El Paso Teens Build Thanksgiving Float that Earns Community Recognition

by Susan Richardson

More than 250,000 people watched and cheered from the sidelines at the annual Thanksgivingangrybirds Sun Bowl Parade in El Paso, Texas, where more than 100 “gaming mania” themed parade floats, marching bands, giant helium balloons, equestrian units and more glided down the street. Among them, the Challenge Explorers Float, whose Angry Birds themed float took home the Governor’s Award for Best Presentation of the Parade’s Theme.

The teens who constructed the Challenge Explorers Float from the ground up are part of El Paso County’s Challenge Academy, a residential Reclaiming Futures program that is part of its continuum of care and an extension of El Paso’s pro-social activities for youth. These young men and women have been through the juvenile justice system, and oftentimes do community service as part of the Academy’s activities. Building a parade float—from concept development to construction to walking in the parade—offered participants the opportunity to get involved in their local community, and collaborate with staff and family.

“Oftentimes these kids have been outcasts most of their lives, and don’t know what it’s like to be a part of something bigger and be successful at it. To start a project from nothing, come together as a unit and produce a product that wins awards is instrumental in building self-confidence,” says Director of the Challenge Academy, Sam Heredia.

angrybirds2

El Paso’s Juvenile Probation Department was extremely involved and committed to fundraising, coordinating activities throughout the year like selling popcorn, candy gram sales and ice cream float gatherings to raise money for materials and construction. Families of the teens also got involved as part of the Academy’s family reintegration program, donating supplies and working alongside them to build the award-winning float. The collaborated effort meant that not a dime of taxpayer or county money was spent.

Roger Martinez, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, explains: “This initiative is an example of our response to the A&E show Beyond Scared Straight. We’re learning more and more through programs like the El Paso County Challenge Academy that positive reinforcement actually has a longer lasting impact. In this case, these teens were acknowledged in a positive way by their community, which has the potential to change their mindsets and lead them to become active community members once more.”

Since its inception in 2008, El Paso County Juvenile Justice Center has embraced Reclaiming Futures’ systems change approach through community collaborations and partnerships, which have served juvenile justice youth and families through continued services beyond treatment. These collaborations have expanded to include collaboration with the local FBI Office, Homeland Security and the Sheriff’s Department, in which members of these agencies volunteer their time to act as mentors to youth in the El Paso County Drug Court Program. Members also volunteer their own time to accompany juvenile justice youth to a local gym to teach alternatives to substance use and promote healthier drug free lifestyles.

Tapping into the creative side of juvenile justice involved youth, El Paso County partners with local artists and businesses for contributions, incorporating art into to the educational curriculum utilized by Delta Academy (El Paso Independent School District) or as a catalyst for these youth to express themselves without the need to engage in substance use.

El Paso County is a great example of strong community collaborations and systems change. We are proud to share their accomplishments and look forward to seeing what they strive for next.

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

Jobs

Study Demonstrates that Summer Jobs Reduce Violent Crime Among Teens

by Cecilia Bianco

onesummerA recent study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab revealed that summer jobs programs for high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods have a significant impact on reducing crime among teens.

The study focused on Chicago’s One Summer Plus program, which offers eight weeks of part-time summer employment to young people and an adult job mentor to help manage barriers to employment.

The study included 1,634 teens from 13 high-violence high schools who were almost all C students and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Twenty percent of the group had already been arrested, and 20 percent had already been victims of crime.

Compared the control group, this group experienced a 43 percent reduction in violent-crime arrests over 16 months, emphasizing the importance of pro-social activities for young people—something Reclaiming Futures believes is key to success.

A Washington Post article covering the study discussed why the results are so important: “That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: ‘Nothing stops a bullet like a job.’”

Researcher Sara Heller, who conducted a randomized control trial with the program, said of the outcomes:

“The results echo a common conclusion in education and health research: that public programs might do more with less by shifting from remediation to prevention. The findings make clear that such programs need not be hugely costly to improve outcomes for disadvantaged youth; well-targeted, low-cost employment policies can make a substantial difference, even for a problem as destructive and complex as youth violence.”

The decline occurred mainly after the eight-week program ended, demonstrating that the summer of employment did more than keep the teens busy—it changed their behavior after the job, as well.

For our past reporting on the impact of pro-social activities, visit:

Addressing Youth Crime by Teaching Social Skills through Sports

Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

Image from One Summer Chicago website

Report: North Carolina Spends $160,000 a Year to Lock Up a Juvenile; News Roundup

by Cecilia Bianco

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Report: State Spends $160,000 a Year to Lock Up a Juvenile (Winston-Salem Journal)
    North Carolina is spending almost $160,000 a year to incarcerate a young person, according to a new report released Tuesday. But the state has made significant strides in reducing the number of juveniles it locks up, said Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, which released the report “Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration.”
  • How the NYPD is Using Social Media to Put Harlem Teens Behind Bars (The Verge)
    The story of the Henry brothers highlights a new reality for teenagers growing up at the intersection of social media, street gangs, and mounting law enforcement surveillance. For those coming of age in gang-saturated areas, the mountains of digital media posted online are a tangled web of connections that can be used to lock up violent perpetrators—but can also ensnare the innocent along with them.
  • Nine-Year-Old’s Arrest Prompts Call for Change by Federal Judge (The Wall Street Journal)
    “It is time for a change in our jurisprudence that would deal with petty crimes by minors in a more enlightened fashion,” wrote Judge Carlos F. Lucero of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion Friday. “The criminal punishment of young schoolchildren leaves permanent scars and unresolved anger, and its far-reaching impact on the abilities of these children to lead future prosperous and productive lives should be a matter of grave concern for us all.”

