Juvenile Court Records: Is a Lack of Protection Harming Teens’ Future Success?

by Cecilia Bianco

juvenilerecordsThe Juvenile Law Center, a public interest law firm in Philadelphia, issued a “report card” this week demonstrating that the records of juvenile offenders are more easily available to the public than they should be, creating obstacles to future success for many teens.

Juvenile records contain details about a child’s family, social history, mental health history, substance abuse history, education, and involvement with the law. According to the Juvenile Law Center’s new national scorecard, the majority of states lack the protections necessary to keep this information confidential. Instead, many states allow these records to be accessed by the media, employers, government agencies and victims, which can create future barriers to housing, education and employment for teen offenders.

Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records is the first comprehensive evaluation of state policies that govern the confidentiality and expungement of juvenile court records. No state earned the maximum five-star rating, and the national average was three out of the possible five stars.

These records often remain open to allow courts, correction officials and juvenile agencies to plan a course of treatment and rehabilitation; however, few states have systems that prohibit the public from accessing these records later on.

“There is a misperception that juvenile records are confidential and automatically destroyed when a youth is no longer under court supervision,” said Riya Saha Shah, an attorney at the Juvenile Law Center and architect of the study. “Permanent open records are like a ball and chain that prevent young people from becoming productive adults.”

Of the many teens arrested in the U.S. each year, 95 percent are for nonviolent offenses, meaning these young people were never a threat to public safety and often do not have further trouble with the law. Yet, these nonviolent records can negatively impact the rest of their adult life when viewed by potential employers, landlords or college admissions offices.

To prevent these negative impacts, the Juvenile Law Center has 10 recommendations to help keep juvenile records from affecting teens’ adult life:

  • Records should not be widely available online.
  • Records should be sealed to the public before they are expunged.
  • Records should be automatically sealed and expunged.
  • Expungement should include physical destruction and electronic deletion.
  • Expungement eligibility should begin once a case is closed.
  • All offenses should be eligible for expungement.
  • One entity should be designated to inform youth about the expungement.
  • Forms for expungement should be youth-friendly.
  • Filing for expungement should be free.
  • There should be sanctions for failure to comply.

The Juvenile Law Center also encouraged policymakers, states, attorneys, and court personnel to review juvenile record laws and protections and look for ways to improve them.

Three States Lead the Way for Juvenile Justice Reforms; News Roundup

by Cecilia Bianco

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Teen Is Used to Being Behind Bars, Imagines Future There (JJIE)
    Ruben Rodriguez, a teen from the Bronx, is on Rikers Island, waiting to stand trial for homicide. By the time he returned to the Box (punitive segregation) in late September, City of New York Correction Department Commissioner Joseph Ponte publicly promised to end punitive segregation for Rikers’ roughly 300 juvenile inmates by 2015.
  • Three States Lead the Way for Juvenile Justice Reforms (PewTrusts.org)
    State leaders from Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky discuss the shifting landscape in juvenile justice and how they enacted data-driven and fiscally sound policies that protect public safety, improve outcomes for youths, and contain correctional costs.
  • Transferring Juveniles to Adult Justice System Detrimental (Indian Express)
    The provision of transferring juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age, accused of serious crimes, to the adult justice system was widely discussed and was found to be detrimental rather than effective at a national-level consultation between officials and experts — in the field of juvenile justice and child reforms — on the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) campus Saturday.
  • CT Supreme Court Examining Long, Mandatory Sentences For Juveniles (Hartford Courant)
    Before Ackeem Riley was sentenced to at least 85 years in jail for his involvement in a 2006 gang-related, drive-by shooting in the North End of Hartford, the prosecutor said the teen “should never, ever be on the streets again.” That was before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a trio of cases that a child’s age and maturity should be considered before courts impose harsh sentences, and that state laws that strip judges of discretion when sentencing juvenile offenders constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

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

  • Sugar Can Worsen Teens’ Depression And Anxiety And Change How They React To Stress (Medical Daily)
    “It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson said in a press release. “In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health care professionals.”

