Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth Releases First-Ever Guidelines for Juvenile Life Cases

cfsyThe Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CSFY) has released the first-ever set of guidelines to protect the rights of young people facing possible life imprisonment. Titled “Trial Defense Guidelines: Representing a Child Client Facing a Possible Life Sentence,” this 24-page report has been endorsed by a wide range of attorneys, child advocates and juvenile justice experts.

Sparked by the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, the guidelines call for a “national standard to ensure zealous, constitutionally effective representation” for all juveniles facing a possible life sentence, citing Miller’s holding that trial courts must “take into account how children are different and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing [children] to a lifetime in prison.”

The guidelines are based on 11 foundational principles including “children are constitutionally and developmentally different from adults,” “children must not be defined by a single act,” “juvenile life defense requires a qualified team trained in adolescent development,” and “juvenile life defense requires communicating with clients in a trauma-informed, culturally competent, developmentally and age-appropriate manner.”

Split into the following nine parts, these guidelines aim to strengthen and improve defense in juvenile life cases:

  • Defense Team Composition and Ethical Duties
  • Defense Counsel Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Investigator Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Mitigation Specialist Qualifications and Responsibilities
  • Sentencing
  • Plea Agreements
  • Post-Sentencing Responsibilities
  • Defense Team Compensation
  • Training

“The Trial Defense Guidelines recognize that children need to be treated as children when facing a possible life-in-prison sentence,” said Marsha Levick, chief counsel and deputy director at the Philadelphia-based, nonprofit Juvenile Law Center, in an email. “The guidelines also will ensure a child receives a meaningful, individualized sentencing hearing before imposition of a sentence.”

CFSY collaborated with attorneys and advocates from across the nation to create the guidelines. Visit the CFSY website for more information and access the full guidelines online.

Raising the legal age for sale of tobacco would keep teens from smoking, panel says; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes House (South Dakota Public Broadcasting)
    The state House of Representatives passed a bill revising the juvenile justice system in South Dakota. It focuses on alternatives to incarceration and seeks to keep kids in their communities. Senate Bill 73 comes as a result of a work group that met last year. The group found that South Dakota has one of the highest rates juvenile incarcerations, and the bill aims to reduce those numbers. Representative Brian Gosch is a prime sponsor of the measure. He says it creates a presumption of probation.
  • Positive Youth Justice, Part Four: William F. James Ranch, Santa Clara County, Calif. (The Chronicle of Social Change)
    Last month, The Chronicle of Social Change began “Positive Youth Justice: Curbing Crime, Building Assets,” a series that imagines an entire continuum of juvenile justice services built on the positive youth development (PYD) framework. We accomplish the “creation” of that continuum by profiling successful programs and organizations all over the country. Today, we look at Santa Clara County, Calif., which takes a PYD approach to working with incarcerated juvenile offenders.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Young Adult And Teen Suicide Rates Nearly Double In Rural Areas Compared To Urban Areas (Medical Daily)
    In the past, rural teens have been more likely to kill themselves as compared to their urban counterparts. Is the same true today, now that technology has woven us together more tightly? Sadly and surprisingly yes: Between the years 1996 and 2010, a new study finds, the rates of suicide among teens and young-adults ranged twice as high in country settings compared to city areas. In fact, the suicide rate in rural areas is nearly double that in cities... and rising.
  • Marijuana may smoke your long-term memory (CBS News)
    Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily may have lingering memory problems and structural abnormalities in the brain, even after they stop using the drug, a small study suggests.
  • New App Helps Doctors Catch Suicide Risk (NBC News)
    Doctors and other health professionals have a new tool to help fight suicide -- an app that helps them ask the right questions and check the symptoms of someone who might be at risk. Nearly half of people who die from suicide have seen a health professional of some sort in the month before their deaths and there are ways to find out who might be at risk and help them, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says.

The Impact of Synthetic Drugs: Learn More in April 8 Webinar by ONDCP

Though alcohol and marijuana top the charts as the two most-abused substances by young people, synthetic drugs—the highly-addictive and highly-threatening substances—are still popular and easily accessible.