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

  • Teens Share How Alcohol, Drugs Present Obstacles to Adulthood (Los Altos Town Crier)
    This is the first in a two-part series exploring adolescent substance abuse in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Part 1 examines the causes and circumstances of substance abuse from the teenage perspective. Part 2 will delve into resources available to youth in the community.
  • Making Good Decisions (Burlington Free Press)
    Listening to the presentation by Vermont Adult and Teen Challenge was a sobering experience for many students after seeing video clips about the traumatic and sometimes fatal consequences of using drugs and alcohol, and hearing from former addicts and alcoholics.

 

Two Reclaiming Futures Sites Come Together to Celebrate Natural Helpers

by LaTonya Harris

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A few members of the Lucas County Reclaiming Futures team attended the 11th Natural Helper Recognition Program in Montgomery County, Ohio, last month. The Recognition Program was held at the Presidential Banquet Center and highlighted volunteers in Montgomery County who are working with the court to help teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. It was very beneficial for our Lucas County team to see and hear the testimonials of how the Montgomery County team has engaged the faith-based community, as well as other volunteers in the community, by recruiting and training them to become Natural Helpers. The recognition acknowledged that it takes a village, meaning everyone—the court and community—to work towards the common goal of supporting youth to make positive changes.

The keynote speaker, LaShea Smith, spoke powerfully about how Natural Helpers fit into the Reclaiming Futures mantra of “More Treatment, Better Treatment, and Beyond Treatment.” She spoke to how Natural Helpers in the community learn to recognize that there is an “opportunity in every obstacle”.

I joined the Juvenile Justice Fellow, Mike Brennan, the Juvenile Treatment Court Case Manager, Andrea Hill, the Parent Partner, Victoria Kamm, and the Lucas County Youth Advocate Program Director, Sherri Munn, in a trip from Lucas County to Montgomery County to both support the Reclaiming Futures programming and to learn how Lucas County can better engage their local faith based community, as well as others to provide mentoring services to court involved youth.

The Honorable Nick Kuntz and the Honorable Anthony Capizzi, Montgomery County Juvenile Court, and the Montgomery County Reclaiming Futures team did an outstanding job with putting together the Recognition Program, welcoming our Lucas County team, and promoting fellowship with other attendees. There were more than 200 people in attendance. We look forward to visiting other Reclaiming Futures sites in the future.

 

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

Jobs

New Funding Opportunity to Help Eliminate Solitary Confinement

by Cecilia Bianco

veraVera Institute of Justice has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for corrections departments in search of safe alternatives to segregation, also referred to as solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is a controversial and often debated topic in the realm of juvenile justice as teens that are segregated often experience mental health and behavioral problems—as well as a higher rate of recidivism upon release.

In the spotlight this year regarding its practices of solitary confinement was Rikers Island. Conditions at Rikers have been described as “horrific” and were condemned by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York this August, who stated that the use of solitary confinement for youths was “excessive and inappropriate.”

There is growing nation-wide support to eliminate solitary confinement entirely as evidence suggests it is an expensive and counterproductive policy for facilities and public safety.

Vera Institute of Justice, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, is now offering five state or local corrections systems a chance to explore and implement an alternative to solitary confinement as part of its new Safe Alternatives to Segregation (SAS) Initiative.

The goals of the initiative include the following:

  • Assist states and counties in reducing their use of segregation;
  • Develop, demonstrate, and evaluate alternatives to disciplinary, administrative, and protective custody segregation;
  • Raise awareness across all correctional institutions nationwide—prisons and jails—of alternatives to segregation;
  • Conduct evaluations and impact studies and make their findings known across the corrections field; and
  • Produce practitioner-focused guides to implementing alternative practices.

The SAS initiative expands on Vera’s Segregation Reduction Project, which has worked with corrections departments since 2010 in states including Washington, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania to reduce reliance on segregation.

Applications will be accepted through Jan. 30, 2015. To learn more about the SAS initiative, including the full RFP and guidelines to submitting an application, visit Vera’s website.

