Judges Call for Community Responses to Juvenile Substance Abuse
A report by judges with the national Reclaiming Futures program recommends judicial action to help teens in trouble with drugs and alcohol avoid a life of crime
Portland, OR (October 25, 2006) — A national group of judges is recommending that judicial officers nationwide take a more active role in helping youth in the juvenile justice system overcome their drug and alcohol problems. The judges, part of the Reclaiming Futures program funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued their call to action as part of their jointly written monograph A Model for Judicial Leadership; Community Responses to Juvenile Substance Abuse. The report was published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in its Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Summer 2006, Volume 57, Number 3.
“Research shows that teens who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to end up in the justice system, where treatment services are often unavailable or uncoordinated,” said Laura Nissen, Reclaiming Futures national program director. “We believe these young people deserve appropriate screening, treatment, care and community support, and that judges have the knowledge, influence and obligation to drive this change.”
The judicial monograph, written by a team of judges with extensive experience in juvenile justice, outlines practical steps for other judges to follow in order to build a collaborative model for change within their own juvenile justice systems. These steps include inviting and convening stakeholders to participate; identifying the needs for youth services; achieving consensus; focusing on performance measures and outcomes; educating the judiciary and public; partnering with the community; and listening to youth.
The report concludes with 10 recommendations for judicial action, such as: judges must ensure youth in the system are screened and assessed; judges must be educated on the current state of practice in the substance abuse field; and judges must help identify or create positive pro-social influences for youth such as mentors, jobs or volunteer opportunities.
“This guide is written by judges and intended to be used by other judges, court administrators, government entities, community leaders and interested citizens,” said Hon. Willard G. Martin, Jr., a judicial fellow for Reclaiming Futures and judge in the New Hampshire District Court and Family Division. “Our goal is to provide a blueprint for judges so they can take concrete actions to improve the juvenile and family court system.”
A Model for Judicial Leadership can be read in its entirety on our website: www.reclaimingfutures.org or in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Summer 2006, Volume 57, Number 3.
Reclaiming Futures is a $21 million initiative located in the 10 communities of Anchorage, Alaska; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; three counties in Eastern Kentucky; Marquette, Mich.; the state of New Hampshire; Rosebud, South Dakota; Dayton, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash. In its fourth year, early research conducted by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago indicates the program has significantly improved the coordination of juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment services in its 10 communities.
About Reclaiming Futures
Reclaiming Futures is a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. The mission of Reclaiming Futures, a $21 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is to promote new opportunities and standards of care in juvenile justice. It is housed in the Regional Research Institute for Human Services of the Graduate School of Social Work at Portland State University. For additional information, visit
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.