Blog: News

Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Bike Donation Makes Difference at Youth Facilities (
    Residents of four upstate juvenile justice facilities operated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) now have refurbished bicycles to ride. They were donated by Community Bikes, a Hamilton-based organization which refurbishes and “upcycles” unused bicycles to those who need them.
  • NC to Examine Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System (
    North Carolina has formed an interim commission to begin studying racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The move follows The Fayetteville Observer's report in June that a task force for defense lawyers found that blacks and Hispanics are "systematically searched at much higher rates than whites."
  • Juvenile Offender Program Working (
    A program to keep first-time juvenile offenders out of Hillsborough County, Florida's criminal justice system recorded a 91 percent success rate after one year, county commissioners learned Thursday.

New Report on the Well Being of Children Shows Progress, Room For Improvement

A report recently released from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics found that while several indicators of children’s well being have improved in recent years, there are significant areas that still need to be addressed. One of the most significant issues is the increasing numbers of children living in poverty. The study, “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” examined a range of indicators including family and social environment, economic circumstance, physical environment and safety.

Safety showed some of the best improvement. Via the report, “In 2010, the rate at which youth were victims of serious violent crimes was 7 crimes per 1,000 juveniles ages 12–17, down from 11 per 1,000 in 2009.” This drop was primarily seen in the violent victimization crime rates of young males, but unfortunately the rate for female youths did not see any significant change.

King County, Washington Buys into Juvenile Justice and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

School Counselors Not Trained to Address Teen Dating Violence, Study Finds

In the report, “Adolescent Dating Violence: A National Assessment of School Counselors’ Perceptions and Practices” researchers surveyed 550 school counselors about adolescent dating violence (ADV) and current practices for dealing with it. The majority of counselors reported that have dealt with ADV but haven’t had any training on proper protocol for helping survivors.
It’s no secret that dating violence is a big problem in the United States. According to the report’s press release, past studies have linked adolescent dating violence with everything from thoughts of suicide to unhealthy weight gain.

Pennsylvania judge dismisses 2,000 juvenile cases in “kids for cash” scandal and more -- news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • New Mexico’s Governor proposes change in agency for juvenile justice, child welfare
    The Republic:
    In her budget proposals released Thursday, the New Mexico's Gov. Martinez calls for consolidating juvenile justice programs into one division within the department and moving domestic violence services into a part of the agency that handles child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Are arrests a poor answer for young people in trouble?
    The Hartford Courant:
    Increasingly adults are recognizing that arrest should be a last resort in dealing with adolescent behavior. The Connecticut Judicial Branch has begun rejecting school-based arrests when the offenses do not rise to the level of true delinquency. Instead, the courts offers suggestions to police and school administrators about community resources that could more appropriately — and more cheaply — help address a child's issues.
  • For teens guilty of murder, penalties can vary widely
    The Boston Globe:
    Two recent cases illustrate the profound inequities that have grown up in the juvenile justice system since passage of a 1996 law aimed at cracking down on juvenile “super predators’’ by requiring them to be tried in adult court, an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found. Before the change, teenage murder defendants were sometimes tried in juvenile court, where, if convicted, they could be sentenced to serve only until age 21. Now such teenagers as young as 14 can be sentenced to life without parole.
  • Probation officers move into schools
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
    Public schools in Georgia’s DeKalb County are allowing probation officers into the schools, and in some cases giving them office space, so they can keep an eye on students who have run afoul of the law.
  • DOJ steps up oversight of juvenile justice
    The Wall Street Journal:
    The Justice Department, stepping up its oversight of the juvenile justice system, has launched an investigation into whether school and law enforcement officials are targeting black students in Meridian, Miss., for unfair treatment.
  • Maryland Judge George Bacon Rasin Jr. passes away
    The Baltimore Sun:
    George Bacon Rasin Jr., a former Kent County circuit judge who led a movement to modernize juvenile justice in Maryland, died of congestive heart failure Friday at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. He was 94.
  • Pennsylvania judge dismisses 2,000 juvenile cases in “kids for cash” scandal
    Newsworks by WHYY:
    A judge brought in to clean up after a "kids for cash" scandal has expunged every juvenile court case decided by a Pennsylvania jurist convicted of corruption.