Honoring the Achievements of Dr. H. Westley Clark

by Susan Richardson

Dr Wesley ClarkWe’re pleased to honor the achievements of Dr. H. Westley Clark in light of his recent retirement including his incredible impact on substance abuse treatment and commitment to the success of our young people.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration recognizes the strides Dr. H. Westley Clark made during his 16 years as the Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), and more than 30 years in the federal government:

Wes’ professional life is one marked by non-stop accomplishments and accolades (such as the AMA’s John P. McGovern Award, Presidential Rank Award, Vernelle Fox Award from the California Society of Addiction Medicine, Solomon Carter Fuller Award from the American Psychiatric Association, and multiple Awards for Distinguished Service from the HHS Secretary). His long and distinguished career has had significant impacts on the research, practice, policies and programs in the treatment of substance use disorders. Wes is a graduate of the chemistry program at Detroit’s Wayne State University, the University of Michigan schools of medicine and public health, and Harvard law school. He also completed a two-year Substance Abuse Fellowship at the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco, where he served as Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). He also served as senior program consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Substance Abuse Policy Program and supported a number of National Institute of Drug Abuse-funded research grants.

Reclaiming Futures is happy to have worked parallel to Dr. H. Westley Clark and support his work in substance abuse treatment. We have admired his leadership in the recovery movement and commitment to increasing access to treatment services. In 2007 and 2009, Dr. Clark secured Reclaiming Futures funding from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), along with OJJDP, to help us support sites implementing our model. He will be recognized for his lasting accomplishments, and we will continue to look toward his work for solutions and inspiration.

Image from SAMHSA website

Supreme Court Allows Resentencing of Illinois Inmates; News Roundup

by Cecilia Bianco

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • South Dakota Juvenile Justice System Needs Change (WNAX Radio)
    A group of legislators has created a set of recommendations related to the state’s juvenile justice system. The South Dakota Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JJRI) Work Group submitted a list of policies for the upcoming legislative session that they believe will help solve the problems associated with the juvenile correction system.
  • Military Vet Takes Lead Role at Juvenile Court Services (The Des Moines Register)
    Today, Jensen has a responsibility to thousands of children and teens who enter the juvenile justice system in the Fifth Judicial District, the 16-county region that includes Des Moines. In October, he became the chief juvenile court officer, taking charge of an agency responsible for helping young people who’ve been in trouble with the police, often for crimes such as theft, assault or drug and alcohol offenses.
  • Supreme Court Allows Resentencing of Illinois Inmates (JJIE)
    Sentenced to life in prison at the age of 15, Julie Anderson’s 34-year-old son Eric, along with roughly 80 fellow Illinois inmates, has received his first hope for freedom since he sat in a courtroom 19 years ago.

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

  • Youth Behavioral-Health Issues are the Focus of a New University of Minnesota Social-Work Training Program (Minnesota Post)
    Nationwide, there is a growing shortage of social workers trained to assist youth facing mental illness and addiction. This year, with an eye to filling that gap, Joseph Merighi, associate professor of social work at the University of Minnesota, proposed the Minnesota Social Work Initiative in Behavioral Health, a program designed to train masters in social work (MSW) students to take jobs at community-based behavioral-health clinics, primary care clinics and substance-abuse centers.

Battling Childhood Mental Illness in Colorado

by Cecilia Bianco

hospitalcoloradoThirteen percent of children, as young as age six, have diagnosable mental illness. About half of adults with mental illness had problems starting at a young age, and three-quarters of adults with mental illness experienced symptoms by age 22. The recent story of Joshua Plunkett in the The Denver Post, who has struggled with mental illness since the age of three, called attention to the growing need for early treatment for children dealing with mental illness.

Joshua’s story was likely shared in light of the estimated 89,000 children and teens in Colorado dealing with serious emotional disturbances, some of them severe enough that they cannot live with their families.

The emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado reported 3,100 kids experiencing a mental health crisis, which has contributed to the 10 to 30 percent average increase each year. The hospital is on track to see more than 3,800 children in mental health crisis at the emergency department this year—many of which are described as suicidal or aggressive and threatening to hurt someone else.

“We are really in a behavioral health crisis in our state,” said Dr. Douglas Novins, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Children’s. “The number of children who are coming here in behavioral health crisis has really increased enormously.”

Recent studies have demonstrated that early treatment is key to improving mental illness; however, kids younger than six are the least likely to receive mental health care if they need it.

Because a huge portion of brain development happens in the first three years of life, treatment at that time can have a lifelong impact, Dr. Shannon Bekman, program manager for the infant mental health program at the Mental Health Center of Denver, said.

The Mental Health Center of Denver provides therapists in several Denver schools and public health clinics to allow kids to get psychiatric care at the same place they see pediatricians. More than 1,500 Denver students received 12,000 mental health therapy sessions last year.

Denver Public Schools has also implemented plans to help combat this growing issue: Every school in the district has either a psychologist, social worker or both, and mental health staff has increased 30 percent in five years.

“If we don’t look at it through the mental health lens, it may be seen as a discipline problem,” Eldridge Greer, director of social emotional learning for Denver schools, said. “If we don’t address mental health, we are not going to get the results we want in academics.”

Read the full story on The Denver Post for more details.