Blog: Public Policy

Roundup: Update on the JJDPA; Treatment Agencies Improve Services & Bottom Line; Two Innovative Crime-Reduction Practices; and More

juvenile-justice-reform-adolescent-substance-abuse-news-roundup-TVJuvenile Justice Reform News

Juvenile Justice Reform: Most Minor Delinquents Diverted from the Juvenile Justice System Avoid Reoffending

[Full disclosure: I used to work for Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice (DCJ), where the study Jason writes about below was done. I'd be very interested in posting about data and studies done on youth in the juvenile justice system in other jurisdictions. --Ed.]

juvenile-justice-reform-recidivism-data-informal-slideDiverting Youth with Low-Level Offenses Reduced Crime

New research out of Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice (DCJ) shows that most young people who are kept out of the formal juvenile justice system do not reoffend. Among 271 young people, nearly eight out of ten who received no formal supervision did not reoffend within a year.
Of this group, two years out, 75 percent had not been referred by police or the district attorney for a criminal offense. When they did reoffend, it was for less serious offenses most of the time.  

Roundup: Possible Nominee for OJJDP Chief; Chicago's Unusual Anti-Violence Plan; Heritage Foundation Study Challenges Juvenile LWOP Stats

juvenile-justice-adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-news-TVJuvenile Justice Reform and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment News

How the Juvenile Justice System Criminalizes the Poor

juvenile-justice-reform-criminalization-of-the-poor-Justice-Policy-Institute-signHow the Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice Systems Criminalize the Poor
Check out this brief, eloquent piece from the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity site by Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy, on the ways that the criminal and juvenile justice systems disproportionately swallow up the poor -- for the same or similar crimes committed by more affluent people.

It's Time To Change Everything… But Maybe We Can Just Start By Being A Little Hopeful?

adolescent-substance-abuse-addiction-treatment-system-sign-says-ChangeWhen I first entered recovery at age 17, a man in long-term recovery looked me in the eye and told me, "It's simple. There's only one thing you need to change: everything."
I fought, pushed back, and resisted. I mean, I got that I couldn’t drink and drug the way I had before, but come on. Change everything? Really? 

Roundup: Half of all U.S. Kids are Assaulted Each Year; Pitting Pre-Schoolers Against Teens in Budget Fights Is Bad Policy; and More

Use, Abuse, Dependence - Who Decides?

adolescent-substance-abuse-assessment-not-all-science-checkboxI often hear people refer to the distinction between drug "use" and drug "abuse" as if it were an immutable, medical fact. A review of recent history suggests otherwise. Just as the American Psychiatric Association once viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder, the meaning of "substance use disorder" has evolved over time. The definitions we use today are partly a social construction, subject to changing mores, values, and even our political culture.
As readers of this blog certainly know, social service professionals use a variety of screening and assessment instruments to detect drug problems. Many tools still rely on the underlying logic of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM.
The DSM is widely endorsed, but few policymakers and other nonclinicians appreciate how much it has evolved. Consider this passage from the DSM 1980 edition:

Four Things You Can Do for Juvenile Justice Reform

There are rumblings throughout the country about racism right now. People are wondering what the implications of racism are, if it still exists, how much it affects and to what extent. These are the kinds of discussions we should be having as a nation. They are long overdue and the results of such discussions would be a welcome change to the silence and the ability of this country to ignore what is plain and evident. Yet it seems they're slow to begin and could go on for decades before we see any real change.
Now there are some in this country that can afford to wait as the discussion begins; on the other hand, those that are most affected by and involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems do not have the luxury of waiting. We must take action today, at every opportunity in the future, and be prepared to create opportunities on the days when there are none!
We're lucky in that we have the facts that are indisputable to serve as the starting point for this work. Our country has an addiction to incarceration and based on the staggering statistics of that addiction, it's one we can no longer afford. Secondly, the criminal and juvenile justice systems are inundated with the appalling history of racism in the US. The focus of our discussion should be, "What are we going to do about it?"
If we assume we can no longer wait for the leaders in our field and in our communities to spearhead the work, then the answers we seek lie within us. Are you waiting for change to come or are you willing to roll up your sleeves and push for the change? If you were waiting for the right time, I believe we are there.

