Graduation Celebration in Montgomery County, Ohio

As many students graduated across the county in May and June, the Honorable Anthony Capizzi congratulated youth during a different kind of commencement. On May 15, 2014, Montgomery County Juvenile Court celebrated the journey to sobriety of 15 youth along with their families. Judge Capizzi indicated that for some youth and families, the journey was lengthy with many obstacles; for others, the goal of completing Drug Court was swift and certain. Regardless of the path traveled by youth to their graduation date, Judge Capizzi, the Drug Court case managers and counselors never gave up on them. More importantly, the youth and families never gave up on themselves. Two families gave testimonials that Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court not only facilitated their children’s sobriety but also directly impacted or led to the parents’ sobriety at the same time.
Singer/community activist Vaughn Anthony Stephens was the guest speaker for graduation. Vaughn Anthony has traveled the world singing background for his brother, John Legend. He has also performed solo and collaborated with stars such as Rick Ross, Robin Thicke, Ghostface, Estelle and many others. Currently Vaughn Anthony is launching his own non-profit corporation, the “Be About it Movement,” in his hometown of Springfield, Ohio. Vaughn Anthony provided an inspirational and encouraging message for youth to remain disciplined and focused on their sobriety.
As a special surprise for graduation, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor sent representatives to recognize the accomplishments of Montgomery County’s Drug Court youth. Assistant Senior Policy Advisors Angie Lee and Lisa Hayes presented all graduating youth with Certificates of Achievement signed by Governor Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Taylor. A special recognition was also presented to Judge Anthony Capizzi for his commitment to Drug Court and the youth of Montgomery County. The Resolution presented to Judge Capizzi from Governor Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Taylor recognizes his unwavering support of the Drug Court program.
The Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court, led by Judge Anthony Capizzi, the Drug Court case managers and staff, and the families and friends of the youth in the program are commended for their work to make their community a safer place to live, work and raise a family.

New Online Database Monitors Juvenile Justice System Change

The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) and Models for Change —a MacArthur Foundation initiative—have released a new online database that will allow policy makers, advocates, researchers and the media to chart nationwide change in juvenile justice policy, practices, and statistics.
This powerful new tool, called the Juvenile Justice GPS (JJGPS - Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics), is a website that monitors juvenile justice system change by examining state laws and juvenile justice practice, combined with the most relevant state and national statistics.
The JJGPS is the first of its kind and will provide a much fuller national and historical overview of the juvenile justice system. It was created with the purpose of increasing clarity on critical issues and encouraging reform.
Director of the NCJJ Melissa Sickmund believes the JJGPS will prove to be an invaluable resource in the years ahead:
“We hope that policy makers will use the information to see where they stand, and when they realize what other states have accomplished, be inspired to make improvements in their own systems.”
The JJGPS will be organized in six main sections, starting with the jurisdictional boundaries section, which includes all laws that transfer juvenile offenders to the criminal court to be tried as adults:

Let Teens Talk About Mental Illness; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Attorney: Girl in Stabbing Deserves Juvenile Court (The Journal Times)
    Wisconsin's tough laws requiring children be charged as adults in homicide cases could mean a 12-year-old girl accused of stabbing a friend won't get help she needs, her attorney said Tuesday.
  • 'Burning Down The House' Makes The Case Against Juvenile Incarceration (NPR Books)
    Bernstein's new book, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, takes an in-depth look at juvenile incarceration. The journalist has spent years covering the juvenile justice system, and has interviewed hundreds of young people in detention facilities.
  • Reducing Adolescent Involvement in the Juvenile Justice System (Syracuse News)
    “This is an opportunity for us to use our research skills in a way that engages with the community and potentially makes a difference,” says Mulvaney. “We want to identify the adolescents before they get involved with the system.”

Topics: News, No bio box

Tune In Live: Reclaiming Futures at White House ONDCP Event

Tune in this Tuesday, June 10, to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)’s live video stream of the Academic Achievement Summit. ONDCP and the Department of Education are teaming up to explore how substance abuse affects academic achievement, with the goal of catalyzing action, especially at the local level.
Three of the Summit’s panel discussions will be streamed live, beginning at 8:15 a.m. ET, and can be viewed at Wade Melton, program director of Hardin County, Ohio Juvenile Court and Reclaiming Futures Fellow, will be participating in a panel discussion at 11 a.m. ET.
I’m so excited to be part of this opportunity and look forward to further exploring how we can help young people break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime in order to achieve academic success.