Register for Part II in this Webinar Series: Family Involvement in Juvenile Justice

by Susan Richardson

Last week, I highlighted the value of family and mentor involvement in a teen’s life, particularlymentalhealth teens who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. This week and next, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change are building on that topic with a webinar series dedicated to family involvement in juvenile justice.

The first part, “Working with Families,” occurred this week and introduced strategies for teens and families to address behavioral health needs together, and how to integrate family engagement in a strategic and productive way.

The second of the series, “Navigating the Juvenile Justice System,” will be presented December 4 from 2-3 p.m. ET. This follow-up webinar will focus on facilitating understanding for families—engaging families by sharing insight about the system and ensuring they know how to access available services.

Details
Family involvement is critical for youth with behavioral health disorders who are involved with the juvenile justice system. Families need information, training, and support to help them become knowledgeable about the juvenile justice system and effective advocates for their children. At the same time, juvenile justice systems need to ensure that their policies and procedures support family involvement and that staff are trained to better understand the family perspective, the benefits of family involvement, and specific strategies for family engagement.

Webinar: Navigating the Juvenile Justice System
When: December 4 from 2-3 p.m. ET
Presenters: Sarah Cusworth-Walker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy at the University of Washington; Mathilda de Dios, Program Manager at the Northwestern Children and Family Justice Center in Chicago, Illinois
Register here

Reclaiming Futures in the Sea of Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives

by Robin Jenkins

In the national scope of evidence-supported juvenile justice “reforms”, a question is often posed as to which approach or model makes the most sense to potential adopters. Or said another way, can we avoid “model fatigue” by adopting one reform methodology that gets us the best results with the most cost effective strategies? Reclaiming Futures […]

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

by Cecilia Bianco

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!

Events

Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Juvenile Justice: New Tool to Support Efforts

by Cecilia Bianco

Due to the connection between ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and juvenile justice system involvement, it has become increasingly important that the system become more trauma-informed in its processes.

The term ACEs refers to childhood abuse, neglect, and general household dysfunction that negatively affects a child’s development. To improve the treatment of young people impacted by ACEs in the juvenile justice system, there is an ongoing effort to increase knowledge of trauma-informed care and how it can improve systems in health, justice and education.

Communities like ACEs Connection, which work to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and to change systems to stop traumatizing already traumatized people, are already paving the way to combat this problem in the future.

The latest resource to support these efforts is a new tool created by JBS International and Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health. These two organizations came together to build a free online tool called “Trauma Informed Care: Perspectives and Resources” that provides insights and resources for those who want to be more trauma-informed.

The tool includes the following to allow users to take advantage of existing research, knowledge, practices, and approaches that have already shown to be effective in addressing trauma:

  • Video interviews of national, state, tribal, and local leaders in many child-serving systems; developers of evidence-based treatments and practices; physicians; researchers; administrators of provider organizations; clinicians; youth and young adults; families; and advocates who share lessons learned and identify remaining gaps.
  • Issue briefs that provide an introduction and overview for each of the tool’s eight modules.
  • Comprehensive resource lists to support users in understanding how to build trauma-informed systems and organizations.

Explore the eight modules of the tool on the site, which is now live!

For past reporting on ACEs in the juvenile justice system, see the following:

Applying ACEs to Juvenile Justice; News Roundup

by Cecilia Bianco

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • States Are Failing to Protect Juvenile Records, Study Shows (JJIE)
    The consequences are serious, according to the center, which conducted the nearly 18-month study with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Youthful offenders are being denied college admission, military service and jobs because of the too-free sharing of information about crimes they committed as children or teenagers.
  • Council of Juvenile, Family Court Judges Receives DOJ Grant (StateJournal.com)
    The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recently received $1.45 million from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for two national juvenile justice data projects: the National Juvenile Court Data Archive and the National Juvenile Justice Data Analysis Project.

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

  • Applying ACEs to Juvenile Justice (Chronicles of Social Change)
    “The relationship between childhood trauma and juvenile justice involvement is pretty startling,” said Karleen Jakowski, supervisor of adolescent behavioral services at a non-profit health clinic in Yolo County.
  • Teens Living Close to High Number of Tobacco Shops More Likely to Smoke (HealthCanal.com)
    Based on their findings, researchers argue that anti-smoking strategies among teenagers should include reducing the overall density of tobacco retailers. They say that limiting teenagers’ access to tobacco products is vital, as long-term smoking usually begins in adolescence.