Roundup: Too Much Candy for Kids Leads to Violent Adults; Prescription Drug Deaths Outnumber Car Crash Fatalities in Some States; and More

Roundup: Video Testimony on Life without Parole; SAMHSA Public Health Alert; NJ Supreme Court Rules on Juvenile Right to Counsel; and More

Concerned about the kids in the juvenile justice system? Then check out the video above of a 29-year-old woman given life without parole at 16 for killing her pimp. I found it on this blog, without a lot of information about where or when the video was made. But man oh man, it's sure moving.
Other stories:

"Missouri Model" on ABC "Primetime" Tonight 10pm EST / 7pm PST

Friday, September 04, 2009 ABC Television Network
There are nearly 100,000 kids in America's juvenile justice system, most in orange jumpsuits, locked behind bars and under constant guard. But the state of Missouri has cast aside the familiar model of juvenile jails in favor of a radically different approach - therapy and rehabilitation.

Juvenile Justice: National Report Calls on President, Department of Justice and Congress to Strengthen Federal-State Partnership

First-of-its-kind Report Uncovers Successes and Challenges of State Compliance with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

juvenile-justice-coalition-JJDPA-reportOn the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) released the results of a groundbreaking report, A Pivotal Moment: Sustaining the Success and Enhancing the Future of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

The release was anchored by a panel of speakers providing expertise from a variety of backgrounds in the field of juvenile justice.

ONDCP Policy Analyst Addresses Reclaiming Futures Judges

adolescent-substance-abuse-ONDCP-speaker-photoTackling adolescent substance abuse isn’t getting any easier, what with shrinking budgets for treatment and support services and trends like the rise in prescription drug abuse. So I was pleased to have the opportunity to see Charlotte Sisson (shown at left), Policy Analyst for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), give an informal address to a group of Reclaiming Futures judges over lunch at a judicial training in Greensboro, NC on August 28th. 

Improving Rhode Island's Juvenile Justice System: a Collaborative Approach

During the past few years, Rhode Island has been in the news regarding its approach to the juvenile justice system. In June of 2007, the General Assembly passed a law that required that 17-year-olds be tried as adults for any crime, and incarcerated at the adult prison.
The initial rationale for the change was that it was a cost-saving measure because the average cost of incarceration at the adult prison was thought to be less than incarceration at the Juvenile Training School. However, it was then determined that the 17-year-olds would have to be incarcerated in the high security wing of the adult prison to separate them from the adult population, which was costlier than housing them at the Training School. Despite this finding, the law was passed and put into effect.

Roundup: Calls for Juvenile Justice Reform to Stop New York Abuses; ADHD Drug Abuse Up 76%

Juvenile Justice Reform: Dispatches from Juvenile Hall

juvenile-justice-reform-dispatches-from-juvenile-hall-coverHeated discussions arise over the societal factors that lead to juvenile criminality and the ways that public institutions fail to curtail them. A team of experts with decades of collective hands-on experience presents a book that cuts through the hype and paranoia to offer real solutions. Dispatches from Juvenile Hall – Fixing a Failing System, cuts through the war between “soft on crime” and “tough on crime” to deliver an alternative that is “smart on crime” – a progressive approach, based on the latest findings that incorporate corrections responses, treatment, and family-focused interventions.

Addiction a Choice, Says Psychologist

adolescent-substance-abuse-addiction-a-choice-book-coverThose of us who keep up with the field of adolescent substance abuse, as well as substance abuse treatment in general, are well-versed in the idea that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, and that it is not a choice.
Psychologist Gene M. Heyman says in a new book from Harvard University Press that addiction is not a disease, and it's not involuntary. Instead, he says, it's a choice. He doesn't mean that individuals choose addiction, but that every time they use, they're making a cost-benefit analysis -- i.e., a choice. And furthermore, he argues, most addicts quit without treatment once the costs outweigh the benefits.

Roundup: Juvenile Justice System Teens in D.C. Mow Lawns for Elderly; Juvenile Court Privacy Disappearing; and More

juvenile-justice-adolescent-treatment-roundup-oldTVWhen it comes to the juvenile justice system and adolescent substance abuse, there's always something cooking. Check out this week's bonanza of resources and new stories:

The Juvenile Justice System: a Research Update

juvenile-justice-system-adolescent-substance-abuse-journal-coverAdolescent substance abuse in the juvenile justice system is the subject of Laurie Chassin's excellent article in the Fall 2008 issue of The Future of Children.
But I urge you to check out the entire issue, whose theme is "juvenile justice." Edited by Laurence Steinberg (whose recent book, Rethinking Juvenile Justice, we gave away last March), the journal brings together research from a number of scholars connected with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.