Two Webinars Addressing Synthetic Drugs

Beginning April 8, the Office of National Drug Control Policy will host two webinars to discuss the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids (“Spice”) and cathinones (“Bath Salts”), and to provide details on Federal and local efforts to confront these threats. The first webinar, featuring representatives from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration, will introduce these substances, and share insight into the manufacturing, distribution and health risks associated with synthetic drugs. It will also explain the Federal regulatory provisions and enforcement actions. The webinar will take place on Thursday, April 8, from 1-2 p.m. ET. To register, click here.

The second webinar, taking place later this month, will highlight case studies that demonstrate successful community initiatives to prevent use and distribution of synthetic drugs. Watch for details on the second webinar in the next issue of ONDCP’s E-Newsletter Update. Sign up here.

Some Good News: Usage is Declining

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, use of spice products (sometimes called “synthetic marijuana”) is declining, with 5.8 percent of 12th graders using the substance in 2014, compared to 7.9 percent in 2013 and 11.3 percent in 2012. And, less than one percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders combined use cathinones (“Bath Salts”), which have been reported to result in sometimes violent behavior and even death.


It’s easy to see these low percentages and think that these synthetic drugs aren’t cause for concern, but in fact the impact of these scarcer drugs can have greater negative impacts on young people’s futures. Webinars like this ONDCP series are instrumental in informing mental health and juvenile justice professionals on the latest medical information related to new drugs, which can inform treatment programs on how to adapt to best serve youth.

To register for this webinar, click here.

National Center for Juvenile Justice Releases 2014 National Report

ncjjThe National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) has released Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report, the fourth edition of a comprehensive report on juvenile crime, victimization, and the juvenile justice system.

With seven in-depth chapters, the 2014 National Report provides an insightful view of young offenders and victims, and what happens to those who enter the juvenile justice system in the United States:

  • Juvenile Population Characteristics
  • Juvenile Victims
  • Juvenile Justice System Structure and Process
  • Law Enforcement and Juvenile Crime
  • Juvenile Offenders in Court
  • Juvenile Offenders in Correctional Facilities

This seven-chapter report, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, provides sought-after answers to frequently asked questions about the nature of juvenile crime and victimization, as well as the justice system's response. Each chapter presents important and complex information in easy-to-understand, nontechnical writing with supplementary graphics and tables.

Key highlights:

  • The juvenile arrest rate for Violent Crime Index offenses is at a historically low level.
  • The number of murders committed by juveniles is at its lowest point in at least three decades.
  • The juvenile court delinquency caseload reached its lowest level since at least 1990.
  • Female juveniles account for a larger share of the delinquency caseload than at any point in the last two decades.
  • The juvenile residential placement population reached its lowest level in nearly two decades.

The NCJJ encourages reading the full report when time permits, stating that “Each section offers something new, something that will expand your understanding, confirm your opinions, or raise questions about what you believe to be true.”

The goal of the report is to provide juvenile justice practitioners, policymakers, and the public with the information needed to react appropriately to the needs of youth in the system while also protecting the community. It successfully provides the context needed for debates regarding juvenile justice and the direction of its future.

View the full report on the NCJJ website.

