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Reclaiming Futures Featured in Boston University’s Sphere Magazine Article, “Rethinking Juvenile Justice”

Approximately 343,000 teens are arrested each year for drug and alcohol related crimes; 1.8 million teens need treatment for substance abuse while only 1 in 16 receive it. Dan Merrigan, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University, covers what he believes should happen to positively change the above facts in his recent article “Rethinking Juvenile Justice.”
Merrigan claimed that to begin combating this problem among teens, the juvenile courts should no longer be the leading service for youth with substance abuse problems. Merrigan emphasized the promising research that demonstrates organizations or programs with a multisystemic continuum of care approach are much more suited to make a difference for teens.
In the article, Reclaiming Futures was referenced as a tested model for this approach:
“Reclaiming Futures is not a program. Rather, it is an organizational change and system reform that uses a six-step model…to interact with the community and improve outcomes for youth in the justice system.”
This approach is seen by Merrigan as well suited to combat teen substance abuse problems as it provides prevention and intervention outlets, recovery support, incentives for change, and community involvement to young people in need. These different offerings have been proven effective to break the cycle of substance abuse and recidivism for teens.

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Yelling, Threatening Parents Harm Teens' Mental Health; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • OP-ED: U.S. Must Increase Juvenile Justice Protections for Children (
    "Chicago, my hometown, was the home of the world’s first juvenile court. We are very proud of our history in the pioneering of a separate and more rehabilitative court for children in the United States. And so it comes as a shock to realize that children in the United States have fewer – significantly fewer – legal protections than children in other nations."
  • Gov. Mead of Wyoming Seeks to Collect Juvenile Justice Data (
    Gov. Matt Mead is asking state lawmakers to budget $500,000 for a system that would allow officials to track information about juvenile offenders in the state. Tony Young, Mead's deputy chief of staff, said Thursday that the money would cover installation of the system to track data about young offenders at the five juvenile detention centers in the state, as well as the Wyoming Boys School and Wyoming Girls School.
  • Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Expands Across Indiana (
    Indiana’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) will include nineteen counties as the initiative expands across the state. Eleven counties will join the eight current JDAI counties thanks to a partnership of all three branches of government.
  • OP-ED: Diagnosis: Adolescence, Not Otherwise Specified (
    "Think back to your teenage years for a moment. Were you ever impulsive? Was it important to fit in? Did you make poor decisions? Did you ever do something that (if you had been caught) could have led to serious consequences? Don’t worry if you answered yes to any or all of these questions: you are not alone. For those working with teenagers, the good news is that we now know more than ever about why adolescents tend to have these characteristics or behaviors."

Powerful Video About Youth in Adult Criminal System

Are you ready to be moved? Please take 1.5 minutes to watch "Because I’m 16," a video collaboration between Judge Michael A. Corriero, who presided over the cases of youth in the adult criminal court system; T.J. Parsell a filmmaker who as a teenager served time in an adult prison; and a group of students in the New York Center for Juvenile Justice’s summer associates program.
This video was made possible by the generous support of The Sirus Fund, Linda Genereux & Timur Galen, and the MacArthur Family Charitable Foundation.

Shifts in Juvenile Justice Legislation Spark Debate Among Key Influencers

The shift from the tough-on-crime approach of the 1980s and 1990s has been visible through newly enacted laws (in 23 states) aiming to keep teens out of adult prisons and court systems. This shift is a result of the growing amount of research that suggests placing young people in adult court leads to repeat offenses.
However, some claim that these new laws cause needless delays to prosecution and are an insult to victims. Last Thursday, Diane Rehm and a panel of guests covered this topic and the controversies surrounding it on The Diane Rehm Show.
Guests on the panel included John Schwartz, national correspondent, The New York Times; Liz Ryan, president, Campaign for Youth Justice; and Dan May, district attorney, Colorado Springs.
Throughout the discussion, it became clear that Mr. May opposed this shift in legislation, while Ms. Ryan and Mr. Schwartz supported the shift. This kept the segment interesting and addressed both ends of the spectrum.

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!



Science of Adolescent Development Continues to Inform Juvenile Justice System

Over the past decade, state and local jurisdictions have been actively developing strategies to reduce both recidivism and spending in their juvenile justice systems. Many also seek to ensure that every youth who comes in contact with the system is met with procedural fairness at every stage of the justice system. To help accomplish these goals, juvenile justice leaders are examining and applying research and recommendations outlined in Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach, a seminal report released by National Research Council in 2012. This report provides an extensive review of decades of research on juvenile justice programs and practices.
To read more, visit the Justice Center website >> 

Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • At Thanksgiving, Reflecting on Justice for Native Americans (
    “Native Americans and Juvenile Justice: A Hidden Tragedy,” is an article from the 2008 issue of Poverty and Race, and covers the intersection of this historically disadvantaged group with the modern justice system.
  • OP-ED: Life-Saving Suicide Prevention Resources Address Critical Need in Juvenile Justice System (
    When it comes to high risk for suicide, youth in contact with the juvenile justice system stand out. It is alarming. Fortunately, staff within the system can play a crucial preventive role by working collectively to provide guidance, support and access to needed care.
  • Holidays in the Juvenile Justice System (
    "My wife, Mary Jo, and I were snowbound in Michigan while working on a building project so we lost Thanksgiving with our families in southern Illinois. Missing a holiday with the dozens of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles got me to wondering – what is the holiday experience for a kid in detention?"

