Blog: Public Policy

Juvenile Justice Reform: What Happens When You Lose a Team Member?

juvenile-justice-reform_moody-picture-of-treesOn Monday, April 19th 2010, Nassau County’s Family Court Deputy County Attorney’s Office was advised that the county was restructuring the department. Our Juvenile Treatment Court prosecutors, Gregg Roth and Arianne Reyer, were advised their services were no longer needed as of Friday, April 30th. Arianne was later given a temporary reprieve, but Gregg is gone.
This move was devastating to the treatment court and to the Reclaiming Futures initiative here, which had built a cohesive working group over the last three years. Just as when I was younger and my brother left home for the military, it had never occurred to me that anyone would ever leave our team. I am left feeling abandoned and alone with Gregg’s departure, just like I did when my brother went off to the Army. Our Nassau County Juvenile Treatment Court/Reclaiming Futures Change Team is family, and one of us is no longer here.

Webinar for Family Members Impacted by Substance Use & Co-Occurring Disorders

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_woman-speakingHere's a free, one-hour webinar from National Family Dialogue (launched last year by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) called "Our Stories Have Power," for family members who have been impacted by substance use and/or co-occurring mental health issues. It will be held May 26, 2010, at 2pm PST / 5pm EST. 
Family members can learn how to use their stories to educate the public and policy makers about the need for effective addiction treatment and recovery supports. They can also learn strategies for using their stories to build relationships and partnerships.

Juvenile Justice Reform - More on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Prohibiting Life Without Parole for Youth Who Have Not Committed Homicide

[The following is reposted in its entirety from an e-newsletter sent out by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and is reprinted with permission. -Ed.]
juvenile-justice-reform_Supreme-Court-buildingThe National Juvenile Justice Network commends the May 17, 2010 holding by the Supreme Court of the United States that it is unconstitutional to sentence youth who did not commit homicide to life without the possibility of paroleGraham v. Florida broadly condemns the sentence of life without parole for youth who have not committed homicide, finding the punishment to be cruel and unusual. The opinion draws upon our national evolving standards of decency demonstrated in part by the fact that only 129 non-homicide youth offenders are currently serving life without parole sentences in only 12 states. 

The strongly worded opinion affirms the fact that youth have lessened culpability than adults, and that youth’s developing brains make it impossible to determine if they are beyond rehabilitation. Reiterating many of the findings from Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), regarding youth’s lack of maturity, underdeveloped sense of responsibility and vulnerability to outside, especially peer, pressure, the Court states that youth cannot be “classified among the worst offenders.” Furthermore, “no recent data provide reasons to reconsider” the Court’s observations in Roper, and “developments in psychology and brain science continue to showfundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds.”

Supreme Court Restricts Life Without Parole Sentences for Juveniles

juvenile-justice-reform_open-doorwayJuveniles may not be sentenced to life without parole for crimes short of homicide, according to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. While teens may be given life sentences, the court ruled that they must have the opportunity to apply for eventual release. In doing so, the court recognized the unique developmental stage of adolescence, and the possibility of young people's maturation and redemption.
I would argue that the ruling should be extended to include homicides as well -- at least on a case-by-case basis.  But what do you think? 

ONDCP Releases National Drug Control Strategy

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_ONDCP-strategy-coverBack in January, we offered two sneak peeks at the Obama Administration's then-forthcoming National Drug Control Strategy, developed by the Office of National Drug Control (ONDCP), including a link to an extremely informative webinar about it with deputy director A. Thomas McLellan.  
Now, the ONDCP has put the final touches on its National Drug Control Strategy - you can read the full strategy here or watch a video message from ONDCP director Gil R. Kerlikowske. 
Not up to reading the whole thing just now? You can find the Executive Summary here (it's also available in Spanish), or you can download a brochure with highlights
RELATED Post: The National Drug Control Strategy is high-level policy. When you drop down a couple of thousand feet down to where it comes to actually treating adolescent substance abuse, you may want to check out our handy reference list of evidence-based models.

Roundup: Working with Defiant Adolescents in Treatment; Advocates' Guide to Improving Mental Health Treatment for Kids in the Juvenile Justice System; and More

juvenile-justice-reform-adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-news_old-TVJuvenile Justice System - Grants

Here's links to several funding opportunities and a specific fundor. Not all are juvenile-specific. The pool of plausible applicants for several of these will be quite narrow. 


Adolescent Substance Abuse - Federal Confidentiality Law Under Attack

adolescent-substance-abuse_word-privacy-partially=erasedHere's some potentially huge news for adolescent substance abuse treatment providers and juvenile courts across the country. It could mean that sharing information between treatment providers and juvenile courts gets easier -- but it could also seriously jeopardize young people's privacy and the likelihood that they'll get treatment.