Unlocking the Digital Classroom for Kids in Lock Up; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • How Communities are Keeping Kids Out of Crime (CS Monitor)
    Seeing the charge of aggravated robbery involving a gun, a judge at the Lucas County, Ohio, juvenile court held him in pretrial detention for two weeks. Then she found out what weapon he had pulled: a BB gun. Over the next few weeks, while he remained locked up, she learned that Treyvon had a number of characteristics that took him out of the category of high risk for reoffending – a stable home life, his involvement in football and basketball, and a lack of gang involvement. So the judge let him live at home while on probation and take part in a local program that offers mentoring and other social services.
  • Md. lawmakers consider housing for youth charged as adults (The Washington Post)
    After 10 years as chief of the St. Mary’s County Detention Center, Capt. Michael Merican is in a situation he says isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible. Merican pays close attention to the needs and well-being of 200 inmates, but one causes him constant worry: a terrified 17-year-old boy.
  • Transforming the Juvenile Justice System (The Take Away)
    Judge Denise Cubbon, the lead judge of the Lucas County Juvenile Court, in Toledo, Ohio, breaks that mold. Along with her Court Administrator, Deborah Hodges, Judge Cubbon has become a champion for change, for some of the country's most vulnerable offenders: Children.
  • Unlocking the digital classroom for kids in lock up (
    Since July 2013, San Diego County Office of Education has spent nearly $900,000 on computers, printers and software for its secure juvenile facilities. Soon every one of the 200 kids here will have access to a Chromebook in class. All the teachers are being trained to run a digital classroom and add tech to the curriculum.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Mental health: Gaps remain in juvenile mental health care (Las Cruces Sun News)
    "Nationally, between 60 to 70 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system have a mental health disorder and roughly 90 percent have experienced at least one traumatic event," said Terri Williams, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections in a news statement from July 28, 2014.
  • All Kinds of Therapy New Website for Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Launches Today (
    All Kinds of Therapy is an innovative, user-friendly website that focuses on providing an interactive directory for residential treatment, wilderness therapy, therapeutic boarding schools, and addiction treatment for clients ranging in ages 10 - 30. Additionally, all residential interventions on the site have a wide variety of specializations including psychiatric assessments, anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, severe learning disabilities, drug rehabilitation, failure to launch, adoption, or recovery.

Social Media Tools to Support Mental Health: Learning From Facebook’s Suicide Prevention Feature

Last week, global social media leader Facebook announced that it will roll out a new feature designed to enable friends to help friends struggling with suicidal thoughts. It stems from the knowledge that Facebook users often share deep, personal thoughts on the channel, and sometimes, this includes thoughts of despair or hurt.

The effort is in partnership with our friends at Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, an interdisciplinary organization based in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, as well Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and

How It Works

If a Facebook user posts something to the channel that signals that they may harm themselves or are in need of help, his or her Facebook friend now has the ability to “report” it for the social networking service. A team at Facebook will review the post for legitimacy and, if pursued, Facebook will offer to connect the person in need with a helpline worker, as well as recommend resources to learn how to get help.

The new suite of Facebook tools were created with expert input from the mental health organizations listed above, as well as from people who have lived through self-injury or self-hurt.

Why It’s Important

The suicide prevention tools offered by Facebook will reach the channels 1.39 billion users worldwide. Not only does this bring mental health to the forefront as an important discussion as a whole, but it also identifies the need for mental health professionals to think more critically about the intersection of mental health and social media. It begs the question: How can we more effectively reach teens where they already are to improve mental health outcomes?

A recent study from BI Intelligence reports that Facebook remains the top social network for teens, with nearly half of teen Facebook users say they're using the site more than last year.

That being said, we’re also seeing smaller, growing social media channels emerge among teens. On Tumblr—a microblogging platform—46 percent of users are between the ages of 16 and 24. That demographic also dominates on Snapchat, a photo messaging app.

We admire Facebook’s initiative to partner with leading mental health organizations to develop a tool that may help our teens improve mental health, and encourage leaders to continue keeping their fingers on the pulse of social media tools and techniques that teens are using. Understanding their behaviors will help us develop strategies to more effectively reach teens and deliver support.

Panel of Experts Discusses “Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars”

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 5.15.23 PMLast Thursday, WNYC—one of New York’s flagship public radio stations—and Vera Institute of Justice partnered to host the event: The Current State of Institutionalization: Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars.

The event was part of WNYC’s current series “Breaking Point: New York’s Mental Health Crisis” which is a four-part series, hosted by WNYC reporter Cindy Rodriguez, examining the connection between poverty, mental health and the criminal justice system.