Topics: No bio box, ONDCP

The Real Roots of Prison Recidivism

Editor's note: this article originally appeared on Huffington Post and is reprinted with permission.
Numbers are tricky. Studies are done. Reports are written. Statistics released. And then people take the numbers and run with them, waving them like protest placards claiming how the numbers prove or disprove some long held "truth." The Right does it. The Left does it. We all do it. Maybe there's a tiny toggle in the human genome that manipulates us to manipulate the numbers. That's why I've never liked numbers, never trusted them.
I saw this all play out in a recent Boston Globe Op-Ed piece about the high rates of recidivism in U.S. prisons. Using the most recent data from the Bureau of Statistics, the numbers roll out: Within six months of being freed 28 percent of former prisoners were arrested for a new crime; three years, 68 percent; five years, 77 percent. Twenty-nine percent of the returnees had been arrested for violent offenses; 38 percent for property crimes; 39 percent for drug offenses; 58 percent for public order crimes. I think everyone would agree that the numbers paint a pretty bleak picture.
But this is where the numbers get tricky. The article insists that these statistics prove that efforts at prison reform and rehabilitation don't work. Criminal justice experts have been searching for the "holy grail of rehabilitation" for years -- 40 according to one expert quoted -- and nothing has worked. The article then goes on to suggest that since this holy grail is so elusive, since so many criminals leave prison "only too ready to offend again," we have no option but to continue our present practice of mass incarceration, thus maintaining the U.S.' global position of locking up 25 percent of the world's prison population while being only 5 percent of its general population.

Keeping Teens Out of Facilities: “Supervision Strategies for Justice-Involved Youth”

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency recently released the brief “Supervision Strategies for Justice-Involved Youth [PDF],” which reports on improved supervision strategies for young people on probation or parole by juvenile departments to help keep them out of facilities.
The brief is based on a field survey of more than 140 juvenile justice system leaders around the country, and found that the following three supervision strategies are working effectively:

  • Systems Are Improving Practice by Reducing Supervision for Youth Who Do Not Need It: The overall approach to supervision relies on risk assessments, screening instruments, and other tools to help systems shift youth to the lowest form of supervision needed to meet their needs and, in some cases, to divert youth from the system entirely;
  • Justice Systems Are Working to Reduce Revocations: Juvenile departments are engaging in training with line staff to encourage different responses to behaviors to avoid revocation, clarifying which rules may no longer result in revocation, and problem solving with the youth and families around the right response;
  • Systems Are Working to Build Stronger Supervision Partnerships With Families and Service Providers: Strategies include clearly articulating roles for each member of the supervision team in the work and their relationships to each other, shared access to information systems, joint trainings, reliance on models that seek to place families at the center of the process, hiring people to work with families in the system, and developing family orientation programs.

Reclaiming Futures, Rebuilding Lives; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Reclaiming Futures, Rebuilding Lives - PDF Download (Grantmakers in Health Views from the Field)
    "Reclaiming Futures was originally piloted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2001 in 10 communities across the United States. It is designed to improve treatment services for mental health and substance abuse, provide a comprehensive system of care that coordinates available services, and involve the community in creating new opportunities for youth when reintroduced to the community."
  • Creative Destruction at a California Juvenile Lockup (
    "Don Meyer has seen more than his share of approaches aimed at rehabilitating kids during his nearly five decades working in California’s juvenile justice systems. Those approaches — from boot camps to sports programs to jail-like detention facilities — have had limited success in rehabilitating kids and preventing recidivism."
  • Juvenile Justice Secretary Walters To Retire from State Government (
    "Secretary Walters' legacy is that she managed, in her time there, to completely change the culture of the Department of Juvenile Justice for the better," said Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. "She switched its focus to investment and prevention services, and we've already seen the results of her vision and her work with record low crime rates for juveniles."
  • Life after Juvenile Detention (
    Of all the birthdays Julie Kisaka remembers from her childhood, one clearly stands out among the rest. “There’s nothing worse than celebrating your 15th birthday in jail,” Kisaka said.

Topics: News, No bio box

Two Reclaiming Futures Fellows Nominated for Goldstein Hall of Fame

This year two Reclaiming Futures fellows, Judge Anthony Capizzi, Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County Judicial Fellow and Reclaiming Futures Judicial Faculty, and Lilas Rajaee, project director of Reclaiming Futures Denver, have been nominated for the Goldstein Hall of Fame.
The Honorable Judge Stanley M. Goldstein was the first Drug Court judge in the nation. In recognition of Judge Goldstein's example, expertise, and leadership, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) named the Drug Court Hall of Fame in his honor. From the NADCP website:

In 1989, the first Drug Court was established in Miami, Florida, to process criminal cases of substance-abusing offenders through comprehensive supervision, testing, treatment, sanctions and incentives.
Judge Goldstein's untiring efforts epitomize the qualities this award seeks to honor in each of its recipients. NADCP inaugurated the "Stanley M. Goldstein Drug Court Hall of Fame" in January 2003.

Congratulations to Judge Capizzi and Lilas Rajaee for all of your tireless work.

