Blog: Juvenile Justice Reform

Nearly Half of U.S. States Enact Juvenile Justice Reforms; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Nearly Half of U.S. States Enact Juvenile Justice Reforms (
    Nearly half of U.S. states have made great strides in the past eight years toward reducing the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system or preventing youths from being placed in adult jails and prisons, a report released Thursday found.
  • ‘Raise the Age’ Advocates Tout New Report on Juvenile Justice (
    The NC Insider is reporting that advocates for raising the age at which North Carolinians are tried in adult courts are touting a new national study that notes that 48 other states have enacted legislation to prevent older teenagers from being prosecuted in adult courts.
  • When Babysitting Joins Forces With Zero Tolerance (
    Sometimes on a Friday night, when there’s nothing better to do and the streets are quiet, indigenous kids in this town 100km (some 60 miles) north-east of Perth, Western Australia, might hang out at the local police station. They’re often not there by choice, but they don’t really mind sticking around either.
  • Florida Struggles To Craft Juvenile Sentencing Policy (
    As state legislators have tried and failed to craft a juvenile-sentencing law that conforms to landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings, a national advocacy group is calling Florida a “clear outlier” among states for its hard-line approach to trying juveniles as adults.

Six Steps to Break the Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

Nearly 1 in 5 youth (17%) at the door of the juvenile justice system meet criteria for substance abuse disorders; in detention, 39% do. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only 1 in 16 young people with substance abuse disorders get into treatment
That's unfortunate, because while we need to hold teens accountable for their actions, simply locking them up does not work.
Effective adolescent substance abuse treatment can help teens stay out of trouble, make our communities safer, and save money.
The Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together, they work to improve drug and alcohol treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
Please call 503-725-8911 to learn how to bring the six steps of the Reclaiming Futures to your community:

[VIDEO] Community-Based Alternatives for Kids in Trouble with the Law

A new video from JJIE's Juvenile Justice Resource Hub explains how community-based alternatives can be more cost-effective and have better outcomes for teens than incarceration. Via the video:

All kids make mistakes; some get in trouble with the law. Instead of having a chance to learn from their actions, though, they're often sent to costly, dangerous facilities that make them more likely to commit new crimes.
What else can we do? Plenty. Many cost-effective program options, known as "community-based alternatives," have already been developed and tested that serve youth safely in the community instead of incarcerating them in jail-like facilities. Many alternatives have also been developed to divert youth from almost any point in the juvenile justice system.

Why Should You Support National Youth Justice Awareness Month in October?

Every year, approximately 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults in the United States, and the results can be devastating.
Tracy McClard knows first hand.
Tracy lost her 17-year-old son, Jonathon, to suicide when he was sentenced as an adult to life in prison. Her loss sparked a passion about youth justice and helped launch National Youth Justice Awareness Month (#YJAM).
October marks the 6th annual National Youth Justice Awareness month and offers an opportunity to come together and engage our communities on youth justice issues, particularly the harmful impact of prosecuting children in the adult criminal justice system.
The Campaign for Youth Justice, supporter of Youth Justice Awareness Month, urges you to get involved. There are several ways to raise awareness, build collective action, and strengthen relationships with other advocates during National Youth Justice Awareness Month:

  • Create a buzz. Be a social media partner by spreading the word. You'll be the first to receive alerts and Facebook & Twitter tips on getting the buzz going. Let them know you're in: Email Angella Bellota at
  • Share. Are you hosting an event, a virtual action, or doing outreach activities during the month of October? Let the Campaign for Youth Justice know. They are looking to spread the word about events around the country: again, email

Free Drug Facts Webinar October 29; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Justice Department Pushes New Thinking on Kids and Crime (
    Robert L. Listenbee, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, advocates for understanding adolescent brain development to stop what experts describe as a "school-to-prison pipeline."
  • Bipartisan Support for Criminal Justice Reform (
    The current moment of government shutdown might seem the antithesis to bipartisanship. But one area in which bipartisanship is in evidence might offer some hope: criminal justice reform.
  • Nearly Half of U.S. States Enact Juvenile Justice Reforms (
    A new report from the Washington-based Campaign for Youth Justice finds that nearly half of U.S. states have made great strides in the past eight years toward reducing the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system or preventing youths from being placed in adult jails and prisons.