Thursday’s event kicked off with opening remarks from New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and included a panel of experts to discuss the following key topics:

  • Systemic issues driving the over-representation of people with serious mental illness in courts, jails, and prisons in New York and across the nation
  • The impact of mental health on public health and safety
  • Types of reforms to the mental health and justice systems necessary to address the crisis

The event was livestreamed and is now available to view in full. Watch it now to hear from the panel, moderated by Rodriguez and featuring the following experts:

  • Ezekiel Emanuel and Dr. Dominic Sisti, authors of the recent commentary “Bring Back the Asylum” in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Francis Greenburger, founder and president of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice
  • David Cloud, leader of Vera’s Justice Reform for Healthy Communities initiative

The Teenage Brain on Drugs; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • How a book club is helping to keep ex-offenders from going back to jail (WashingtonPost)
    Barksdale was around their age when he chose the streets over school. By 16, he was arrested and convicted on armed robbery charges, the culmination of a series of ill-conceived attempts to be a man. Now, at 25, he is one. But after spending so many of his formative years behind bars, he wondered: What sort of man would he be? Behind him were two former inmates. They hoped they might find the answers together.
  • Judicial hypocrisy on juvenile justice? (CNN)
    As Wisconsin prepares to try two children as adults in an attempted murder case allegedly inspired by the mythical Slenderman, the prosecution of two preteens in adult court challenges our faith in the juvenile justice system.
  • Proposed juvenile justice reforms discussed (Democrat & Chronicle)
    During a workshop Tuesday at the Center for Youth in Rochester, community advocacy groups learned more about the 38 recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice for juvenile justice reform that Gov. Andrew Cuomo accepted last month.
  • Nebraska child advocates say court shackles traumatize kids (The Independent)
    Lawyers and advocates for juveniles say Nebraska children as young as 10 years old are treated more harshly in court than some adult offenders, perpetuating a cycle of shame, humiliation and repeat offenses. State lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on a bill by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha that would prohibit handcuffs, chains, irons or straitjackets on juveniles during court appearances unless deemed necessary for courtroom security.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • The Teenage Brain on Drugs (Psych Central)
    One way to look at addiction is to consider it a form of learning, a type of learning that is extremely effective in its ability to affect the adolescent brain, report researchers working under an NIH grant. The maturation process of the brain may cause teens and young adults to become addicted faster than older adults, because the impulse control centers of the brain are not fully developed in the younger cohort.
  • Student-created conference looks at impact of youth substance abuse (Thousand Oaks Acorn)
    The Westlake Village resident— whose story is hardly unique in the Conejo Valley—was among many people who donated time on Saturday to lead breakout sessions at a substance abuse conference for teens that was presented by the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission’s Drugs and Alcohol Prevention Committee.

Understanding How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Teens’ Futures

Have you heard of adverse childhood experiences? Known as simply “ACEs,” this approach is rapidly gaining attention among the medical community and public health professionals alike. The issue is spanning boundaries and becoming increasingly pressing as studies unfold that early adversity—ACEs and toxic stress—dramatically impacts health outcomes.

A recently released TEDMED talk from Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explores this issue deeply. Her interest in ACEs began with a study led by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which evaluated more than 17,000 adult patients. The study appointed each adult an ACEs score—a number that documented how many adverse childhood experiences each person had, such as abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, and parents who were divorced, mentally ill or incarcerated.

The results were striking. The study found that the higher the ACEs score, the more likely adults suffered from dire health outcomes. Specifically:

  • Those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
  • Those with four or more adverse childhood experiences are four times more likely to become depressed, and
  • Twelve times more likely to attempt suicide.

Even more, the study revealed that these health outcomes aren’t just a result of high risk behavior, such as alcohol and drug use, that are spurred by toxic stress. These health outcomes result directly from toxic stress. Burke Harris explains that when a young person is exposed to ACEs, his or her stress system is activated over and over, wearing down the system and affecting brain structure and function. Children are particularly sensitive to the impacts of stress activation since they are still developing, and high doses of adversity can also affect developing hormonal systems, immune systems, and the way DNA is read and transcribed.