Involvement in Juvenile Court - the ABA's Collateral Consequences Project

The American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Section's on-going effort to catalog the far-reaching effects of juvenile adjudications or convictions continues apace, with a large body of research already completed, and more data being collected every day. 
What Are "Collateral Consequences?

"Collateral consequences" are adverse results stemming from an arrest, prosecution, or conviction, but are not part of the sentence.
For example, although a juvenile who was adjudicated delinquent at 14 may have completed her sentence, she may be unable to gain admission to a professional school later on in life, or have difficulty finding public housing. Often, collateral consequences can impact a juvenile's family members; depending on the child's offense, for example, an entire family may be evicted from public housing.

National Mentoring Month, Plus a Positive Youth Development Policy Platform

juvenile-court-mentors_mentor-plus-youth-photoNational Mentoring Month in Reclaiming Futures Hocking County

Last Thursday was Thank Your Mentor Day, and the Reclaiming Futures site in Hocking County, OH was featured in the Logan Daily News for promoting it. Their goal is to promote mentoring for youth involved with juvenile court who have alcohol and drug issues.
Like many other juvneile courts, Hocking County has found a lack of local mentors and mentoring programs serving court-involved youth. So they've allocated $10,000 in grant money to promote one-on-one mentoring with teens in the justice system. The grant is from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
But if you missed Thank Your Mentor Day -- I'm afraid I did -- it's not too late. The whole month of January is National Mentoring Month. Check out the website for ideas and information. 

Roundup: National Drug Control Strategy Could Change Addiction Treatment ... and More

Editor's Picks: Stories of the Week

New Federal Drug Control Strategy

  • If you manage an adolescent substance abuse treatment agency or system, you won't want to miss this recorded webinar. The Obama Administration’s ambitious national drug control strategy, due out until February, could double or triple the number of people getting treatment by integrating addiction treatment into doctor’s offices. There will also be a new focus on treating offenders and an overall emphasis on recovery in addition to treatment. Check it out - it's completely worth your time.

Sneak Peeks at ONDCP's New Federal Drug Control Strategy

The Obama Administration's new drug control strategy will be officially unveiled in February. Until then, here's two peeks at what lies ahead on the demand reduction side of the policy:
drug-control-stratgey_ONDCP-newsletter1. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has begun publishing a newsletter, called the ONDCP Update. (In addition to our link here, you can also find it on the ONDCP Web site at  in "What’s New" and in "Publications".) You can find two articles on the strategy there -- one is a brief overview, and the other signals that there will be a new emphasis on recovery as well as prevention, intervention, and treatment. 
2. NIATx's ACTION Campaign II sponsored a fantastic webinar with Thomas McLellan, the deputy director of the ONDCP. His official topic was the impact of health care reform on addiction treatment, but he also touched on parity regulations and of course the new national drug control strategy.
I recommend that anyone even peripherally interested in addiction treatment follow the link and check it out -- but especially if you're responsible for running a treatment agency or managing a treatment system. (I had some trouble getting the PowerPoint slides to work properly, but there aren't too many, and Mr. McLellan is quite thorough in his audio presentation.) 

Juvenile Justice Reform: Pathways to Desistance and What Works

juvenile-justice-reform-Pathways-to-Desistance-coverBig news in the field of juvenile justice reform: initial results from the "Pathways to Desistance" research project are now available.  And the implications for juvenile justice policy -- and opportunities for debate -- are significant. 
Conducted by the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change initiative, "Pathways to Desistance" is a large, multi-site project that follows 1,354 racially and ethnically diverse juvenile offenders over seven years and tries to answer the basic question we all want the answer to: what combination of sanctions and services helps kids stop re-offending, i.e., desist from crime?  
Specifically, it's looking at youth who committed "the most serious felonies that come before the court, including murder, robbery, aggravated assault, sex offenses, and kidnapping" between the ages of 14 and 17. Over 90% of the followup interviews -- over 25,000 of them -- have been completed so far.
One key finding:

Roundup: Juvenile Drug Court Grants from SAMHSA; Juvenille Justice Reform Survey; Using the Media to Support Reform; and More

juvenile-justice-reform-old-TVJuvenile Justice System News - An Important Survey, plus Webinars and One Grant Opportunity

  • Please take or pass on this quick online survey for kids who used to be in the juvenile justice system, family members of kids in the system, and people of color new to the field of juvenile justice reform. The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) compiled the survey to help shape its first Juvenile Justice Leadership Development Institute, which it plans to hold in July 2010. The mission of the Institute is to create a "more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies, with a particular focus on cultivating and supporting leaders of color, youth and family members." Hurry, though, the deadline to complete it is Monday, December 14th!