Family Engagement in the Juvenile Justice System: Still a Long Way to Go

by Susan Richardson

The role of family and mentors in any teen’s life contributes to their success and healthy Reclaiming Futures Programfuture. The role of family and mentors for teens in the juvenile justice system or a juvenile correctional facility is even more critical.

Family engagement in the juvenile justice system is not a new concept, but it is a key component to ensuring at-risk teens stay clear of substance abuse and crime. A recent Juvenile Justice Information Exchange article addresses this need in youth detention centers:

“Experts, supported by a small but growing body of research, say fostering family engagement improves incarcerated youths’ behavior, helps families feel more connected, reduces disciplinary incidents and boosts the staff morale.”

“Moreover, strengthening these connections better prepares youths for a return to the community upon release — most return to their family homes — and reduces repeat offenses.”

While the author Gary Gately does identify some successful programs where family involvement and treatment are front and center, he shares that most systems nationally are more focused on punishment, and oftentimes there exists a contentious relationship between family members and juvenile facility staff members.

Reclaiming Futures’ sites work with a wide variety of community members and resources to contribute to youth success as they remain in their community. Led by the community fellow(s), sites link youth to mentors, education, employment, job training, hobbies, sports, volunteer opportunities, faith communities, and other prosocial activities of interest to youth.

As we’ve seen among Reclaiming Futures sites who have achieved success with this strategy, family involvement and mentors should be closely integrated into a teen’s life for optimal results. For example, Reclaiming Futures in Santa Cruz is taking preventative action with a partnership with Hands on Fatherhood, encouraging fathers and father-figures to create meaningful relationships with their kids. Also, Reclaiming Futures in Snohomish County saw success with its Promising Arts in Recovery program, which added a mentorship and creative arts component to treatment, resulting in substance-free teens who become productive members of their communities.

Gately shares some wonderful examples of successful family integration efforts around the country. Those, paired with Reclaiming Futures’ efforts to connect teens with support systems during and after exiting the juvenile justice system, are pioneering the way to a deeper systemic impact that can hopefully lead to communities and facilities committed to full family and community engagement.

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

by Cecilia Bianco

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!

Webinars

Events

Grants

Examining the Keys to Success for Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice System

by Cecilia Bianco

keysIn 2002, Connecticut’s contracted rehabilitation programs for juvenile offenders were discontinued, as they were not producing the results necessary to justify their costs.

The lack of the programs’ success was brought to light when a study by the Connecticut Policy and Economic Council, which assessed the return on taxpayer dollars from juvenile justice programs, revealed that recidivism rates among juveniles in the contracted programs were significantly higher than that of a matched sample with no programming. The funding for these programs was cut and reinvested elsewhere.

However, Connecticut has made a complete turnaround in recent years with a 40 percent decrease in arrests, calling for an examination of how they’ve made such staggering improvements.

A recent article in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange emphasized the following as significant developments that have gotten the state this far:

  • Connecticut changed the policy that processed 16- and 17-year-olds through adult court. Now they fall within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system. While this “Raise the Age” reform was expected to double juvenile court intake, intakes are actually lower.
  • Connecticut invested in juvenile probation officers and boasts some of the lowest officer/client ratios in the country. Officers are also afforded tremendous training in motivational interviewing, family engagement, adolescent development and more.
  • A Connecticut-specific risk/needs assessment instrument was created, normed and validated, and is regularly updated and refined, as is the process the assessment tool is used with.
  • An automated case plan helps focus officers and clients alike on specific goals and ensures appropriate treatment.
  • Data systems were developed to carefully monitor outcomes.
  • Connecticut, in subscribing to the Result-Based Accountability tenets, asks and answers quantitatively on a quarterly basis: How much is being done, how well is it being done and is anyone better off?

Note: Read the full article on JJIE for further details on Connecticut’s past and future plans to continue improving its juvenile justice system.