Generic anti-bullying classes found to be ineffective and more -- news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • California counties to pay the state $125,000 to house juvenile offenders
    California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state has to pull the trigger on a series of mid-year budget cuts due to low tax revenues. One of those reductions shaves $67 million from the state’s juvenile justice budget. The cut will force counties to foot the bill for Juvenile Justice wards in state custody, at a cost of $125,000 per youth. Alameda County could be put in a $6.2 million bind.
  • Kentucky looks for better way to help young offenders
    Kentucky officials are looking for better ways to deal with youth who commit noncriminal offenses such as skipping school or running away. Research shows that detaining status offenders is the least effective and most expensive option. State leaders admit the system needs improvement.
  • Oregon will stop holding juvenile offenders in adult prison
    After federal auditors questioned the practice, Oregon has stopped temporarily holding youth in adult prisons. The Partnership for Safety and Justice, which works on criminal justice issues, won legislation in the 2011 session to encourage local authorities to hold youth in juvenile facilities while they await trial.
  • New Report: Generic anti-bullying classes found to be ineffective
    OJJDP has issued a report in which bullying in schools is examined and recommendations are made for the best ways schools can provide support to bullying victims. The study found generic curriculum is an ineffective substitute for student-focused engagement strategies.
  • Ohio Courts use internet for greater connectivity
    Ohio’s Coshocton County’s Common Pleas Court, Juvenile and Probate Court and Municipal Court are using the internet to share information more easily with the public and other courts. The Common Pleas Court launched a searchable database for the public that features basic information on open and closed cases with the court.
  • South Carolina law enforcement officers complete DJJ gang, violence prevention training
    Recognizing that many kids face significant pressure to join a gang, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice has partnered with the Gang Resistance Education and Training program in multiple communities across the state to bring the curriculum to local elementary and middle school youth.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

Sheriff investigator makes a difference in kids’ lives and more -- news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • South Carolina County Sheriff investigator makes a difference in kids’ lives
    Richland County sheriff investigator Cassie Radford is working hard to get troubled kids the services they need and to keep them out of jail. The grant that funds Radford's position is in its third year and ends Sept. 30. Richland County prosecutors and judges hope Sheriff Leon Lott finds a way to keep Radford in her position.
  • Missouri juvenile office to use electronic monitoring
    The expense of sending Linn County’s juvenile offenders elsewhere, coupled with the strict criteria that must be met to detain a juvenile, has prompted the Linn County Juvenile Office to obtain electronic monitoring equipment. Without a juvenile detention center of its own, the Linn County Juvenile Office has been forced to pay the expense of transporting offenders as well as the cost for a bed in Kirksville’s Bruce Normile Juvenile Justice Center.
  • New goal for Illinois juvenile center: Clear it out
    Cook County’s Board President is advocating a new approach for the county’s juvenile justice system: empty the juvenile detention facility by putting children in group homes, monitored home confinement and other community-based programs where advocates say young people have better opportunities for counseling, job training and other life-skill instruction.
  • Kentucky launches pilot program to decrease juvenile detentions
    Henderson schools, law enforcement and court officials joined forces with the state to examine why so many teens were being incarcerated. They came up with a pilot program to combat the issue. It includes asking schools to deal with small offenses, instituting a mentor program and encouraging teachers and school officials to meet to review statistics on disciplinary action.
  • Washington, DC’s juvenile justice system sees real change
    As part of sweeping reforms, DC’s Oak Hill was closed in 2009 and replaced by a smaller and dramatically different facility named New Beginnings Youth Development Center. Youth Radio interviewed DC Lawyers for Youth executive director Daniel Okonkwo about Oak Hill’s impact on DC’s juvenile justice system.
  • Wisconsin critics: Stop treating 17-year-olds as adults
    Wisconsin is one of 13 states that automatically place 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system. In the past few years, almost one-third of states have passed laws to keep more young offenders in the juvenile justice system. Now officials and families are calling on the state to place 17-year-olds in juvenile facilities, mainly for their own safety.
  • Benton County’s juvenile center nearly finished
    Arkansas’ Benton County's Juvenile Justice Center is nearly complete, with part of the $6 million complex scheduled to open in January. The new facility is twice as large as the current one and will include classrooms and a courtroom in addition to holding cells.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

Senate Committee Cuts Federal Juvenile Programs Deeply, But Would Fund All of Them

juvenile-justice-system_hammer-breaking-piggybankRecommendation also zeroes out money for reentry programs
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill this afternoon that would fund the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs (OJJDP) at $251 million, approximately $24 million below the diminished budget that the agency faced this fiscal year after a last-minute spending deal.  
The committee broke up the $251 million in spending this way:  
-$60 million for the missing and exploited children programs.
-$55 million for mentoring grants.
-$45 million for state formula grants, given to states on the condition that they adhere to basic standards in regard to the detainment of juveniles, and address racial disparities in the system.
-$30 million for Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG), which go to state juvenile justice planning agencies based on the size of a state’s youth population.