Roundup: "The Keeper and the Kept"; National Standard for Juvenile Recidivism; Free Webinar on Reducing No-Shows in Treatment

Juvenile Justice Reform & Related News

Reality TV Rehab Shows and Health Care Reform

substance-abuse-treatment_newspaper-headline_ehab-for-CamillaIf it is true that dollars drive decisions and the media shape attitudes on spending for public policy, we better all get off our couches, get involved, and mobilize to make sure policy makers understand how important it is to support youth and families in recovery.
Our family has suffered for years with generations of the disease of addiction. Two of our kids have made it; two have not. But when I was channel surfing last night, I saw enough images of  “rehab” to know there’s no hope that anyone would fund youth and family recovery services, given the current public will and culture.
Sensationalistic depictions of addiction are sold by the media business to get ratings, the media impacts public opinion and government, and the government impacts recovery spending on our health prospects and the future.

Can Drug Policy Really be Evidence-Based?

If you have not heard about the ongoing controversy surrounding drug policy in the U.K., you might want to read about it. It's a fascinating example of the troubling incompatibilities between science, politics, and morality.
drug-policy-estimating-harms-report-coverProfessor David Nutt was recently fired from his position as chair of the British government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
His problems began when he agreed to publish a report through the widely regarded Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at Kings College London.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act - Recommendations - Part 2 of 2

This report on adolescent substance abuse and mental health issues in the federal legislation governing the juvenile justice system is reprinted, with permission, from the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of The Link: Connecting Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America. The final fact sheet, suitable for printing, can be found on the Act-4-JJ website.

The second part, below, contains recommendations for strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act; the first part lays out the justification and the key issues.

Recommendations for Strengthening JJDPA Mental Health and Substance Abuse Provisions

  • Call for and provide federal funding for collaboration between state and local agencies, programs, and organizations that serve children, including schools, mental health and substance abuse agencies, law enforcement and probation personnel, juvenile courts, departments of corrections, child welfare, and other public health agencies. Juvenile justice agencies should involve families whenever appropriate.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act - Key Issues - Part 1 of 2

adolescent-substance-abuse-and-mental-health-The-Link-logoThis report on adolescent substance abuse and mental health issues in the federal legislation governing the juvenile justice system is reprinted, with permission, from the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of The Link: Connecting Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America. The final fact sheet, suitable for printing, can be found on the Act-4-JJ website. 

The first part, below, describes the justification and the key issues; the second part contains recommendations for strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

When Congress considers legislation later this year to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), mental health and substance abuse issues will be a top priority.
Available data from single site and multisite studies indicate that 70% or more of youth who are securely detained in a juvenile justice facility may suffer with mental health and related disorders; rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders appear to be somewhat higher for girls than boys; and more than 20% of such youth suffer disorders so severe that their ability to function is significantly impaired (Abram, Teplin, McClelland, & Dulcan, 2003; Skowyra & Cocozza, 2007; Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002).
Among youth under nonresidential court supervision (e.g., on probation), the rate of diagnosable mental health and substance abuse disorders is approximately 50%.
By comparison, in the general youth population, approximately 20% of youth suffer with mental health and substance abuse disorders. In addition, justice system involved youth may experience behavioral/emotional disorders for the first time because of contact with the juvenile justice system.

Roundup: OJJDP Needs Assessment Survey; LGBT Youth in Juvenile Court; CRAFFT Predicts Teens' High-Risk Sexual Behavior

juvenile-justice-adolescent-substance-abuse-news-old-TVYour Juvenile Justice System: Share Local Needs with OJJDP

  • What training and technical assistance does your system need?  The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) wants to know. Complete their online needs assessment for your juvenile justice system, and help them improve their understanding of local needs to build capacity and sustainability among juvenile justice organizations. 

Juvenile Justice System and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment News

Juvenile Justice Reform: Supreme Court Hears Juvenile Life Without Parole Cases Today

Background on the Juvenile Life Without Parole Cases

juvenile-justice-reform-life-without-parole-supreme-court-photoToday, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing appeals on two cases where teens were sentenced to life without parole for non-homicidal crimes.
The court's decision has the potential to significantly curtail the use of "life without parole" sentences for teens, especially in cases where no one is killed. Youth Today has very thorough coverage, including links to lots of editorials on the topics, and you can find a piece from The Atlantic, "Kids Locked Up for Life."