Roundup: The End of the "War on Crime" -- or Just the Beginning?

juvenile-justice-system_sign-reads-newsResources for the Juvenile Justice System

  • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has completed its first-ever "Census of Juveniles on Probation" (CJP), which it says "provides critical data on the characteristics of youth on probation, the nature of their offenses, and how they are served." Initial findings were presented at the American Probation and Parole Association's Annual Training Institute on August 17, 2010. I can't find a report on line, but I expect it'll be out shortly. If I've just overlooked it, let me know where I can find it and I'll post it here. 
  • Work with Native American youth, or for a tribe? You might be interested in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Tribal Youth Program Web site. There, you'll find funding opportunities, resources on culturally appropriate prevention and intervention strategies, and federally-recognized tribes can request "web-based resources, individualized technical assistance, or on-site training or technical assistance."

The Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline - Getting Stronger or Cracking Up?

  • A CNN story reviews the costs of private prisons vs. publicly-run prisons. (Hat tip to Vera Institute of Justice.) While the story isn't focused on youth facilities (I'd like to see one), it should worry everyone concerned about justice system policy. Cash shortages, it seems, are pushing some states to privatize their prisons despite potentially relaxed oversight, less training for staff, and a seriously undesirable result: higher recidivism.

The two scariest quotes from the story?

"The prison population continues to grow regardless of what the economic conditions are."


"But even [Damon] Hininger [CEO of the private prison industry's leader, Corrections Corporation of America] admits that many states are asking for a reduction in prisoner rehabilitation services. 'That does have a negative impact on potential recidivism,' says Hininger."

"Without a whole lot of fanfare, the [Obama] administration is laying the foundations for a new criminal justice system model that might, conceivably, end America's morally disastrous, fiscally ruinous, four-decade-long experimentation with mass incarceration."

Also inspiring was a mini-story within the larger piece about the potential of restorative justice with non-violent teens:

"When three teens broke into their school a few years back and trashed it, the [Los Angeles Archiocese's] Office of Restorative Justice persuaded the trial judge to consider a restorative justice solution. The kids had to face their principal and fellow students; they had to pay for the damage; and they had to spend their weekends doing community service at the school—cleaning classrooms, doing basic maintenance work, sweeping autumn leaves. The principal, recalls [Father George] Horan, took the kids out to lunch, got to know them and encouraged them to attend to their studies. "She said the next year they were the three best kids in the school. What a better result than sending the kids to juvenile hall. They turned their lives around."

  • If we're going to smash the cradle-to-prison pipeline, we need to keep youth of color in school and help them graduate. But according to a new report from The Schott Foundation, the national average for black males graduating with their cohort is 47%, and the data makes it clear that making better decisions about policy and resource allocation would tell a much happier story. (Hat tip to
  • Reading the report, I was amazed and depressed to discover that in Guilford County, NC, a Reclaiming Futures site, there's a 31% gap between black males graduating with their cohort (48%) and white males (79%). Yet Guilford County is listed as one of the "ten best performing large districts for black males" in the nation ... Wow. What are the rates in your state? 

  • What can reduce the high school dropout rate? Catch youth early. "Drop outs are not born, they are created," says Michigan's state school superintendent. And they're "not just a high school problem," he goes on. Which is why Michigan has created a new database that collects  three pieces of data in one place -- data that are strong predictors of becoming an eventual dropout. The goal? Addressing youth problems early, in elementary school or middle school. (H/t, again, to

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment - What Works, and Are We Widening the Net Too Much? 

  • What works when it comes to adolescent substance abuse treatment? A recent TIME story described the still-widespread use of ineffective treatment approaches for teens, as well as some of the financial and policy reasons why evidence-based approaches haven't been adopted more widely.  Evan Elkin, who directs the Adolescent Portable Therapy program at Vera Institute, talks about what actually works in his blog post, "What TIME didn't tell about teen treatment programs." One reason not to miss his post: the exchange of comments between Mr. Elkin and Jeffrey Butts, a nationally known juvenile justice researcher (he led the Reclaiming Futures evaluation). The big concern for youth in the juvenile justice system, according to them, is widening the net too much and over-treating youth who don't actually need it.

positive-youth-development_youth-organizing-graffittiFocus on Youth Development for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Organizing youth to work for social justice is one of the most powerful ways to build leadership skills, and help youth in the justice system give voice to their stories and give back to their communities. If you're looking for tools, information, and periodic chances for grant support, check out the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO). [Image fromthe FCYO web site.]
  • Want to read some writing by youth in juvenile detention? The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance has started collecting and publishing (with permission) the writing of detained youth and sharing it via a new "Youth Edition" of its e-newsletter.  In the examples I linked to here, you can see the youths' confusion, their pain -- and the way they yearn for a better life. Heartbreaking and inspiring.


Updated: February 08 2018