Fitness Program Encourages Healthy Lifestyle in Hocking County Juvenile Justice

Preventing drug use before it begins, especially among our youth, is a cost-effective way to reduce substance abuse and its negative consequences. A great way to achieve this is by encouraging an overall healthy lifestyle, which is exactly what the Hocking County Juvenile Court (HCJC) did this summer in Ohio.
HCJC partnered with North’s Fitness Center, a local gym, to invite 14 court-involved young people to exercise in their facility at no cost for the duration of the six-week summer program called “Crush-It Fitness”.
Similar to programs like SPORT and InShape, Hocking County’s Crush-It Fitness was designed to channel the youth’s free time into something positive and guide them toward a healthier lifestyle—a tactic that can be very effective to prevent substance abuse and reduce recidivism.
A celebration ceremony was held on Sept. 12, 2013 to recognize the young people who completed the program. They received t-shirts and positive affirmations. Participants gave mixed reviews on the program—mandating exercise is tough business! But, a combination of logistic and planning feedback came in that will help Hocking County succeed if they continue the “Crush-It Fitness” program in summer 2014.

Complex Trauma Among Youth; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Complex Trauma Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Impact and Implications (
    Youth who have experienced complex trauma—repeated and various forms of victimization, life-threatening accidents or disasters, and interpersonal losses at an early age or for prolonged periods—have difficulties forming attachments with caregivers and self-regulating emotions.
  • Family Seeks Change in Law to Protect Students (
    The government has a duty to protect prisoners from harm. It also has a duty to protect people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. Yet that same duty doesn’t apply to the government when it comes to protecting students in school, according to case law.
  • Grant to Help Men Leaving Juvenile Justice System (The Boston Herald)
    The U.S. Labor Department is giving Massachusetts an $11.7 million grant for a project to increase employment and reduce repeat crimes for men leaving the state's juvenile justice system. The grant will first go to serve 535 men ages 16-22 in Chelsea and Springfield who are leaving the juvenile justice system. It will provide education and pre-vocational training to help them get jobs.
  • When Young Offenders–and Their Teacher–Say Goodbye (Kids in the System Blog)
    Last month, due to a lack of funding, the juvenile lock-up where I taught a weekly “life skills” workshop was shuttered. According to my very rough calculation, in the year that I worked there I had about 400 young men of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds pass through my group. Of those, about half came and went frequently, often gone for a couple of months to less than a week, and then re-offended to find themselves right back where they started.

New Briefs on Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Approach Released Online

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services, has released six online briefs that discuss the key elements of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system. The NCTSN website explains:

This collection of Briefs written by experts invited to the NCTSN Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable, address topics essential to creating trauma-informed Juvenile Justice Systems. These Briefs are intended to elevate the discussion of key elements that intersect with trauma and are critical to raising the standard of care for children and families involved with the juvenile justice system.
In Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable: Current Issues and New Directions in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF), Carly B. Dierkhising, Susan Ko, and Jane Halladay Goldman, staff at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, discuss the Juvenile Justice Roundtable event, describe the current issues and essential elements of a trauma-informed JJ system, and outline possible new directions for the future.
In Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention (2013) (PDF) , Patricia Kerig, Professor at the University of Utah, discusses how trauma-informed screening and assessment and evidence-based treatments play integral roles in supporting traumatized youth, explores the challenges of implementing and sustaining these practices, and highlights practice examples for integrating them into a justice setting.
In The Role of Family Engagement in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF) , Liane Rozzell, founder of Families and Allies of Virginia Youth, discusses the importance of partnering with families, explores strategies for doing so, and emphasizes ways that justice settings expand their outreach to supportive caregivers by broadening their definition of family.
In Cross-System Collaboration (2013) (PDF) , Macon Stewart, faculty at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), outlines practice examples for continuity of care and collaboration across systems, a vital activity for youth involved in multiple service systems, drawing from the CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model.
In Trauma and the Environment of Care in Juvenile Institutions (2013) (PDF) , Sue Burrell, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, outlines specific areas to target in order to effectively implement this essential element, including creating a safe environment, protecting against re-traumatization, and behavior management.
In Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System: A Legacy of Trauma (2013) (PDF) , Clinton Lacey, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, outlines the historical context of racial disparities and highlights how systems can move forward to reduce these racial disparities, including by framing the issue so that practical and pro-active discussion can move beyond assigning blame. 