Adolescent Substance Abuse: "Bath Salts" an Emerging Risk

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_NDIC-bath-salts-reportMany of you have undoubtedly seen news about synthetic drugs that are marketed -- legally, in many places around the country -- as "bath salts" or "plant food." These "synthetic cathinones" are stimulants that usually come in powder or crystal form, and can be smoked, injected, or snorted.  Emergency rooms and poison control centers have seen enough serious negative health effects that legislatures in a number of states have attempted to ban these drugs, and the constituent ingredients.  
Use varies by locale. In Maine, police and hospitals have reported "a surge of people becoming delusional and violent after injecting, snorting or smoking so-called bath salts."
The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) recently issued a situation report on bath salts (non-prescription synthetic cathinones), calling them an "emerging domestic threat." Users include teens.
Note to Juvenile Courts (and Juvenile Drug Courts in Particular):
Teens and others find bath salts attractive because:

  • They are often sold legally in gas stations, head shops, skateboard shops, and on the internet; and
  • Most routine drug screens will not detect the use of bath salts. (Though specialized drug screens will.)

The good news is, the Drug Enforcement Administration is considering scheduling them as a controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
The bad news? The NDIC expects that abuse will grow over time, and that manufacturers will adjust the chemical make-up of their products when needed to keep them legal.
Related Post:


10-Step Guide to Recidivism Reduction for Probation Departments, and More: a Roundup

  • juvenile-justice-reform_old-TVIs Our Racial Gap Becoming a Generation Gap?
    A provocative post from PolicyLink. Nearly half of the nation's young people are of color, but over 80 percent of America's seniors are white. "For the first time," the author argues, "America's seniors, business leaders, and elected officials simply do not see themselves in the faces of today's young. For many, this signals less obligation and commitment to the kinds of programs and resources that would help provide a boost for the next generation."
  • Addiction: What Gets Us Hooked?
    The title says it all. (H/t to Paul Savery.)
  • OJJDP Seeks Nominations for Awards at October Conference
    The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is seeking nominations for awards in four categories, to be given out at its fall conference, scheduled for October 12-14, 2011. UPDATE August 18: Deadline has been extended to August 29, 2011.

U.K. Riots - Talking Points and Observations from Three Youth Advocates

positive-youth-development_youth-in-hoodiesThere's no question that the riots in the U.K. last week -- mostly perpetrated by young people and young adults -- generated a lot of outrage on both sides of the Atlantic.
One of the hot topics in the U.K. was Prime Minister David Cameron's about-face. In 2006, he gave a speech designed to "reposition his party as tough on the causes of crime, urging a greater focus on the family and on the social influences driving children to offend," rather than on police crackdowns. This became known as his "Hug a Hoodie" campaign (#hugahoodie suddenly became a very popular hashtag on Twitter last week). But in the wake of the riots, Cameron promised the rioters, "We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you." (You can see a fairly balanced AP story on Cameron's about-face and the politics of responses to youth crime in the Britain and the U.S. here.)
Commenters in the United States have also been quick to pile on their scorn for "soft on crime" approaches, so I thought it would be useful to hear more thoughtful responses from youth experts familiar with youth in the juvenile justice system and common policy responses. Several were kind enough to email me their quick thoughts:

The Supreme Court Updates Miranda Warnings for Teens; Plus Six Conferences and 40 Years of Drug War: a Roundup

This week, I've got a monster roundup of news, grant opportunities, and conferences related to the juvenile justice system and (a little) about adolescent substance abuse treatment and behavioral healthcare for kids. Here goes:

  • Reclaiming Futures Nassau County: Football Star Andrew Quarless Speaks to Juvenile Drug Court Graduates
  • U.S. Supreme Court Says Age Matters When it Comes to Miranda Warnings
    Miranda warnings must be given by police when a suspect is being interrogated in a custodial setting. What's considered custody or the degree to which a suspect is being restrained are what matters here: in this case, a 13-year-old in North Carolina was interrogated on school grounds by a police officer about alleged crimes committed off-campus. He was not read his Miranda rights; his lawyers argued that his subsequent confession was therefore inadmissible. North Carolina's Supreme Court said his age wasn't relevant -- arguing, as I understand it, that the youth was not in a custodial situation and could have left. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, writing that, “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” (Hat tips to the Juvenile Law Center and the National Juvenile Justice Network.)

Does Your Youth Program Work? and More: a Roundup

Juvenile Justice - What Works and What Doesn't (A Roundup)

juvenile-justice-reform_old-TVBritish-based Prevention Action posted a series of three posts on evidence-based programs in juvenile justice (well -- three of them, anyway), what's necessary to encourage the adoption of evidence-based practices in the field, and barriers to their adoption:

(Don't be too dazzled by these articles' insistent focus on MST, Functional Family Therapy (FFT), and Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. While these three have good research backing, Mark Lipsey and his colleagues have found that locally-grown programs, if well-implemented, can also achieve great results. And a while back, I also linked here to an excellent, broader-based international review of evidence-based practice in juvenile justice.)
UPDATE: Jeffrey Butts, Ph.D., left the following comment on Facebook in response to a link to the "Juvenile Justice: what works & what doesn't" post: "This summary of general principles is welcome, but the writers go too far when they imply that the programs they promote are the end result of some protracted, impartial search for effectiveness. Research on therapeutic programs like MST is just the beginning. We have a lot of work to do before we can say 'what works.' For now, all we can say is "this approach seems to work better than that approach." We should not imply that the hunt for effectiveness is over."