To tackle this issue, Burke Harris opened the Center for Youth Wellness in California, where her focus is to prevent, screen and treat children with high ACEs scores. The approach is interdisciplinary—a collaboration across health professionals, families and treatment providers—something that we echo here at Reclaiming Futures.

While our focus at Reclaiming Futures is providing substance use and mental health treatment to teens, and mitigating involvement in the juvenile justice system, it’s valuable to understand how ACEs may impact these teens that we work with daily. It’s our approach—the intersection of treatment, family and mentor involvement, and community reintegration—that has the potential to identify those teens who have high ACEs scores, and identify solutions for getting them back on track to bright futures.

Watch Burke Harris’ full TEDMED talk below to hear more on the ACEs impact on futures:

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you’ll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!



Diverting Teens from the System: The Toolkit for Status Offense Reform

logoThe most recently available national data tells us that more than 116,000 status offense cases were processed in court in 2011, and young people in more than 8,000 of those cases spent time in a detention facility.

While status offenses are non-criminal in nature, they can often jumpstart a cycle in the juvenile justice system that organizations and groups like The Status Offense Reform Center (SORC) believes can be stopped with the right means.

The SORC has a mission to “help policymakers and practitioners create effective, community-based responses for keeping young people who commit status offenses out of the juvenile justice system and safely in their homes and communities.”

In recognizing how challenging transforming a complex and long-lived system can be, the SORC developed a toolkit to help pave a course ahead for those in positions of authority: A Toolkit for Status Offense Reform. The toolkit addresses many common questions state and local officials have when attempting to make changes to this system:

  • Who should be involved?
  • What should our new system look like?
  • How will we know if it’s effective?

Additionally, there are four sections, or “modules,” included in the toolkit that tackle four key areas to help make the positive changes necessary to divert youth from the system:

  1. Structuring System Change

This module describes how to productively engage stakeholders in a system change effort.

  1. Using Local Information to Guide System Change

This module describes how to use data to conduct an assessment of your system.

  1. Planning and Implementing System Change

This module describes how to develop and implement a well-informed plan for system change that can be sustained over the long term.

  1. Monitoring and Sustaining System Change

This module describes how to monitor, assess, and modify your reform plan following its implementation.

For more information, explore the SORC website which includes a library of case studies of successful system reforms in different areas to help determine potential roadblocks and how to overcome them.

Image from SORC website

How Communities are Keeping Kids Out of Crime; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Federal Juvenile Justice Funding Declines Precipitously (JJIE)
    When congressional lawmakers last reauthorized the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, in fiscal year 2002, they appropriated about $547 million for juvenile justice. Today, federal spending on juvenile justice totals less than half that amount — about $251 million.
  • Positive Youth Justice, Part One: Rosie’s Place, Olympia, Wash. (Chronicle of Social Change)
    Last week, The Chronicle of Social Change introduced “Positive Youth Justice: Curbing Crime, Building Assets.” It is a series that imagines an entire continuum of juvenile justice services built on the positive youth development framework. We accomplish the “creation” of that continuum by profiling successful programs and organizations all over the country. Today, we begin with a program in Washington that aims to redirect youth who are, statistically speaking, hurtling towards involvement with law enforcement and the courts.
  • With 'Raise the Age,' Cuomo Continues Push to Reform Juvenile Justice (Gotham Gazette)
    A classic battle between law-and-order Republicans and progressive Democrats is brewing in the state Legislature as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes adoption of the recommendations of his Commission on Youth Public Safety and Justice - recommendations that include raising the age at which teens can be tried as adults.
  • How Communities are Keeping Kids Out of Crime (Christian Science Monitor)
    Lucas County, which includes Toledo, is one of the leaders in this movement. Juvenile Court officials here do the “my kid” test with every case. They want to ensure all young people are being treated fairly, and they live by the mantra “The right kid in the right place at the right time” – targeting services to their needs and taking care not to mix children who are unlikely to commit more crimes with high-risk youths.
  • To End Solitary Confinement, Rikers Steps Out Of The Box (NPR)
    New York's Rikers Island is the second-largest jail in the U.S., and one of the most notorious. But with a single move, Rikers has taken the lead on prison reform on one issue: Last month, the prison banned the use of solitary confinement for inmates under 21 years old.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Rampant medication use found among L.A. County foster, delinquent kids (LA Times)
    Los Angeles County officials are allowing the use of powerful psychiatric drugs on far more children in the juvenile delinquency and foster care systems than they had previously acknowledged, according to data obtained by The Times through a Public Records Act request.
  • Child Experience Study Can Identify Mental Illness Early (TWC News)
    Since the 1990s, doctors have used the Adverse Childhood Experience Study--or ACES--to understand what causes mental health problems in children. That study found that negative experiences in childhood--from abuse to even divorce--can shape the mental health of kids as they grow up.