New Program Strives to Reduce Crossover Between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice System

Lane County, among 13 other jurisdictions across the nation, has been selected to implement a new juvenile justice program created by Georgetown University. The program, “Crossover Youth,” is designed to reduce the number of young people who crossover between child welfare and the juvenile justice system.
Staff from Lane County Youth Services, as well as former juvenile delinquent Denise Ramirez, share what this program means to Lane County in the clip below.

Our Children Really are Facing a Mental Health Crisis; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Hon. Amy L. Nechtem Appointed Chief Justice of the Juvenile Court by Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey (
    “I am pleased to announce the appointment of Judge Amy Nechtem to lead the Juvenile Court in promoting positive outcomes for children and families,” said Chief Justice Carey.  “Her judicial and leadership experience will advance juvenile justice and child welfare using the latest research, data analysis and evidence-based practices over the next five years."
  • Why Are Kids Being Tried in Kangaroo Courts? (Rolling Stone)
    "I've seen kids as young as five go into court without a lawyer," says Wendy Young, president of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), which represents unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children. And, she says, the number of children apprehended and into federal custody each year is skyrocketing – it's increased from between 6,000-8,000 children per year before 2011 to 25,000 in 2013.
  • House Approves Keeping Youthful Misdemeanors in Juvenile Court (
    North Carolina and New York are the only states that still treat juvenile offenders as adults. Proponents of the bill argue that harsh repercussions for teen misdemeanants’ youthful misdeeds loom unfairly over their job and college applications, even when records are expunged.

Topics: News, No bio box

2014 Leadership Institute Materials Now Publicly Available

For those who were unable to attend the 2014 Leadership Institute, or if you’d simply like to review materials from your time in New Orleans this year, I’m happy to announce that many presentations, videos and handouts are now publicly available.
We’re not just publishing snippets from our keynotes either. This year we’re excited to include the full-length videos from both Gina Castaneda, Santa Cruz County Deputy Probation Officer, and Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.
Keynote: How One Young Woman Completely Transformed Her Life and the Teachers and Mentors Who Helped Pave the Way presented by Gina Castaneda, Santa Cruz County, CA Deputy Probation Officer

Keynote: Father 'Greg' Joseph Boyle, Founder & Director, Homeboy Industries

Reducing Crime One Street at a Time

The issue of illegal dumping has had a negative impact on many Dayton, Ohio neighborhoods. Illegal dumping poses a health risk to residents, lowers property value, and is costly to taxpayers. As a result of areas appearing to be unkempt, neighborhoods plagued with this problem have been found to attract criminal activity.
On April 4, 2014 Montgomery County Juvenile Court hosted its third annual community clean up in the Newcomb Plains Neighborhood. This was a community effort, with multiple partners coming together to improve the appearance of one of our city’s neighborhoods. Montgomery County Juvenile Court Reclaiming Futures, Probation Department, Solid Waste and the City of Dayton Priority Board identified this neighborhood as an area of need.
Over thirty youth, twenty staff and Natural Helpers met at St. Paul United Methodist Church, for lunch. Judge Anthony Capizzi encouraged everyone that participated and celebrated the incredible impact that the youth were having in this neighborhood. After a slight rain delay the group took to the streets and alleyways, motivated and eager to make a difference. Volunteers also distributed a community resource pamphlet with information on services available for alcohol and drug abuse, mental health assistance and food services.
When the job was completed the team had eclipsed their last year’s total of 5.7 tons of trash in an afternoon, with an astounding 8.4 tons. This activity was one of many youth involved activities going on during the month of April, to celebrate youth service projects. On April 25, 2014 Montgomery County Juvenile Court youth involved in this project were recognized at the United Way Global Youth Service Day Celebration.

Topics: No bio box

National Prevention Week 2014: “Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future.”

May 18-24 is National Prevention Week 2014, and the theme this year focuses on the important role each one of us has in maintaining a healthy life to ensure a productive future: Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future.
National Prevention Week 2014 is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. National Prevention Week begins near the start of summer each year due to the increase in recreational activities and events that tend to spark substance use among young people.
SAMHSA urges us all to take part in National Prevention Week this year and help ensure a safe and healthy summer season!
There are many different ways to get involved:
•Take the Prevention Pledge to add your own “brick” to the wall, and share it among friends.
•Host your own awareness event using the National Prevention Week 2014 Participant Toolkit.
•Attend an awareness event and spread the word among your personal networks.
•Share National Prevention Week 2014 information with friends and family using the provided promotional materials from SAMHSA.
•Submit an entry to the National Prevention Week “I Choose” Project.
However you decide to participate, SAMHSA looks forward to observing National Prevention Week 2014 with you!