New Research Shows More Than Half of Teens With Mental Health Disorders Do Not Receive Treatment

According to a recent blog post on, over half of teens with mental health disorders don't receive the treatment they need. Via the post: 

“It’s still the case in this country that people don’t take psychiatric conditions as seriously as they should,” lead researcher E. Jane Costello of Duke University said in a news release. “This, despite the fact that these conditions are linked to a whole host of other problems.”
Overall, in the past year, 45 percent of teens with psychiatric disorders received some form of service. The most likely to receive help were those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (74 percent), conduct disorder (73 percent) or oppositional defiant disorder (71 percent). Those least likely to receive services were those with phobias (41 percent) and any anxiety disorder (41 percent). Black teens were much less likely than white teens to receive mental health treatment.
There are not enough qualified pediatric mental health professionals in the United States, Costello said. “We need to train more child psychiatrists in this country,” she noted. “And those individuals need to be used strategically, as consultants to the school counselors and others who do the lion’s share of the work.”

See the detailed analysis in the Psychiatric Services journal >>

“Recruitment, Re-engagement & Re-entry: Incorporating the Youth Voice into Juvenile Justice Reform” Webinar

Teens and their families are often not included in important discussions on how to improve the juvenile justice system. Two programs with growing support are working to alleviate this void across the United States: the Raising Our Youth As Leaders Project (ROYAL) and the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice Youth Committee (WA-PCJJ).
On Nov. 21, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice held a webinar discussing the progress and future of these programs, “Recruitment, Re-engagement & Re-entry: Incorporating the Youth Voice into Juvenile Justice Reform.
The webinar addressed the benefits, steps to engage, and challenges of including young people in juvenile justice reform efforts with the help of two knowledgeable and invested presenters:

  • Starcia Ague - Youth and Family Advocate Program Administrator, Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Administration; Co-Chair Youth Committee, Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice
  • Debra R. Baker - Project Director, The Raising Our Youth As Leaders Project (ROYAL), King County Department of Public Defense

Important takeaways from this informative webinar include:

  • Young people representing the youth voice on juvenile justice reform serve as an effective advocacy tool and provide a perspective that moves leaders to implement change.
  • Including teens in reform efforts empowers them to become the next generation of advocates, while also developing their leadership and life skills.
  • Programs working with young people need to meet standards for organizational readiness to provide successful mentorship and support to teens involved or likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system.

For more information, watch the webinar in full:

Hocking County Ohio Juvenile Justice Fellow Recognized for Outstanding Service

Yessika Barber, Hocking County Ohio Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Justice Fellow, received the Hocking County Substance Abuse Prevention Award on Monday, October 28 at the Athens-Hocking-Vinton 317 Board (also known as Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board) annual meeting. Board member Erin Gibson nominated Yessika, and shared the following about her decision,

Yessika is very active in the community and is an excellent example of someone who puts children and the community first. She serves as a reminder that for us to raise healthy, strong children we, as a whole, need to work together to provide them with good examples and a safe community.
I am so very lucky to call Yessika a friend, and yes, she is a probation officer, but to the families she touches every day, she is a cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, a shining light of guidance and a constant source of encouragement. We would like to thank you for all that you do Yessika, and please, keep up the good work!

Yessika has been an employee for the Hocking County Juvenile Court for almost six years, serving as a Juvenile Justice Fellow and Specialized Docket Probation Officer for most of that time. When I asked her what the award meant to her, she explained,

My hope was renewed. It means I have to work harder to move bigger mountains and I think receiving it as a probation officer says a lot in respect to how far we have come from the hammer to the strength-based aspect of this field where kids can really find hope in themselves and the system.

I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Yessika, on behalf of the National Program Office and the Reclaiming Futures network, for receiving this prestigious award. She truly deserves it!
If you know of any local Reclaiming Futures leaders receiving accolades for their work, please email me because it’s important to share the success stories and news with our national learning collaborative and the field. We love to show off your great work!

Growing Evidence for Link Between Experience in Detention and Recidivism in Teens

Young people in the juvenile justice system who have an overall positive experience are 49 percent less likely to continue committing crimes, according to arrest and/or return-to-placement reports.
Two recent research briefs, “What Youths Say Matters” [PDF] and “Reducing Isolation and Room Confinement,” [PDF] by the Performance Based Standards Learning Institute (PbSLi) suggest that there is a direct, and strong, link between the quality of a teen’s time in detention and their likelihood to commit new offenses:
The latest PbSLi brief, “What Youths Say Matters,” focuses on the recent study, Pathways to Desistance, which is regarded as the most comprehensive longitudinal study of youths in the juvenile justice system.
The Pathways researchers interviewed around 1,400 youths in Philadelphia and Phoenix over a seven-year period observing what makes youths continue—or stop—committing crimes.
This study demonstrated that teens’ experiences in custody impact their future choices. The two main conclusions of the report include the following:

  1. What youths say matters; youths tell us ways we can help prevent them from continuing to commit crimes; and
  2. Asking young people is a valid, cost-effective way to find out what we need to know to prevent future crime.

