New Report on the Well Being of Children Shows Progress, Room For Improvement
A report recently released from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics found that while several indicators of children’s well being have improved in recent years, there are significant areas that still need to be addressed. One of the most significant issues is the increasing numbers of children living in poverty. The study, “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” examined a range of indicators including family and social environment, economic circumstance, physical environment and safety.
Safety showed some of the best improvement. Via the report, “In 2010, the rate at which youth were victims of serious violent crimes was 7 crimes per 1,000 juveniles ages 12–17, down from 11 per 1,000 in 2009.” This drop was primarily seen in the violent victimization crime rates of young males, but unfortunately the rate for female youths did not see any significant change.
New CASA Columbia Study Reports Inadequate Treatment for Addiction
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) released a new five-year national study on addiction treatment, finding that despite overwhelming evidence that addiction is a disease, treatment options don’t follow the same methodologies that we currently use to treat other diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart conditions. Treatments for each of these diseases of course differ, but doctors still use the same process of evidence-based diagnosis followed by appropriate treatment.
Although addiction to nicotine, alcohol and other substances affects over 40 million Americans--more than cancer, diabetes and heart conditions--most medical professionals aren’t qualified to treat addiction. The study found youth who begin smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before the age of 21 are at higher risk for addiction. In 96.5 percent of cases, addiction originated with substance use before the age of 21 when the brain is still developing. Via the press release:
“The report finds that while doctors routinely screen for a broad range of health problems like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, they rarely screen for risky substance use or signs of addiction and instead treat a long list of health problems that result, including accidents, unintended pregnancies, heart disease, cancers and many other costly conditions without examining the root cause.”
Generic anti-bullying classes found to be ineffective and more -- news roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- California counties to pay the state $125,000 to house juvenile offenders
California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state has to pull the trigger on a series of mid-year budget cuts due to low tax revenues. One of those reductions shaves $67 million from the state’s juvenile justice budget. The cut will force counties to foot the bill for Juvenile Justice wards in state custody, at a cost of $125,000 per youth. Alameda County could be put in a $6.2 million bind.
- Kentucky looks for better way to help young offenders
Kentucky officials are looking for better ways to deal with youth who commit noncriminal offenses such as skipping school or running away. Research shows that detaining status offenders is the least effective and most expensive option. State leaders admit the system needs improvement.
- Oregon will stop holding juvenile offenders in adult prison
After federal auditors questioned the practice, Oregon has stopped temporarily holding youth in adult prisons. The Partnership for Safety and Justice, which works on criminal justice issues, won legislation in the 2011 session to encourage local authorities to hold youth in juvenile facilities while they await trial.
- New Report: Generic anti-bullying classes found to be ineffective
OJJDP has issued a report in which bullying in schools is examined and recommendations are made for the best ways schools can provide support to bullying victims. The study found generic curriculum is an ineffective substitute for student-focused engagement strategies.
- Ohio Courts use internet for greater connectivity
Ohio’s Coshocton County’s Common Pleas Court, Juvenile and Probate Court and Municipal Court are using the internet to share information more easily with the public and other courts. The Common Pleas Court launched a searchable database for the public that features basic information on open and closed cases with the court.
- South Carolina law enforcement officers complete DJJ gang, violence prevention training
Recognizing that many kids face significant pressure to join a gang, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice has partnered with the Gang Resistance Education and Training program in multiple communities across the state to bring the curriculum to local elementary and middle school youth.
Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment
- New government program aims to protect children from accidental drug overdoses
A new government program aims to protect young children from accidental drug overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the “Up and Away and Out of Sight” program, to teach parents how to keep medications out of the hands of young children.
Sheriff investigator makes a difference in kids’ lives and more -- news roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- South Carolina County Sheriff investigator makes a difference in kids’ lives
Richland County sheriff investigator Cassie Radford is working hard to get troubled kids the services they need and to keep them out of jail. The grant that funds Radford's position is in its third year and ends Sept. 30. Richland County prosecutors and judges hope Sheriff Leon Lott finds a way to keep Radford in her position.