Recovering Teens Find New Outlets Through Art; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Mock Court Gets Truant Students Back in the Classroom (
    "At 7:30 on a Wednesday morning, truancy court is in session in a basement room at City Springs Elementary-Middle School. The judge, retired Baltimore City Juvenile Court Master Joyce T. Mitchell, ponders reasons a steady parade of students give for their truancy or tardiness."
  • Double Charged: The True Cost of Juvenile Justice (
    Double Charged is a special investigation into the U.S. Juvenile Justice system, produced by Youth Radio. This is part one of a two-part series.
  • OP-ED: The Uneasy Transition from Juvenile Hall to Life on the Outside (
    "Exhilaration jolted through my body when I stepped back onto the grounds of Central Juvenile Hall for the first time since my release. I finally knew what it felt like to come back as a free man and not as a detained juvenile. I cherished how different it felt."
  • New York City Teens Get a Second Chance Through Theater (
    "This week, I’m excited to report on an uplifting and innovative program in New York City designed to give justice-involved teens a second chance. The program, Stargate Theatre Company, was recently featured on, so we got in touch with its co-designer, Evan Elkin."

Topics: News, No bio box

New York City Teens Get a Second Chance Through Theater

This week, I’m excited to report on an uplifting and innovative program in New York City designed to give justice-involved teens a second chance. The program, Stargate Theatre Company, was recently featured on, so we got in touch with its co-designer, Evan Elkin. Mr. Elkin has extensive experience in juvenile justice and previously served as the director of the Department of Planning and Government Innovation at the Vera Institute of Justice.
On the Stargate Theatre Company, Mr. Elkin writes:

With the rapid advancement of reforms in juvenile justice systems across the United States has come an expanded understanding of what court-involved young people need in order to succeed. Some have described the past decade of juvenile justice reform as a gradual “paradigm shift” away from a largely punitive philosophy to one that places greater emphasis on the innate ability of youth to turn their lives around with the help of their communities and families.
This emerging new sensibility which the researcher Jeffrey Butts has termed “positive youth justice” has challenged long held assumptions about the role of incarceration in changing behavior, about how resiliency and coping with chronic trauma must be considered, how privilege and access to opportunity fit into the picture.
The Stargate Theatre Company is an example of this new paradigm in action through a project I had the privilege of co-designing with NYC’s Manhattan Theatre Club. Stargate is simultaneously a paid job, a work readiness training, a literacy program, a therapeutic experience and, of course, a theatre program for court-involved youth. Stargate begins its second season this summer.

Watch the video from for more on the Stargate Theatre Company: 

Lessons from Abroad: Dutch Juvenile Justice System Shifting to Family-Oriented Approach

For years, the capacity to detain delinquent juveniles – from 12 to 23 years of age – has been expanded in the Netherlands. However, the tide is changing. In 2007, the Netherlands had 16 active Juvenile Justice Detention Institute (JJI) sites for a population of 16 million. Today, there are just 11 JJI sites in operation and this number will drop further in the next few years.

More important than the number of sites are the number of detention slots: this number decreased from 1,300 in 2007 to 800 today. The decline is expected to continue to just 635 in 2017. One reason for this change may be the tendency for crime rates among youth to drop in the past few years. Moreover, juvenile judges increasingly prefer to impose alternative sanctions like community work assignments and referral to mandated treatment programs.

At the same time, Dutch juvenile detention institutes are reinventing themselves. A major group working on this process is Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) Academy, based in Oegstgeest, the Netherlands. At the recent Linking Systemic Practice and Systemic Research conference in Heidelberg, Germany, Henk Rigter and Kees Mos from MDFT Academy outlined the steps taken by JJIs to accept the family of detainees as being important for achieving good detention and treatment outcomes.

The key message for JJI professionals – guards, social workers running groups of detained youth, psychiatrists and psychologists doing assessments and making treatment decisions, and so on – is to work in a family-friendly way, accepting that family involvement helps the youth to change his or her ways. In what eventually will be a national JJI-staff training program, carried out by MDFT Academy in collaboration with the Academic Workplace Forensic Care for Youth, JJI professionals are tought to motivate family members, win their trust, to establish alliances with family members, to inform them regularly, and to invite parents to key JJI meetings where it is decided how their son or daughter is going to be treated. In every step, the parent is acknowledged. Parents are encouraged to join evenings where special themes are being discussed or when their kids prepare meals or sit together to watch movies.

In this panorama of changing interactions between the institute and family members, JJI’s offer the additional advantage of family (systemic) treatment intended to improve the behavior of the youth, family interactions, and work and school prospects for the youth upon release. This treatment is to be continued on an outpatient basis for a few months after release. One such treatment program is Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT). The therapist uses every feasible moment (parents’ visits, furloughs) to hold sessions and increase a youth’s motivation to change. The positive Dutch experience with MDFT matches the outcomes of U.S. trials of MDFT, carried out by the Miami developers of this treatment program (H. Liddle; G. Dakof), as regards to Juvenile Drug Courts and Detention to Community approaches.