Juvenile Justice: Death-in-Prison Sentences Constitutional in Wisconsin, at Least for Now

juvenile-justice-reform_death-row-staircaseThe Supreme Court of Wisconsin has just ruled that it's constitutional to sentence juveniles to life imprisonment without the possibility parole for intentional homicide. The defendant in that case, Omer Ninham, was 14 years old when he was charged with killing a 13-year-old boy. The case will very likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court hasn't yet decided whether sentencing a juvenile to “death in prison” is cruel and unusual punishment. It has, however, indicated that how we sentence juveniles has to be different from how we sentence adults. In both Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida the Court relied on scientific evidence about the adolescent brain. Ultimately that evidence allowed the Court to conclude that extreme sentences—respectively, death penalty in cases of homicide and life imprisonment in cases short of homicide—violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Straight Dope on Fake Dope

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_spiceIn Jordan Cox’s view, it was a waste of money. The high, he said, was more like the head rush he got taking his first drag off a cigarette in middle school; not at all like smoking weed.
Cox was smoking something his friends called “spice,” a mixture of dried herbs sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid that mimicked the effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. At least, it was supposed to feel like smoking pot.
“It was fake and you could tell,” said Cox, a 22-year-old Georgia college student. “The high was delayed, but it was nothing intense or unmanageable.”
Spice is one common name for a whole range of products sold legally in head shops, gas stations, and smoking stores across the nation. The small, square pouches of dried plant matter bear names such as “K4,” “Spice Gold” and “Mojo.” Each package says the contents are incense, the absence of any scented ingredients notwithstanding. On the back of the pouch is a stark warning, the final brick in the wall surrounding the manufacturer from liability: “Not For Human Consumption.”

Reclaiming Futures Names New National Director

As we announced last June, Laura Nissen, the national director of the Reclaiming Futures initiative since its inception more than 10 years ago, will be stepping down. After a national search, we're proud to announce that Susan J. Richardson, of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, will take the reins as of June 1, 2011. 
Using the magic of the internet, we were able to get a brief video introduction from Susan herself:

"Susan Richardson has the right mix of skills, talents and experiences Reclaiming Futures needs in its next leader," says Kristin Schubert, program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which launched Reclaiming Futures in 2002 in order to reinvent how juvenile courts address drug and alcohol problems. "We are thrilled that she has accepted the position."

White House May Rethink its Juvenile Justice Spending Plan

  • juvenile-justice-system_old-TVWhite House May Rethink its Juvenile Justice Spending Plan
    In mid-February, Youth Today reported that President Obama's budget contained a proposal to radically change federal juvenile justice funding for the states. Now, Youth Today's John Kelly reports that it may be reconsidering, after strongly negative reactions from juvenile justice advocates.
  • VIDEO: Mississippi County Sued After Video Reveals "Hogtied" Youth and Other Abuse
    The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued Forrest County, Missisissippi, over revelations of numerous instances of juvenile detention center personnel physically abusing youth in their care (many documented on surveillance video cameras) and force them to allow youth access to lawyers and civil rights advocates, in accord with federal law. Follow the link to see the video coverage. (Hat tip to sparkaction.)

Upcoming Cases in U.S. Supreme Court Could Alter How the Constitution Affects Kids

juvenile-justice-system_US-Supreme-Court-detailThe Unites States Supreme Court is set to hear a number of cases this month that look at how the Constitution applies to children.  In each of the cases kids were questioned behind closed doors at their schools with no attorneys present and without being read their Miranda rights.
In one of the cases an Oregon family is suing a case worker and deputy sheriff for “badgering” their 9-year old-daughter into accusing her father of molestation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th District ruled that the girl’s questioning violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable search and seizure,” according to a story in The Washington Post.
Advocates say that the courts should treat children differently than adults.
[Editor's Update 3/23/11: Youth Today examines the "three key questions" at the heart of one of the cases before the court: (1) Is age an objective or subjective criteria? (2) Does the school setting matter? (3) Do state trends matter?]

Events: Responding to Tragic Incidents Involving a Person with Serious Mental Illness, and More

  • adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_light-coming-in-windowWebinar 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.