- Missouri juvenile office to use electronic monitoring
The expense of sending Linn County’s juvenile offenders elsewhere, coupled with the strict criteria that must be met to detain a juvenile, has prompted the Linn County Juvenile Office to obtain electronic monitoring equipment. Without a juvenile detention center of its own, the Linn County Juvenile Office has been forced to pay the expense of transporting offenders as well as the cost for a bed in Kirksville’s Bruce Normile Juvenile Justice Center.
- New goal for Illinois juvenile center: Clear it out
Cook County’s Board President is advocating a new approach for the county’s juvenile justice system: empty the juvenile detention facility by putting children in group homes, monitored home confinement and other community-based programs where advocates say young people have better opportunities for counseling, job training and other life-skill instruction.
- Kentucky launches pilot program to decrease juvenile detentions
Henderson schools, law enforcement and court officials joined forces with the state to examine why so many teens were being incarcerated. They came up with a pilot program to combat the issue. It includes asking schools to deal with small offenses, instituting a mentor program and encouraging teachers and school officials to meet to review statistics on disciplinary action.
- Washington, DC’s juvenile justice system sees real change
As part of sweeping reforms, DC’s Oak Hill was closed in 2009 and replaced by a smaller and dramatically different facility named New Beginnings Youth Development Center. Youth Radio interviewed DC Lawyers for Youth executive director Daniel Okonkwo about Oak Hill’s impact on DC’s juvenile justice system.
- Wisconsin critics: Stop treating 17-year-olds as adults
Wisconsin is one of 13 states that automatically place 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system. In the past few years, almost one-third of states have passed laws to keep more young offenders in the juvenile justice system. Now officials and families are calling on the state to place 17-year-olds in juvenile facilities, mainly for their own safety.
- Benton County’s juvenile center nearly finished
Arkansas’ Benton County's Juvenile Justice Center is nearly complete, with part of the $6 million complex scheduled to open in January. The new facility is twice as large as the current one and will include classrooms and a courtroom in addition to holding cells.
Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment
- Two key questions are focus of new teen alcohol screener for pediatricians
A new alcohol screening tool that focuses on two key questions is designed to help pediatricians spot children and adolescents at risk for alcohol-related problems. The doctor asks about the patient’s own drinking, as well as his or her friends’ alcohol use.
New National Poll: Strong Support for Youth Rehabilitation Over Incarceration and More -- News Roundup
- New National Poll: Strong Support for Youth Rehabilitation Over Incarceration
Poll highlights critical and timely information on youth in the justice system, showing overwhelming public support for treatment and rehabilitation of youth over incarceration and automatic prosecution in adult criminal court. This survey, a sample of 1,000 American adults, was commissioned by the Campaign for Youth Justice.
- Sustainability: Impact Beyond Grant Programs
These slides and guides from Pennsylvania State University are very helpful for juvenile justice programs and prevention work. (Hat tip to Paul Savery)
- Feds Tell California Marijuana Dispensaries to Shut Down
U.S. attorneys say they will prosecute landlords who rent space to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. The attorneys said they suspect these dispensaries of using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales.
Serious Juvenile Offenders: Do Mental Health Problems Elevate Risk?
NOTE: Two of the co-authors of this post, Carol A. Schubert M.P.H., and Edward P. Mulvey, Ph.D., will be presenting on other aspects of their research on youth in the juvenile justice system at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) juvenile justice conference next week.
The general adolescent population is estimated to have a rate of 9% to 21% in occurrence of diagnosable psychiatric disorders. In comparison, researchers have established that the juvenile offender population has a disproportionately high rate of mental health problems, with estimates suggesting it is as high as 50% to 70%. Additionally, a majority of the diagnosable youth in the juvenile system have a co-occurring substance-use disorder.