Webinar Opportunity: Protect the Confidentiality of Juvenile Justice-Involved Youths

On March 4, 2015 at 3 p.m. EST, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and the Coalition confidentialfor Juvenile Justice (CJJ) will host a webinar for juvenile justice professionals sharing best practices for protecting youth confidentiality. This includes recommendations for making the process of sealing and expungement accessible to youth. The consequences of poor confidentiality results in obstacles for youth in areas of employment, education and housing.

According to the co-sponsors, you will learn two key takeaways from this webinar:

  • Recommendations to protect your state's youth, drawn from the Juvenile Law Center's recent report - Juvenile Records: A National Review of State Laws on Confidentiality, Sealing and Expungement
  • Examples from the work that Delaware Center for Justice (a NJJN member) has been doing to improve expungement laws in their state, and how they are addressing challenges and obstacles.

In order to best protect juvenile justice-involved youths and improve outcomes for them in the future, it’s necessary to take these extra steps and follow best practices for confidentiality.

Webinar Details

  • Protecting the Confidentiality of Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth: Access to Records, Expungement, and Sealing
  • When: Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 3 PM EST
  • Presenters:
    • Riya Saha Shah - Staff Attorney at Juvenile Law Center.
    • Kirstin Cornnell - Director of Operations at the Delaware Center for Justice.
  • Register here

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you’ll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!


Reducing Negative Stigma Around Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

NCFA recent article on JJIE, written by The National Crittenton Foundation’s President Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, examines how the juvenile justice system impacts girls who have committed status offenses, as well as the stigma that surrounds them.

Pai-Espinosa first calls out three grim facts about girls in the juvenile justice system:

  • “The percentage of girls in the juvenile justice system has steadily increased over the decades, rising from 17 percent in 1980 to 29 percent in 2011.”
  • “Girls are more likely than boys to be arrested for status offenses — behaviors that would not be considered offenses at the age of majority — and often receive more severe punishment than boys.”
  • “Victimization of girls typically precedes their involvement with the system.”

As it’s often hard to understand the impact of these facts, Pai-Espinosa shares the story of Tanya, a girl who suffered trauma starting at a young age and continually ran away from home to escape the cycle of abuse she was trapped in. Her time homeless on the streets led her to a juvenile detention facility—something that the author says is not uncommon: “Simply put, behaviors such as running away, breaking curfew, skipping school and possession or use of alcohol places girls at increased risk of entering the juvenile justice system.”

Once in the juvenile justice system, many girls are marked by society as a “bad girl” for not meeting gender role expectations to be, as the author says, “sugar and spice and everything nice.” This “bad girl” image can prevent young girls from seeking the help they need and cause them to continue on a troublesome path, in and out of the system for minor offenses that Pai-Espinosa refers to as cries for help, not criminal behaviors.

These cries for help that result in crime are commonly a means to escape abuse and other traumatic experiences. According to the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement, 42 percent of girls in custody reported past physical abuse, 44 percent reported past suicide attempts and 35 percent reported past sexual abuse.

Pai-Espinosa describes how the juvenile justice system can be a harmful intervention, causing more trauma for Tanya and the many other girls like her who need a safe place to recover and heal.