Economics Alone Supports Juvenile Justice Reform; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • [OP-ED] Economics Alone Supports Juvenile Justice Reform (
    "Locking up a juvenile is estimated to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, while treating one at a community-based center is estimated by the Juvenile Justice Project to cost about $5,000."
  • Talking Juvenile Justice: A Webinar with Photographer Richard Ross (
    On Monday, November 18th JJIE hosted a webinar with Richard Ross -- a photographer, researcher and professor of art based in Santa Barbara, California. Ross has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Fulbright, and the Center for Cultural Innovation.
  • Racial Disparities in Juvenile Justice System Addressed (
    To illustrate the stark racial disparities in Connecticut’s juvenile justice system, think about this: While non-white kids make up 57 percent of the patients at Riverview Hospital, a youth psychiatric facility, non-white kids at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a secure facility for delinquents, make up 86 percent of the kids serving there. It’s a reality that child advocates, city officials and roughly 100 residents gathered to discuss Wednesday.
  • [OP-ED] Spotlight on Solano: Youth Thrive Through County Innovation (
    Today, juvenile justice reform and innovation is underway in California and nationwide. The Missouri and Washington models of juvenile justice programming are renowned, as they should be. They present a much-needed road map for other jurisdictions strategizing for systemic change. However, California may not need to look so far away to find the answers. With 58 counties, California is a hotbed of innovation, and Solano County is forging the way.

Supporting Systems Change in Reclaiming Futures Communities

Reclaiming Futures has helped communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime for more than 10 years. But how exactly does Reclaiming Futures accomplish systems change? We sat down with National Executive Director Susan Richardson to discuss the model and benefits of becoming a Reclaiming Futures site.
Lori Howell (LH): What makes Reclaiming Futures successful in a variety of communities across the country?  
Susan J. Richardson (SJR): Reclaiming Futures offers powerful tools and resources to communities helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. We work to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: That sounds like quite a feat! How do you accomplish this? 
SJR: Reclaiming Futures unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, teen mental health treatment and the community to reclaim youth.

LH: Please tell us about the Reclaiming Futures model.
SJR:  The proven six-step Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together this leadership team works for change to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment for teens and connect them to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: Please tell me more about the leadership team and how it functions.
SJR: The Reclaiming Futures Change Teams are organized into five groups: Judicial, Juvenile Justice, Substance Abuse Treatment, Community, and Project Director Fellowships. This change team also represents their local community at national Reclaiming Futures meetings. In addition to regular conference calls, each Fellowship has an annual meeting with their colleagues. Both the calls and meetings provide opportunities for Fellows to discuss implementation issues, professional topics, and seek the advice and support of colleagues as they work to implement the Reclaiming Futures model at the local level.

New JJIE Webinar: Talking Juvenile Justice with Photographer Richard Ross

JJIE recently hosted a webinar with Richard Ross, a photographer, researcher and professor of art based in Santa Barbara, California. Richard's most recent project, Juvenile In Justice, aims to expose conditions within the juvenile justice system. Via JJIE,

[Juvenile In Justice] turns a lens on the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. Seven years in the making, the project includes more than 1,000 kids in juvenile detention and commitment facilities in 31 states. The project is a quest to make the lives of these forgotten kids visual and tangible.

Watch the webinar in full below: 

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!



False Confessions Among Teens a Growing Problem

Daniel Taylor falsely confessed to a 1992 double murder in Chicago at the age of 17. This year, he was exonerated of the crime and released after spending 20 years behind bars.
Taylor said he confessed as a 17-year-old because he was afraid police would continue to hit him in the side with a flashlight. Taylor is one story among many in the growing issue of false confessions among young people.
Young people under the age of eighteen are three times more likely to falsely confess than adults.
In the last quarter century, 38 percent of exonerations for crimes committed by youth involved false confessions—compared to 11 percent for adults—based on a new database of 1,155 individuals who were wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges.
Many cases suggest that teens confess to crimes they didn’t commit due to high-pressure interrogations or short-term gratification—admitting to a crime so that they can leave and go home.
Another debated cause of false confessions among youth is the fact that many young people do not understand their Miranda rights to counsel and to remain silent.
As a result, many young people are alone during police interrogation, without the assistance of counsel or their parents, and research has shown that the resulting statement is often involuntary or unreliable.
In the 2011 case of J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court held that law enforcement must consider age when determining whether to issue a Miranda warning to a juvenile suspect.
The decision was split 5-4, but the majority sided with Justice Sotomayor who emphasized “the heightened risk of false confessions from youth” as many suspects under 18 are more susceptible to police pressure than the average adult.

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