Underage Suspects Are Apt to Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Here’s Why; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Underage Suspects Are Apt to Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Here’s Why. (
    Why so many false confessions? Juvenile suspects are generally more deferential to authority—at least in the context of a police interrogation—and less likely to understand the consequences of confessing to something they didn’t do.
  • [OPINION] Time to Affirm What We Mean by ‘Juvenile’ (The New York Times)
    Recent Supreme Court rulings on juvenile sentencing raise issues that go beyond what’s at stake in Miller v. Alabama. They also present an opportunity to affirm what we mean by “juvenile.” New York State may soon be the only state in the country that processes all youth as young as 16 in the criminal justice system, regardless of the severity of the offense.
  • Health and Incarceration: A Workshop Summary (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
    The health disparities that exist in our communities are concentrated in the population that cycles in and out of our jails and prisons. Justice-involved populations have very high rates of physical illness, mental illness, and substance use disorders. And their health problems have significant impacts on the communities from which they come and to which, in nearly all cases, they will return.
  • [OPINION] A Court Just for Juveniles in N.Y. (The New York Times)
    Teenagers prosecuted in adult courts or who do time in adult jails fare worse in life and can go on to commit more violent crimes than those who are handled by the juvenile justice system. Neuroscience research has found that these young offenders don’t weigh risks the way adults do, making them prone to rash judgments that can land them in trouble with the law.

Teens' Photovoices Celebrate Recovery Month

It's not too late to add your voice in support of National Recovery Month 2013 and promote the benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery for mental and substance use disorders.
Forsyth County Reclaiming Futures is leading the way this September in Winston-Salem, N.C. with:

I encourage you to visit Facebook to see the powerful images of teens' choices, their motivations for recovery and hopes for the future.

What Role Do the Media Play in Social Justice?

We’ve all had the experience of being captivated by a sensational story of a harrowing crime. Television shows, movies, articles, and books about these statistically rare events grab our attention and grip us in fear. They feed the idea that catching only the few very bad people and locking them up for life is the bulk of what the justice system does.
Reality is far more complex, of course. From mass incarceration for nonviolent crimes to overrepresentation of black people in the justice system, there are thousands of stories that deserve to be told, not just because they are real people’s experiences but because they raise questions that we as a society need to face.
It is the media’ s role and responsibility to tell the stories we as citizens need to hear. When stories are compelling and accurate, they move us to think more deeply, connect with those we might have not felt connected to, and act to change our world.
That’s why each year, through our Media for a Just Society Awards, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency recognizes those individuals in the media whose work furthers public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, child welfare, and adult protection issues. The winners of the 2013 MJS Awards competed against over 100 other nominees in the categories of film, book, magazine, newspaper, radio, TV/video, and web. This month, NCCD is featuring many MJS winners in a special blog series. Through these posts, we will learn about the impetus for their work, the challenges of its creation, and what these issues mean to them.