The author believes there are several necessary steps that have the power to eliminate the “bad girl” stigma and shift the treatment of these girls to instead recognize their strength and resiliency and help them get the support they need, including the following:

  • “Promote universal assessment for girls and boys involved in the juvenile justice system to better understand their exposure to violence, abuse and neglect.”
  • “Advocate that girls in or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system receive gender and culturally responsive, trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate services to heal from the violence and abuse they have experienced.”
  • “Push for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act, with a focus on preventing detention for status offenses and the importance of gender-responsive and trauma-informed services.”
  • “Endorse and advance the important work of organizations like the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses.”

Pai-Espinosa concludes with a quote from Tanya describing how the support she eventually received was a bridge to a different kind of life for her:

“I had no way of knowing at the time, that self-love would be something that I would have to first learn that I was missing, and then fight like heck to reclaim it in order to be happy … I have come to learn that life and its successes unfold incrementally, so that in each moment we can see some measure of success. Some days this may simply mean that I decide to keep moving forward, on other days, I may have honored my personal truth a little more. Healing does not EVER happen overnight, but incremental success does.”

For more information, read the full story on

Restorative Justice has Unanticipated Results; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • This Is How Black Girls End Up in the School-To-Prison Pipeline (The Nation)
    According to a report released Wednesday, incidents such as these in which black girls are subject to harsh, apparently unwarranted school discipline and end up in the juvenile justice system are much more likely than the existing research and public conversation about the school-to-prison pipeline suggest.
  • State decreases seclusion in youth prisons (The Columbus Dispatch)
    After settling a federal lawsuit, the Ohio Department of Youth Services reduced seclusion of juvenile offenders by more than two-thirds last year, a state report shows.
  • Federal Juvenile Justice Funding Declines Precipitously (
    When congressional lawmakers last reauthorized the landmark Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, in fiscal year 2002, they appropriated about $547 million for juvenile justice. Today, federal spending on juvenile justice totals less than half that amount — about $251 million.
  • Christine Wolf: Restorative justice has unanticipated results (Chicago Tribune)
    Our meeting consisted of 15 participants arranged in what was described as a peace circle: A trained facilitator from the police department's youth services division; two 14-year-old offenders who'd been arrested by (and admitted their guilt to) juvenile detectives; the offenders' parents; four community volunteers; and four members of the condominium's board. As we began, the kids looked scared and the board members looked irate. It wasn't hard to guess where things might go, but all my suspicions were incorrect.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

  • Addressing the Mental Health Crisis: What Really Matters (Mad in America Blog)
    Evidence increasingly suggests that psychological difficulties are on the rise. The Global Disease Burden Study, published in August of 2013, declared that “mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of nonfatal illness worldwide, with a global disease burden that trumps that of HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, diabetes, or transport illnesses.” Depression is the number one cause of illness and disability in 10-19 year-olds worldwide.
  • Jackson: Heroin’s hold grips region (East Valley Tribune)
    Here at ICAN we focus on education. Our youth attend daily evidenced-based programs that include “Too Good for Drugs” where we provide age-appropriate information about the negative consequences of drug use and the benefits of a non-violent, drug-free lifestyle. Youth also participate in “Steps to Respect,” which promotes healthy decision-making skills to prevent negative behaviors.
  • State Data Isn’t Specific About Legal Marijuana’s Impact on School Students (Rocky Mountain PBS News)
    “Alcohol is by far and away the most used substance by middle schoolers, then it goes down for marijuana and tobacco is just below that,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, attending physician for the Denver Health Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment program. “Prescription drug use is number four, and it’s increasing, so that’s been an alarming increase, as well, that we need to pay attention to.”

Michael P. Botticelli is Appointed Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Last week, the Senate voted unanimously to appoint Michael P. Botticelli as Director of The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).Michael_Botticelli

This is a significant step toward advancing sustainable systems change, as Boticelli has a focus on substance use treatment. His two decades of experience working in this field, including as Director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, equips him with the skills to implement evidence-based programs and span boundaries among partnerships with law enforcement agencies, health and human service agencies and stakeholder groups. Boticelli also has experience establishing a treatment and prevention systems for adolescents.

