Roundup: "Culture of Violence" in NY's juvenile prisons; Cost-Benefit Analysis in the Juvenile Justice System; Parity Legislation May Change Business of Addiction Treatment; and More

juvenile-justice-reform-adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-news_old-TVJuvenile Justice Reform News

  • The New York Times published a strong editorial arguing for immediate and decisive action on the part of the federal government to address shockingly high rates of sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers and prisons around the country. (Last week, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) published the first-ever report of its kind on the sexual victimization of teens behind bars.)
  • James Bell of the W. Haywood Burns Institute seized on the BJA's report to deliver another eloquent, blistering column on the state of the juvenile justice system this week: "Captured by the Clueless." If you're interested in Bell's work on disproportionate minority contact, you should also check out his interview with John Kelly of Youth Today.
  • Gotham Gazette published an excellent look at New York state's struggle to get rid of the "culture of violence" in its juvenile justice system. (Hat tip to @policy4results.) Staff-vs.-youth violence has been documented in reports by the U.S. Department of Justice, a task force set up by the governor of New York, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch. The Gotham Gazette piece does a good job of explaining the frustrations of reformers as well as the counter-arguments of union representatives. But what resonated most strongly with me was this quote:

The 17-year-old who spent time in the state's facilities said the workers' attitudes varied. "Some staff was like, 'Let them be kids'; other staff was like, 'They did a crime.' Others were like, 'I just don't care 'cause I still get paid.' There was some staff that really helped me and there were others that didn't care," she recalled.

Research: Preventing Anti-social Behavior; Anti-dpressants Do Work; and "American" Mental Illnesses Spread Worldwide

  • Prevention Action reports on a comprehensive intervention used successfully in eight London schools to address early-onset antisocial behavior. According to the article, "[i]ts originality lies in its attempt to address multiple risk factors and to screen the whole school population in a deprived area to identify children at risk." What was the intervention? "The 28-week intervention included proven components to address both child behavior (12 weeks of Incredible Years) and child literacy (through a new 10-week SPOKES program to help parents read with their children)." The only drawback was that 60% of families of high-risk youth didn't participate.
  • You might have seen the recent news stories trumpeting the discovery that antidepressant medication doesn't work. Not true, according to an op-ed in The New York Times: "This is the big picture of mental health care in America: not perfectly healthy people popping pills for no reason, but people with real illnesses lacking access to care; facing barriers like ignorance, stigma and high prices; or finding care that is ineffective." Sounds like addiction treatment in the juvenile justice system, doesn't it? (Hat tip to @piper.)

But it's possible that the high rates of mental illness we see in this country (and in our juvenile justice system) are more culturally determined than we'd liked to admit. According to a New York Times Magazine article, "The Americanization of Mental Illness," cross-cultural research suggests that mental illness often differs across time and across cultures. Furthermore, Western forms of mental illness, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia, are starting to show up in cultures that never displayed them before.
This should concern anyone who's providing cross-cultural care to youth in the justice system. As one psychiatrist is quoted as saying, “'Western mental-health discourse introduces core components of Western culture, including a theory of human nature, a definition of personhood, a sense of time and memory and a source of moral authority. None of this is universal.'" What if you're treating a youth or a family whose cultural view of these things is very different? (Hat tip to @policy4results.)

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Updated: February 08 2018