Juvenile Life Without Parole: The Confusion Remains; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • OP-ED: Digging up the Past ( & The Miami Herald)
    Sometimes, only by unearthing the skeletons of a tortured past can they be given a proper burial. That is what is happening in Marianna, in North Florida, literally and figuratively. A team of researchers, including anthropologists, archeologists, students and police detectives are searching, painstakingly, for the remains of young boys once confined to the Dozier School for Boys.
  • Wisconsin Considers Keeping Non-Violent Teen Offenders In Juvenile Court (Wisconsin Public Radio News)
    Wisconsin is moving slowly towards changing the age at which teenagers are automatically treated as adults when they commit a crime. A bill introduced Thursday would allow 17-year-olds who commit nonviolent crimes to be tried in juvenile court.
  • OP-ED: Juvenile Life Without Parole: The Confusion Remains (
    "Last June, on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Miller v. Alabama, I spoke to a long-time advocate for the elimination of juvenile life without parole. Like a lot of people, I was pleased with the ruling, and saw it as a victory not only for activists but for science-based research into the juvenile brain."

Get Involved in Recovery Month

Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.
What are you doing to help spread the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover?
It's not too late. Add your community's voice to the celebration now at You'll find the following helpful resources:

  • Proclamations
  • Press materials
  • Fast facts, glossaries and guides
  • Infographics

Kudos: College Basketball Players Hold Clinic at Juvenile Correctional Facility

Four members of the Fort Hays State University (FHSU) basketball team, with Assistant Coach Sean Dreiling, visited the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility (LJCF) in late August to teach basketball and encourage young people to make healthy life choices.
“They’ve been doing this for several years, and it really makes an impact on the young men,” said LJCF Chaplain David Hales. “This is a chance for them to interact with heroes in their eyes.”
For the FHSU players, one of the benefits of helping with the clinic is in the experience of coaching. Though NCAA rules prohibit them from playing against the youth, they can supervise drills and demonstrate techniques. The clinic includes contests, competitions and drills, and culminates with a scrimmage, which the FHSU players coach and officiate.
FHSU assistant coach Jeremy Brown has been bringing players from his program to LJCF for clinics for the past several years. He said the college students benefit from the experience of seeing life inside a correctional facility and from giving of their time to a good cause. “Our guys have worked hard and made a lot of good choices to be where they are, and for them to go and set a good example and encourage the youth at LJCF is a really special,” said Brown. 

New Hope – Health Care for Justice-Involved Youth; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Years Later, Mother and Daughter Still Scarred By Teen Boot Camp Experiences (
    Nicole’s story is one demonstrating both how far -- and how little -- mental health treatment in the nation’s juvenile justice systems have progressed. In a state fraught with Department of Youth Services troubles, she did not receive intensive treatment or rehabilitative services when she entered Alabama’s juvenile justice system.
  • A Court to Give Juveniles a Chance (Tampa Bay Times)
    "Plenty of kids who commit serious crimes deserve adult court and adult sanctions. Others — like juveniles who end up there because a co-defendant qualifies for adult court — might be salvageable. As Judge Stoddard put it: 'Some kids have burned all their bridges. Some kids haven't had the opportunity.'"
  • OP-ED: New Hope – Health Care for Justice-Involved Youth (
    "We may not all become astronauts, actresses or the next NBA all-star, but the beliefs we have in ourselves during childhood are often reflections of the paths we take into adulthood. For this reason it is important for the health of a society to nurture, respect and enrich its youth."
  • Courts Split Over Ruling on Juvenile Life Sentences (The Wall Street Journal)
    Jeffrey Ragland, sentenced to life without parole in 1986 for his involvement in the killing of a fellow teen with a tire-iron blow to the head, could soon be a free man. That outcome is the result of a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court last month that found the sentence handed down to Mr. Ragland, now 44 years old, unconstitutional.