Read Boticelli’s introductory remarks as Director on the ONDCP blog and below, and join me in welcoming him to office:

Many great movements to change public perception and policy around a public health issue have been fueled by people with a disease speaking out publicly.  What is seen as someone else's problem—someone else’s disease – takes on a new dimension when people speak up about it.  

Such was the case when Betty Ford revealed her breast cancer diagnosis and her substance use disorder. Such was the case when Magic Johnson's revealed that he was HIV positive, spurring action to stem the AIDS epidemic.

Yet, despite the fact that nearly every family and community in America is affected by a substance use disorder, those fighting to overcome this disease are too often hidden in the shadows of shame and denial.  It is whispered about. It is met with derision and scorn.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 1 in 9 people with a diagnosable substance use disorder gets treatment.  Compare this to the treatment rate for diabetes, for which 72% of people with the disease receive care.

When treatment is provided for substance use disorders, it too often comes at the most acute stages of the disease when effective treatment is far more challenging and costly than in the early stages. Because substance use disorders have historically gone unidentified for far too long, and timely access to treatment has been far too difficult to come by, a person is expected to hit “rock bottom” before seeking help for a substance use disorder.

Standard medical care does not allow a diabetic to enter kidney failure before offering insulin.  Yet untreated substance use disorders routinely proceed unchecked until they have reached such levels of emergency.  In addition to the unnecessary suffering for patients and their families, our current approach costs the United States hundreds of billions a year in increased health care costs, crime and lost productivity-- over $223 billion related to alcohol and $193 billion related to illicit drugs.

Decades of scientific research have proven that substance use disorders are a health issue:  chronic medical conditions with genetic, biological and environmental risk factors.  Effective substance use disorders requires a comprehensive, public health approach involving evidence-based prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery support services.  The National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama Administration’s template for drug policy, outlines more than 100 action items across federal government to prevent drug use and its consequences.

Earlier this month, President Obama in his 2016 Budget requested historic levels of funding --including $133 million in new funds-- to address the opioid misuse epidemic in the U.S. Using a public health framework as its foundation, our strategy also acknowledges the vital role that federal state and local law enforcement play in reducing the availability of drugs—another risk factor for drug use.  It underscores the vital importance of primary prevention in stopping drug use before it ever begins by funding prevention efforts across the country. It sets forth an agenda aimed at stripping away the systemic challenges that have accumulated like plaque over the decades: over-criminalization, lack of integration with mainstream medical care, insurance coverage and the legal barriers that make it difficult for people once involved with the criminal justice system to rebuild their lives.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act will dramatically increase coverage for treatment and ensures that services are comparable to other chronic conditions for more than 60 million Americans. This is the biggest expansion of substance use disorder treatment in a generation, and it will transform millions of lives.

All of these advancements, however, are not enough unless we fundamentally change the way we think about people with addiction.  There are millions of people in recovery in the United States leading meaningful, productive lives full of joy and love and laughter – and I am one of them.

Tonight, the United States Senate voted to confirm my nomination as Director of National Drug Control Policy. This is an honor I never dreamed of 26 years ago, when my substance use disorder had become so acute that I was handcuffed to a hospital bed. I accept this challenge with the humility and tenacity of someone in long term recovery.

I am open about my recovery not to be self-congratulatory, I am open about my recovery to change public policy. I have dedicated my life to treating drug use as a public health issue, and that’s how I approach this new role, as well.  I hope that many more of the millions of Americans in recovery like me will also choose to “come out” and to fight to be treated like anyone else with a chronic disease. By putting faces and voices to the disease of addiction and the promise of recovery, we can lift the curtain of conventional wisdom that continues to keep too many of us hidden and without access to lifesaving treatment.

It is time to make a simple, yet courageous decision to be counted, to be seen and to be heard.

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