, CASA workers, and those interested in the improvement of juvenile and family justice."

Restorative Justice Reduces School Violence and Suspensions

restorative-justice-in-schools-teens-yellingHow do you reduce school violence?
It's easy: you get serious about restorative justice.
At least that's the conclusion I draw from an excellent report, "Improving School Climate: Findings from Schools Implementing Restorative Justice."  The report, from the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), provides intriguing data from six U.S. schools and four Canadian and British schools showing significant drops in school suspensions and "behavioral incidents."  
*Image by spunkinator from Flickr (CC License).

Childrens' Bill of Rights - Some Resources

rights-of-teens.jpgA few weeks back, I posted a "parents' bill of rights" from Texas, so it's only fitting that I also post a strength-based bill of rights for youth in the justice system (see p. 3 of the linked document) created by Laura Nissen, the National Director of Reclaiming Futures.
Now there's a model bill of rights for children in the justice system from the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, and a list of states introducing it as legislation this year: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. 

Roundup: New Database Tracking Juvenile Justice Legislation; New Alcohol Tax Calculator; Skate Culture in Native America: and More


Roundup: Art by Detained Youth Auctioned; MSNBC Show About Juvenile Justice; And Much More

Upcoming Trainings, Conferences & a Call for Conference Proposals

News Updates

  • The Harlem's Children's Zone (featured in Paul Tough's book, "Whatever it Takes") hasn't just produced good results, it's produced amazing results, according to this editorial by David Brooks in The New York Times. The Harvard economist who evaluated the charter schools in the Zone, wrote, “The results changed my life as a researcher because I am no longer interested in marginal changes.”

Keeping Kids Out of the Justice System Saves Money and Cuts Crime - But Prevention & Intervention Monies Dry Up

Looking for a succinct, convincing brief to support your case that keeping teens out of the justice system actually cuts crime and saves money?
Look no further than the Justice Policy Institute's (JPI) new brief, The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense. For example, check out the charts on pp. 10-11. They show that the 10 states that lowered youth populations the most in juvenile justice facilities between 1997-2006 saw violent offenses go down 9%, and non-violent offenses dropped by 16%. 
Yet the 10 states who put the most kids into juvenile justice facilities during the same time period saw their violent offenses go up by 8%. While their non-violent offenses did decline, they only declined by an average of 10% -- a 6% smaller drop than was seen in states who locked up fewer kids.

Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) just released a new report entitled America's Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice.
The report examines the most recent information available about Latino youth in the justice system, with a particular focus on youth tried as adults. The report finds that Latino youth are treated more harshly by the justice system than white youth, for similar offenses, at all stages in the justice system -- and it has recommendations for policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. 
Representatives from the NCLR and CFYJ will discuss this report on Latino teens and the justice system and take questions from the public in a podcast to be held on Thursday, May 21st, airing at 4:30pm EST/ 1:30 pm PST.