New Education Program Offers Incarcerated Youth Future Career Options

Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) in Topeka recently launched the Environmental Water Technology program, preparing incarcerated youth the opportunity for future careers in water technology.
The program is a collaborative effort between the community college, Washburn University, the Department of Labor, and the correctional facility and are offered to all residents of KJCC who have completed a high school diploma or GED. Students have the opportunity to receive credentials in four different water technology programs:

  • Water Plant Operation
  • Water Distribution System Operation and Management
  • Waste Water Plant Operation
  • Waste Water Collection System Operation and Maintenance

The facility hosts instructors from Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train the next generation of water technicians.

“We are excited to serve students and provide opportunities for career readiness through this partnership with KJCC,” said Dr. Clayton Tatro, president of FSCC. “Water technology is very much an ‘in-demand’ field with high potential for employment. Working together through this partnership, we can assist in the placement of trained individuals into the industry and their respective communities.”

How will States Handle Juveniles Sentenced to Life Without Parole? News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • [OPINION] In Juvenile Justice, Kids Need Protection from False Confessions (The Christian Science Monitor)
    A third of false confessions come from youths under 18. Youths are more easily intimidated and less adept at understanding the ramifications of their statements than adults. They should not be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.
  • How will States Handle Juveniles Sentenced to Life Without Parole? (USA Today)
    Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for offenders under 18 are cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. In the wake of that decision, a federal court this month ruled that Hill and more than 300 other Michigan juvenile lifers are entitled to a parole hearing.
  • Bryan Stevenson Optimistic About Juvenile Justice Trends, But Work Remains (
    The man who took the fight against life without parole sentences for juveniles to the U.S. Supreme Court said he is optimistic about juvenile justice trends, but said there is much work to do in a few areas, most especially around housing youth in adult lockups. Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., also said the number of states that try juveniles as adults is a problem.

Juvenile Court Awarded $975,000 in Montgomery County, Ohio

Congratulations to Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County!
Under the leadership of Honorable Anthony Capizzi, this Juvenile Drug Court was recently awarded $975,000 from the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The three-year Drug Court Expansion grant supports Montgomery County's efforts to unite juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Through this grant, Ohio will be able to serve an additional 45 families per year and 135 over the grant's three-year span.
Together, they are improving drug and alcohol treatment and connecting teens to positive activities and caring adults.
There is statewide interest in Ohio to expand the Reclaiming Futures model beyond the four current sites. If you know community leaders interested in breaking the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, or philanthropies investing in juvenile justice reform, we'd like to hear from you. 
For more information about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community, please call Susan Richardson at 503-725-8914 or email
Map at right illustrates current (blue) and potential (orange and green) Reclaiming Futures communities in Ohio. 

The Adolescent Brain and Substance Abuse: Looking the Elephant In the Eye; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Initiative Aims to Improve Hawaii's Juvenile Justice System (
    The goal of a new initiative launched today is to improve Hawaii's troubled juvenile justice system by reducing crime while cutting costs. Roughly 5,000 youth are currently incarcerated in Hawaii. According to experts, about 80% of them have a substance abuse problem.
  • $3.2mil Grant for Program to Encourage Kids to Stay in School (
    Kids with emotional and behavioral disorders are more likely to miss school, fail classes and drop out than any other group of students with disabilities. With support from a $3.2 million grant, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are evaluating a unique new program that uses parent-to-parent support to encourage families to get the help they need to keep kids in school.
  • Campaign to get Dropouts to Return to School (
    Getting our most at-risk teens back in school. It was the goal of Kennewick, Washington School District this morning. School officials knocked on the doors of dozens of high school dropouts. Asking them to return to school. Last year, two students graduated from CBC High School Academy as a result of the outreach.

We Need Mentors: Lucas County, Ohio, in the News

Have you ever wondered how you could make a difference in the lives of young people in your community?
Less than one year into a $1.3 million grant, Lucas County Reclaiming Futures Project Director LaTonya Harris breaks it down for Leading Edge guest host Rob Wiercinski in Toledo, Ohio.
Watch this video to learn how they are decreasing recidivism and increasing drug court graduation rates. They will make even greater strides with more mentors to provide positive activities for teens: