[Testimony given April 2011 by John Roman, Ph.D., before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. Reprinted with permission from The Urban Institute. -Ed.]
Good morning. My name is John Roman and I am a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where I have studied innovative crime and justice policies and programs for more than a decade. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about integrating innovative practices to better serve juveniles involved with the justice system and to improve public safety.
Using Lessons from Recent Innovations to Create a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles
Over the last decade, across the United States, there has been tremendous interest in reforming juvenile and criminal justice systems to both improve their performance and to improve public safety by reducing crime and delinquency among adjudicated youth. What I would like to describe today is how those innovative practices—the Reclaiming Futures initiative, drugs courts and other alternatives to commitment, and Project HOPE—might be integrated to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs.
In the first phase of Reclaiming Futures, begun in 2002, multidisciplinary teams in ten communities worked collaboratively to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. All ten projects relied on judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, interorganizational performance management, enhanced treatment quality, and multiagency partnerships to improve their systems of care for youthful offenders with substance abuse problems.
Blog: Juvenile Treatment Drug Court
[Testimony given April 2011 by John Roman, Ph.D., before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. Reprinted with permission from The Urban Institute. -Ed.]
Just joining us? This is part five of a five-part series. >>Start from the beginning. This segment focuses on the juvenile drug court Kyle Boyer participated in after being arrested at age 15 for burglarizing houses for prescription painkillers.
Part 5: A Day in Drug Court
Cobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program.
One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids. The assigned probation officer and counselor chime in, giving her an update on how the week had gone for the juvenile.
For these kids, failing a drug test, disregarding a curfew or skipping out on house arrest, most likely means the judge isn’t going to let them go home. More often than not, someone shows up on Wednesday night with one or both of their parents, and ends up being taken to the county Youth Detention Center (YDC) here in suburban Atlanta.
Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning.
Part 4: Redemption and Temptation
Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean.
His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.
John, his father, had just had shoulder surgery. He'd been diligent in having his prescribed Vicodin on his person at all times, just to help ease the temptation.
Kyle once stumbled across it when his dad left them on the counter.
"I just grabbed the bottle and tossed it at him, like, 'Really?'"
The second time he wasn't thinking as clearly.
"I went into his briefcase to get an adapter and they were there," Kyle said. "It surprised me and I just poured some in my hand and took them without even thinking about it. I immediately told my parents and I felt so rotten with shame and guilt."
Just joining us? This is part three of a five-part series. >>Start from the beginning.
Part 3: A Friend and a Reason for Hope
Kyle Boyer, 15-year-old prescription drug addict, duped his parents once again, faking a stomach ache to stay home from school. But instead of staying in bed, he went out to do what had become his norm – breaking into houses and stealing whatever the medicine cabinets within had to offer. Only this time he didn’t get away with it. This time the cops caught up with him.
Kyle pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted breaking and entering. He was placed on 24-month probation and three months of house arrest.
The house arrest was only a little better than Youth Detention Center. The loneliness was almost overpowering at times, Kyle said. Whenever he’d try to get sober, detox was awful.
“Physically, at their worst, the withdrawals hurt every bone in my body,” he said. “Every muscle was cramping and it was like the absolute worst flu possible, times two.”
Just joining us? This is the second part of a five-part series. >>Start at the beginning.
Part 2: The Sympathetic Judge
Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who presides over Cobb County, Georgia’s Juvenile Drug Court has gotten to know Kyle quite well the past three years.
Yes, he was one of the most dangerously addicted kids she’s seen. And she’d seen plenty of heartbreaking cases that ended in tragedy.
In the more affluent suburban high schools in Cobb County, north of Atlanta, Stedman said drugs, particularly prescription painkillers, stimulants and benzodiazepines (or benzos) are easy to obtain. And sometimes, these drugs aren’t dealt with seriously inside kids’ homes.
“There’s a sense that, ‘it’s only alcohol’, or ‘at least it’s only marijuana’, or ‘it’s just a pain pill,’” Stedman said. “To some permissive, or head-in-the-sand parents, as long as they don’t hear words like crack, heroine or meth, then it can’t be all that bad.”
Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Check out the video above for an example.
You'll notice that the youth, "Mitchell," didn't choose to talk about recovery, but chose to explore instead a religious split in his family, and what it means to him. To learn more about how youth chose topics or the strategy the staff used in helping youth with their stories, check out my interview with them.
And don't forget, we have a webinar next week on this topic:
Part One: Darkness Visible
When Suzanne and John Boyer left their upper-middle class home for work on the morning of May 20, 2008, their 15-year-old son, Kyle, had a stomachache and was still in bed.
It wasn’t too bad, he told them. “Go on to work, I’ll sleep some more and feel better soon.”
A couple of hours later, Suzanne got a phone call that changed the trajectory of the Boyers’ lives forever.
“Ma’am I’m with the Cobb County police department. Is this Suzanne Boyer?”
“Do you have a son named Kyle Boyer?”
Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff, and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Their efforts were given great coverage in the Dec. 27, 2010 issue of The Columbian.
Below is a joint interview with the three people who made this amazing project happen for these youth: Bradley Finegood, LMHC (at left, above), who coordinates Clark County's Superior Court therapeutic specialty courts; Angela Zahas, a county prevention specialist (far right, above); and Anna Lookingbill, the Juvenile Recovery Court's resource coordinator (see middle, above).
Q: What is digital storytelling? How is it different from making a video?
Anna: There's two layers to digital storytelling. The first is the technical component, such as learning the software. (We used low-cost or free software, such as a free audio program called Audacity, and Microsoft's photo editing program.)
But there's also a pretty significant component around, "What's the story you want to tell?" How do you tell it in a way that has emotional impact on people?
So when you teach it, it’s a layered thing – there's a technical piece, plus storytelling.
Brad: It was a small initial investment that will continue to pay dividends. Once Angela was trained on digital storytelling, it could be replicated. We could train others at a low cost – outside of human capital – for what could be an extremely powerful project. There's no fees we have to pay, no manuals we have to buy – so it just made a lot of sense. It's a long-term buy-in to people’s recovery.
On a side note, the kids who went through this started out extremely closed, but they opened up, smiled, they shared – so that’s something priceless when you talk about youth from the juvenile justice side of it.
Some of you may have heard this disturbing account of a drug court in Glynn County, Georiga, aired recently on "This American Life."
Usually, a drug court may take a year, possible two years, to complete. For 24-year-old Lindsey Dills, who was 18 when she entered the Glynn County juvenile drug court, she won't be done with it until 10-1/2 years later, counting time behind bars and probation.
Now, the show makes it clear that this particular Georgia drug court is commonly thought to be run counter to generally-accepted principles of drug court.
But I thought it would be a good time to mention the so-called :"16 strategies" for juvenile drug courts. (Follow the link for a monograph from the Department of Justice, explaining the details.)
Here they are:
Research has shown that punishment alone is not the most effective way to to help a young person change his or her behavior -- the primary goal of juvenile drug courts, and, indeed, juvenile probation generally. Instead, a combination of punishment, or sanctions, with incentives, is most effective.
But if you want to act on this information, you're likely to have a number of questions. Here's just a few of the questions that commonly arise:
- Is there a ready-made list of sanctions and incentives we could use?
- Should we start out giving a strong sanction to get the offender’s attention, or should we build up to that?
- Are we coddling offenders by giving them incentives?
- Does it matter how long you wait after the behavior is detected to give a sanction or incentive?
And that's just the beginning. To help you make sense of the options -- and to give you several lists of ideas for your own graduated sanctions and incentives grid -- I'm posting a number of resources here.
From NCJFCJ (and shared with permission):
- "Making Sense of Incentives and Sanctions in Working with the Substance Abusing Offender," by Susan Yeres, Ed.D., Betty Gurnell, M.Ed., Meg Holmberg, MSW. (This excellent guide is where I got the four questions above -- download it to see eight more common questions, and answers to all 12.)
- Need ideas for incentives and sanctions? Then try the NCJFCJ's "laundry list."
- How can you afford to pay for incentives? What if the teen doesn't react the way we thought he or she would? You can find answers to these and other questions in the NCJFCJ's frequently asked questions document.
If your team is working on implementing incentives and sanctions together, you'll probably want these as well, also from the NCJFCJ:
When I was at the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) in Washington D.C. in December, I caught up with John Roman, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute, just before he gave a fantastic presentation on emerging research on juvenile drug courts. Click on the video above to hear what John has to say. Since the video sound is not ideal, I've also provided a transcript, below:
How many juvenile drug courts are there in the United States? The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admininstration (SAMHSA) wants to know by March 17, 2011.
Here's the announcement -- please note that you do not need to be a CSAT grantee to qualify or participate:
We are writing to request your help with an important data inquiry. In order to enhance SAMHSA/CSAT’s programmatic and advocacy efforts concerning adolescent substance abuse treatment and recovery, we are seeking to update our knowledge concerning the number of juvenile drug courts in the United States.
To help us close this knowledge gap, we are asking all of our current JTDC grantees to reply to this email with a listing of any juvenile drug courts that you and your organization are aware of. Please complete and return the attached template with your reply.
The term “juvenile drug court” means a specially designed court calendar or docket within a juvenile court to which youth having problems with alcohol and/or other drugs are referred; a separate or special jurisdiction court is neither necessary nor encouraged. The juvenile drug court judge maintains close oversight of each case, and both leads and works as a member of a team that comprises representatives from treatment, juvenile justice, social services, school and vocational training programs, law enforcement, probation, the prosecution and the defense.
Please complete the attached document and send your replies to (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than March 17, 2011. Thank you in advance for any assistance with this important inquiry that you and your agency can provide!
(Hat tip to Christa Myers.)
- Webinar 3/10: Responding To A High-Profile Tragic Incident Involving A Person With A Serious Mental Illness
From the Council of State Governments' Justice Center's Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project press release:
When a person with a history or current diagnosis of serious mental illness is involved in a high-profile tragic incident, community leaders face public, media, legal and legislative scrutiny. Incomplete and/or inaccurate information may spread quickly—not only about the incident, but also about the likelihood of violence among individuals with mental illnesses. This is often fueled by community members’ mistaken assumptions that mental health treatment is ineffective and that most people with mental illnesses are violent. Though most individuals with serious mental illnesses will never be violent and can live successfully in the community with adequate treatment, supports, and housing, when a high-profile, tragic incident does occur that involves a member of this population, it can engender fear and lead to heated public debate.
To help policymakers better anticipate and respond to these events, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the Council of State Governments Justice Center have released a toolkit for responding to tragic incidents involving a person with serious mental illnesses. In this webinar presenters will discuss the toolkit’s origins and applications. Presenters include:
Dr. Lorrie Rickman-Jones, Director of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Human Services
Dr. Fred Osher, Director of Health Systems and Services Policy for the Council of State Governments Justice Center
Mr. David Miller, Project Director for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011
Time: 2:00-3:15 pm E.T.
To register for this event, please click the link above.
As of the mid-2000s, the research on the effectiveness of juvenile drug courts was unclear. Now, that's starting to change. In coming weeks, I'll post about new research from John Roman at the Urban Institute about what works and how juvenile drug courts should adjust their practices to be more effective.
Juvenile Drug Courts - How Do They Compare to Outpatient Treatment?
Today, I want to share with you a new quasi-experimental study I saw mentioned at JMATE 2010 that compares 1,120 youth in juvenile drug courts in multiple jurisdictions with 1,120 youth not in juvenile drug court, but who particiated in adolescent outpatient treatment. The goal was to see how the two groups differed in terms of services and in their treatment outcomes.
Bottom line? Juvenile drug courts appeared to do a better job (compared to treatment alone) of helping youth reduce symptoms of their emotional problems and cut their substance use, as measured six months post-intake. (This doesn't mean, of course, that every teen who needs drug or alcohol treatment should be in juvenile drug court--!) In general, youth in juvenile drug courts received -- unsurprisingly -- more family services, more wrap-around support, more urine tests, and more supervision.
In 2010, we posted tons of useful links for professionals, policymakers, and advocates connected with the juvenile justice system and adolescent substance abuse treatment.
Rather than warehouse them all on the blog, we're wheeling some of them out on display again. Maybe you overlooked some of them last year, or never got a chance to download that nifty tool kit -- now's your chance. Here's 20 of them, listed below in random order:
- The Partnership at Drugfree.org's Treatment E-Book for parents. (Follow link, go to first bullet.)
- How to Get Teens to Engage in Treatment - a proven toolkit from NIATx that increases retention by on orienting teens to treatment. (Follow link, scroll to third bullet down.)
- What works in juvenile justice? Check out this international literature review, compiled for an Australian Member of Parliament. (Follow link and scroll to third bullet.)
What were our top three stories for 2010? You can pick from stories on juvenile justice reform ... juvenile drug courts ... adolescent substance abuse treatment ... positive youth development ... family engagement ... or the juvenile justice system in general?
What was most useful to you? What was the most intriguing? What did you pass on to your colleagues?
You can pick from any story we published here on the blog in 2010. But just to make it easy, I've listed 20 stories below that I'd expect to be on everyone's top-stories list. If you don't find your favorite below -- and I had to leave out a heck of a lot of good stuff -- feel free to vote for it anyway.
(By the way, they stories below are not listed in any particular order.)
Excited about the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) conference 2010, coming up next week, December 14-16, 2010? I definitely am. It looks like a closer-to-complete agenda has now been posted, and I can tell you, just scanning it gives me goosebumps.
Just to pick an example at random: Laurence Steinberg [follow link and scroll to the second bullet down] will be doing a plenary session on "Why Adolescents Make Risky Decisions." Since it's primarily Steinberg's research that the Supreme Court has used in its recent decisions doing away with the death penalty for juveniles and life without parole, I don't think anyone will want to miss it.
To pick another example: John Roman of The Urban Institute will be talking about "effective juvenile drug courts." Another topic of wide interest.
But what I want to highlight today are the presentations that individuals in our Reclaiming Futures family will be making. Here's a complete list:
What should recovery-oriented care for adolescents with substance abuse issues or co-occurring mental health issues look like?
Have that picture firmly in your mind? Okay, good. Does it change if the youth in question are in the juvenile justice system? If so, how?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
To aid you in your thinking, I'm attaching a copy of the report from a 2008 meeting sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report is titled, "Designing a Recovery-Oriented Care Model for Adolescents and Transition Age Youth with Substance Use or Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders." Check out pp. 36-39 for themes from the meeting, along with specific recommendations.
Just in case it's useful, you may also want to review this "Working Definition of Recovery." The actual definition's quite brief, but this two-page handout also includes guiding principles and elements of systems of care. Also, check out this report from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice called "Positive Youth Justice: Framing Justice Interventions Using the Concepts of Positive Youth Development." It offers insights about the benefits of using positive youth development to help youth contribute to community life.
Feel free to leave me a comment below.
Events - Juvenile Justice and Adolescent Substance Abuse
- September is National Youth Court Month, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) has posted resources about them to celebrate. Also called "teen courts" and "peer courts," youth courts are an alternative disposition for youth who've committed low-level, first-time offenses in which teens hold each other accountable. (Hat tip to OJJDP.) UPDATED: Global Youth Justice is hosting a conference titled, "Establish or Enhance a local Teen Court/Youth Court Diversion Program," December 7-9, 2010, in Las Vegas. (H/t to John Kelly at Youth Today.)
- Don't miss out on the National Take Back Initiative, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Held on September 25, 2010, 10am-2pm (local time, I believe), law enforcement agencies are collaborating with the DEA to collect unused prescription drugs. Find a collection site near you. (H/t to @SPHEREproject.)
Last year, we posted about a hugely important study by the Center for Court Innovation. In it, young people reported that they did not receive a clear explanation of the juvenile justice system when they entered. Nor did they -- or their parents and guardians -- learn how their actions affected what happens in juvenile court.
Our Reclaiming Futures site in Orange/Chatham Counties, North Carolina is trying to change this and created the video above for parents/guardians of youth entering juvenile court. Congratulations! (They're also working on a handbook for youth; I'll share it when it's available.)
Has your jurisdiction done something similar? Leave a comment or drop me an email and we'll be glad to post it!