Blog: Maryland

Talking About Addiction

On June 1, 2016, our Reclaiming Futures national executive director Evan Elkin spoke at Red Emma's in Baltimore for Open Society Institute-Baltimore's second event in their "Talking About Addiction" series. Elkin was accompanied on the panel by Dr. Hoover Adger from Johns Hopkins Children's Center and by Carin Callan Miller, who founded Save Our Children Peer Family Support. The conversation was moderated by Scott Nolen, director of OSI-Baltimore's Drug Addiction Treatment Program. A full room of community members joined them for the evening, including families affected by adolescent addiction.

Youth, Addiction and the Juvenile Justice System

Whereas the first "Talking About Addiction" event explored alternative law enforcement approaches to addiction, this event focused on youth, addiction, and the juvenile justice system. Despite public acknowledgment of the failures of the "War on Drugs," and an increased understanding of addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, OSI-Baltimore recognizes that research and policy around adolescent addiction are slow to reach the mainstream. Indeed, during the discussion, some attendees expressed frustration with how long addiction treatment reform is taking; OSI moderator Nolen suggested reassurance that the addiction paradigm is finally shifting.

Youth Justice News Roundup

We round up the latest news on youth justice reform and national public health.

Can Social Networks Influence Delinquent Behavior Among Youth?

Do social networks influence delinquent youth behavior? A team of researchers at the Urban Institute, in partnership with Temple University, just released a report titled Social Networks, Delinquency, and Gang Membership: Using a Neighborhood Framework to Examine the Influence of Network Composition and Structure in a Latino Community. Caterina G. Roman and Carlena Orosco of Temple University, Meagan Cahill, Pamela Lachman, Samantha Lowry (with Megan Denver and Juan Pedroza) of the Urban Institute, and Christopher McCarty of the University of Florida authored the piece.
The report explores the nature of links which bind youth to groups and their associated social contexts. This study employed a social network framework in order to better understand patterns and relationships between youth in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Maryland, which is home to a large proportion of high-risk minors. The authors conducted a three-part network survey with 147 youth, with the goal of surveying all youth between the ages of 14 and 21 living in the target neighborhood.

In Baltimore, Police Mentor Troubled Kids (and Keep Them Out of Juvenile Justice System)

In Baltimore, Maryland's Eastern District, police officers are taking a proactive and community-centered approach to keeping families and neighborhoods safe. 
Police officers realize that in order to be effective at their jobs, they need to build trust and cooperation with the communities they serve. And a police force in Baltimore is going one step further by actively working to find solutions to their community's problems and becoming positive mentors to children in rough neighborhoods.
Writing in today's Baltimore Sun, police officer Quinise Green explains:

We see ourselves not just as enforcers of the law but also as problem solvers and supporters of the people in our "hood."Our district commander demands that we be an integral part of the community. We go on walks with stakeholders in the neighborhoods to identify problems and find ways to fix them. If we see kids playing where they aren't supposed to, we don't just yell at them to move; we find another place they can play.
One such place is the Eisenhower Foundation Oliver Center, which is funded through the Department of Justice and home to the Youth Safe Haven program. I serve as a mentor to high-risk kids from the Barclay neighborhood at the center. Their lives are littered with challenges most Americans don't have to face: hunger, homelessness, parents with serious substance abuse problems and wrenching poverty. Some days, the snack and lunch at the youth safe haven is their only meal. It is a tough life for our 6-to-11-year-olds. For many of these children, the program has been their lifeline for survival.

Disparity in Treatment of Girls, Boys by Maryland Department of Juvenile Services

About 80 percent of girls accused of misdemeanors in Maryland were committed to residential treatment centers compared to 50 percent of boys, according to statistics from Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Services (DJS).
The statistics, part of the Female Offenders Report, show more than two-thirds of girls sent to residential treatment centers were committed for offenses such as fighting and shoplifting or for drug offenses.
“That disparity between boys and girls is troubling and quite large,” Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed told Capital News Service. “It’s something I’m concerned about. It’s a very complicated question, but it’s something that merits explanation.”
The Maryland Legislature in 2011 passed a law requiring DJS to provide statistics breaking down services for boys and girls. Lawmakers grew concerned because DJS has the authority to make decisions about how youth committed to the juvenile justice system are treated.

DC black students expelled at greater rate than white students

Black students in the DC area are being suspended and expelled from school 2 to 5 times as often as white students. This disturbing fact has big implications for youth and the juvenile justice system.
A new analysis by The Washington Post found that almost 6 percent of black students were suspended or expelled from school last year, compared with 1.2 percent of white students. Across the country, 15 percent of black students were suspended, compared with five percent of white students, 7 percent of Hispanics and 3 percent of Asians. 
In many states, students are suspended not only for violent acts but also for disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and bad language. These infractions are subjective and give educators a lot of leeway in deciding when to report students.
As The Washington Post explains:

The stakes are high for those who get booted out of school.
Out-of-school suspensions mean lost classroom time and, for some, disconnection from school. A recent landmark study of nearly a million Texas children showed that suspension increased the likelihood of repeating a grade that year and landing in the juvenile-justice system the next year. It also was linked to dropping out.

Maryland's juvenile justice system is now a little more transparent

Recently signed legislation in Maryland requires the state’s Department of Juvenile Services to report the recidivism rates for each juvenile in residential treatment, broken down by program and placement. This is excellent news for juvenile justice reform in Maryland.
According to an analysis by Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, this reporting will not cost any additional taxpayer dollars, and yet the citizens of Maryland will receive two huge benefits. First, the legislature and the public will now have easy access to data on recidivism, broken down by type of program. This is a key reform because general recidivism rates can mask the success and failures of different programs, and particularized data is necessary to make informed legislative choices.
Second, the simple act of being required to report this data to the Maryland legislators will put the onus on Maryland’s juvenile justice stakeholders to improve their system. By having to publicly state their Department’s outcomes annually, Maryland will reach new levels of accountability in juvenile justice each year.
This bill is win-win: no additional costs and positive returns for taxpayers and justice in Maryland.