Many initiatives dealing with mental health problems in juvenile offenders have treated them as a criminogenic risk factor; positing that, if these problems are addressed, youth’s risk for repeat offenses will decrease and their involvement in pro-social activity will increase. It is important that mental health problems be addressed for these youth, but we require a better understanding of the role mental health problems play for offending to better inform program development.
Demonstrations that youth with mental health problems have an increased risk for criminal involvement proves an association, but not a definite cause or explanation about the means by which mental disorders elevate criminal risk. It is possible that there is a deeper root cause in the relationship between the two and that having a better understanding of this association can help determine the most effective treatment options.
There is not much data regarding whether and/or how mental health problems relate to continued offending or adjustment problems in adolescent offenders. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship among certain mental health problems (affective, anxiety, ADHD, and substance use disorders), criminogenic risk, and outcomes (such as re-arrest) in a sample of serious adolescent offenders.
This investigation used data from a longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders (The Pathways to Desistance Study). The sample of serious adolescent offenders included 949 individuals (84% male; 78% minority) with a mean age sixteen. 57.7% of the sample met the criteria for at least one of the assessed MPHs. The study investigated three questions:
Youth Violence Can Be Reduced By Increasing Alcohol Controls, Studies Suggest
Make access to alcohol more difficult and young adults are likely to commit fewer violent crimes. That’s what two studies by University of California at Riverside researchers showed recently, according to an article published by CBS Los Angeles.
In the second study, researchers found higher rates of violent crimes in neighborhoods near alcohol outlets with more than 10 percent of freezer space for single-serve containers. The researchers described the effect as “modest,” yet crime did increase in areas with a higher percentage of single serve alcohol containers.
Teen Brain Development: Neural Gawkiness
Adults' enduring perplexity about teenagers are captured in quotes by Aristotle and Shakespeare in The New Science of the Teenage Brain, the cover story of the October National Geographic Magazine. The article, by David Dobbs, explains how young people's lives are shaped by the mind-blowing reorganization occurring in the brains of adolescents between the ages of 12-25. The article is fascinating, and it's worth reading the entire piece. It's also a fabulous tool for us to use to get policymakers' attention as to why so many policies and programs like Scared Straight, lock them up, and zero tolerance don't work. So after reading the article, spend a few minutes sending an email or two or a letter to the editor of your local paper.
According to Dobbs, scientists started to look at what was happening in young people's brains in the 1990's. He explains what the scans showed:
Computer-Based Treatment Outperforms Treatment As Usual - And More: A Roundup
- Taking the "Anonymous" out of A.A.
Increasingly, adults in Alcoholics Anonymous are coming out of the closet and talking about their addiction and their membership in A.A. Is this a healthy sign that the stigma around addiction is decreasing, or does it threaten something that's critical to recovery -- and does all this look different when it comes to teens? Leave a comment below.
- Computer-Based Interventions for Drug-Use Disorders: a Systematic Review According to a research survey published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, "Compared to treatment-as-usual, computer-based interventions led to less substance use and higher motivation to change, better retention, and greater knowledge of presented information. Computer-based interventions for drug use disorders have the potential to dramatically expand and alter the landscape of treatment." (Hat tip to Paul Savery.)
Delinquent Youths' Attitudes Toward Crime - Surprising Findings
Many adults assume that they do. However, research by Rachel Swaner and Elise White, published in 2010 by the Center for Court Innovation, suggests that for some youth at least, their attitudes and values are not anti-social at all. Though the youth outcomes in their study were not terribly positive, it underscores the need to provide youth with opportunities to do positive activities that reinforce their positive values.
The study, titled, "Drifting Between Worlds: Delinquency and Positive Engagement among Red Hook Youth," involved a small sample of 44 youth in a housing project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. About half participated in Youth ECHO, a positive youth development program that enlisted the youth themselves in choosing community problems to tackle, and creating guerrilla marketing campaigns to address them.
A few highlights from the study: