$400,000 Federal Grant to Study Minorities in Juvenile Justice and More; News Roundup

by David Backes

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Teens Get a Second Chance (SouthBendTribune.com)
    It is not mission impossible for the Juvenile Justice Center teens enrolled in the first year "Mission Possible" program at the South Bend Kroc Center. According to the Childrens and Youth Ministries Manager Jacqueline Davis, the mission is to try to give struggling teens a new direction.
  • Federal Grant to Help Study Minorities in Juvenile Justice (WyandotteDailyNews.com)
    U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom reported that a $400,000 federal grant to the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority will help evaluate disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system.
  • ROCA Selected for New Social Investment Program (Chelsea Record)
    Massachusetts will be the first state to implement the ‘pay for success’ model of social financing through a Juvenile Justice contract and ROCA of Chelsea will help lead the effort with two Social Innovation Financing (SIF) contracted partners.
  • New Texas Juvenile Justice Priorities Could be in Jeopardy (PublicNewsService.org)
    Recent improvements to the long-troubled juvenile justice system in Texas are already in jeopardy, if a just-released survey of officials in 73 county youth probation departments is any indication.
  • Feds: Mississippi County Runs ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’ (CNN.com)
    Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated "a school-to-prison pipeline" that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
  • Memphis Begins Reforms of Beleaguered Juvenile Court (TheCommercialAppeal.com)
    Shelby County, Tennessee court officials say they will move the juvenile defense system from Juvenile Court oversight and place it under the office in charge of defending adults.
  • Juvenile Justice Sets up Tip Line (The Augusta Chronical)
    The Atlanta, Georgia De­part­ment of Juvenile Jus­tice has a new investigative tool: a Web site where people can report suspicious activities at the state’s youth detention centers and court-services offices.

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

  • Teens Fare Better at Substance Abuse Facilities With Comprehensive Mental Health Services (DrugFree.org)
    Teenagers who receive substance abuse treatment at facilities with comprehensive mental health services fare better one year later, compared with those treated at facilities with fewer such services, or none at all, a new study finds. 
  • Motivational Speaker Learned from Juvenile Drug Court (DailyPress.com)
    When Quwanisha Hines was arrested numerous times as a juvenile for crimes related to abusing alcohol and drugs, she could see her life going down the wrong path. One day, she said, she started imagining her future, and it wasn’t pretty. 
  • Area Teens, Battling Heroin Addictions, Face Obstacles to Sobriety (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
    Cameron awakens early each morning, leaves the comfortable suburban home he shares with his parents and drives across town to drink his methadone. It’s a vast improvement over the past few years, when the 19-year-old sometimes spent mornings panhandling for drug money.
  • Alcohol Ads Violating Industry Rules More Likely in Magazines Popular With Teens (DrugFree.org)
    Alcohol ads that violate industry guidelines are more likely to appear in magazines popular with teen readers, a new study finds. Ads violate industry guidelines if they appear to target a primarily underage audience, highlight the high alcohol content of a product, or portray drinking in conjunction with activities that require a high degree of alertness or coordination, such as swimming.

juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to ReclaimingFutures.org. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.






King County, Washington Buys into Juvenile Justice and More; News Roundup

by David Backes

Juvenile Justice Reform

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

  • Few Local Treatment Options Exist for Teens Addicted to Heroin (SantaFeNewMexican.com)
    Committing a crime seems to be one of the few ways for a Santa Fe teenager to get into treatment for heroin addiction. “We see a trend that in order to get treatment, people have to get into trouble first,” said Michael Santillanes, the education director of YouthWorks, a job training and education nonprofit serving at-risk youths.
  • Peers Key in Fighting Drug Abuse (The Republic)
    The formation of a student group at Columbus East High School dedicated to fostering antidrug attitudes among their peers might not be precedent-setting, but the background to this particular group of young people is very definitely a positive sign.
  • Teen Survival Expectations Predict Later Risk-Taking Behavior (ScienceDaily.com)
    New research published August 1 in the open access journal PLOS ONE reports that, for American teens, the expectation of death before the age of 35 predicted increased risk behaviors including substance abuse and suicide attempts later in life and a doubling to tripling of mortality rates in young adulthood.

juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to ReclaimingFutures.org. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.






OJP Releases Fact Sheet on Drug Courts

by Brooke Preston

The Office of Justice Programs, in collaboration with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Institute of Justice, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has released the fact sheet, “Drug Courts.”

This fact sheet examines adult and juvenile drug court program models and OJP’s support of adult and juvenile drug courts. It also provides facts, research findings, and additional resources regarding drug courts.

The fact sheet is available online.


Read the fact sheet, at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/238527.pdf.








Live Blogging JMATE: The Juvenile Drug Court and Reclaiming Futures Models

by Mac Prichard

This afternoon we heard about an upcoming evaluation of six Reclaiming Futures juvenile drug courts. Bridget Ruiz, a technical expert on adolescents from JBS International, chaired the session and opened the panel presentation with a discussion of the history of juvenile drug courts and Reclaiming Futures and also outlined the important elements of each approach.

“Evidence shows that combining the two models has been effective in helping young people, “ said Ruiz, who formerly was an associate professor at the University of Arizona.

Erika Ostlie, a senior policy associate at Carnevale Associates, gave an overview of an upcoming evaluation supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of six federally funded Reclaiming Futures sites.

“This is a multi-site four-year evaluation of the two models,” said Ostlie, who will help manage the evaluation. “We will identify factors, elements and services that perform best with respect to o outcomes and cost effectiveness.” Besides Carnevale Associates, the other members of the evaluation team include the University of Arizona and Chestnut Health Systems.

“This study will address a huge gap in the literature,” said Ostlie. “There are more than 500 juvenile drug courts in the US but few studies about them exist.”

John Carnevale, president of Carnevale Associates, discussed federal drug policy since the 1980s, especially as it related to drug treatment and drug courts.

“We have lots of evidence now about effectiveness about adult drug courts,” said Carnevale. “We need more information about juvenile drug courts.

Mac Prichard owns and operates Prichard Communications, a full-service public relations agency that works with philanthropies, non-profits and public agencies across the country. He previously served as the national communications director for Reclaiming Futures. Prior to that, Mac was a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, a speechwriter and deputy legislative director for former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, and a Portland City Hall spokesman for Earl Blumenauer, now a Member of Congress. Prior, he was legislative and media relations director for the Massachusetts State Office for Refugees and Immigrants, the first public information officer for Boston’s "Big Dig," and a researcher in former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy’s first Congressional campaign. He also served on the staff of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Mac has a master’s from Harvard University and a bachelor’s from the University of Iowa.





DC Superior Court Helps Teens with Mental Health Problems

by Liz Wu

A Superior Court in Washington, D.C., is redirecting minors with mental health problems from the juvenile system to treatment and rehabilitation. JM-4, a former juvenile mental health division court, is led by Magistrate Judge Joan Goldfrank, who is known for listening to families and dispensing wisdom and services to kids.

“The message I want to give them is that they are supported,” Goldfrank told the Washington Post. “The whole point of juvenile justice is rehabilitation. How could we not do it on the kids’ side?”

JM-4 is one of a dozen courts in the country that aims to help young people with mental health issues without incarcerating them.

From the Washington Post:

In the District, a minor charged with an eligible offense — mostly misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses such as attempting to flee a law enforcement officer or driving while intoxicated — can apply to have a case diverted to Goldfrank’s court if the youth has a mental health diagnosis, such as generalized anxiety disorder or social phobia.

Instead of facing incarceration, which can increase the odds that the juvenile will re-offend, juveniles in diversion must deal with their problem behavior. If they’re cutting school, they have to go back, or consider getting a GED or a job. If they’re doing drugs, they have to get tested and get treatment. If they need therapy, they have to see a psychologist.

If they succeed, they graduate from the program and have their cases dismissed. If they fail, they may find their cases back on the regular juvenile calendar.

Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.






Prescription drug use among teens can lead to criminal consequences

by Jerod Gunsberg

[Editor’s note: Reclaiming Futures is not endorsing Mr. Gunsberg’s services.]

Drug use among teens generally continues to decline, according to the annual survey released in December 2011 by the National Institute for Drug Abuse. The report entitled, “Monitoring The Future” shows the results of surveys completed by more than 40,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. The survey was first conducted in 1975 and shows record-low levels of cigarette and alcohol use among teenagers.

The non-medical use of prescription drug use among teens, however, remains alarmingly high. Fifteen years ago, the non-medical use of prescription drugs by teens wasn’t perceived to be a problem by policymakers or law enforcement. Now, the non-medical use of Ritalin is approximately the same as teen use of cocaine, and less than half as prevalent as the use of some other prescription drugs. For example, between eight and ten percent of high school seniors reported that they have used either OxyContin or Vicodin in the past year for non-medical reasons.

Parents and their teens are often blind to the serious legal risks that come from misusing prescription drugs. Such drugs are often perceived as safer to use than illegal drugs because they can be obtained through a prescription. But that’s not how the law sees it.

OxyContin is legally classified as a narcotic; Vicodin is classified as an opiate, as is heroin. It is a criminal offense to use these drugs without a prescription and prosecutors have brought charges for the sale and distribution of such drugs to others. This is especially problematic for high-school seniors who may be charged as adults if they are 18 or older.

According to the report, approximately three-quarters of prescription drugs that are used for non medical uses are obtained from family or friends. Sometimes these drugs come right from the parent’s medical cabinet. The Survey results indicate that teenagers are much more likely to get prescriptions drugs for free from a friend or relative than buy it from a stranger or a dealer. For example, between 2009 and 2011, almost three quarters of high-school seniors who used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons reported that they received tranquilizers from friends or family for free at least once during the prior 12 months. By contrast, only a quarter of such students reported buying tranquilizers from a stranger or dealer. In fact, teens are more likely to buy prescription drugs from friends or family than from strangers.

But that is not how prosecutors in Southern California tend to view it. They tend to err on the side of charging teens with possession of prescription drugs with an intent to sell such drugs. There are several scenarios in which this takes place. For example, a kid gets his or hands on a bunch of Adderall, Ritalin, or Oxy and stores it in improper packaging – a ziploc baggie or a pill bottle with the prescription label peeled off. When the police find it, they arrest the kid on suspicion of possession for SALE of a controlled substance. Most District Attorney’s in juvenile court file the case accordingly. This also happens when kids “trade” pills with each other – so a kid can get caught with a mini-pharmacy of sorts (a few Ritalin, some Oxy, some Vicodin, etc.). This will also likely be charged as possession for sale.

In either scenario, the quantities of pills don’t have to be that high. Juveniles have been charged with an intent to sell drugs even if, at the time of the arrest, the police found as few as a dozen pills. Even though the reality is that these kids ARE using it for personal use, the District Attorneys don’t see it that way. They will look at the number of pills, the fact that they are separately bagged, that there’s a variety, and if they find ANY amount of money on the kid – even a hundred bucks–they will allege that the money was proceeds from narcotics sales and use it to bolster the charge.

While every drug-related conviction has potentially serious consequences for teens, this is particularly true if the conviction involves possession for sale. Once someone is convicted of such a charge, they are branded by the courts and probation department as a drug dealer. This in turn makes it much more difficult to get off of juvenile probation.


The post above is reprinted with permission from Los Angeles Juvenile Defense.

Jerod Gunsberg is a criminal defense lawyer who regularly represents children and teens accused of crimes in California. He has defended juveniles in connection with a wide array of charges, including drug cases, sex offenses, and violent crime with gang allegations. Jerod is an alumni of The Center for Juvenile Law and Policy at Loyola Law School. He is also the author of the blog, Los Angeles Juvenile Defense.






Youth court: where teenagers hear from the people they respect the most: their peers

by Stephen Hammill

Tina Rosenberg, writing in the New York Times’ online Opinionator column in a piece published last week, voiced support for the Youth Court of the District of Columbia, while also dissecting public misconceptions surrounding it:

While most commenters praised youth courts for taking a humane approach, reader Beliavsky from Boston wrote, "Letting young criminals (excuse me, ‘troubled youths’) be judged by other young criminals does not seem right to me. There should be a real, non-criminal, adult, judge." 

Beliavsky is assuming that Youth Court is the soft option. It’s often not so.  As reader Andrew Rasmussen of New York said:  "The appropriate comparison would be kids who do something and are taken home by the cops to their parents."

Rosenberg contends the DC Youth Court is about more than just bypassing a broken system:

There is evidence that youth courts do more than simply divert teenagers from juvenile justice: they actively create pro-social behavior.  The Urban Institute study  found a clue:  the courts that give the most autonomy to the teenagers themselves work best … Youth court is one of the few places where teenagers hear disapproval of their behavior from people whose respect they crave the most: their peers.

You can read the entire post here.


Juvenile Drug Courts: Free Online Incentives and Sanctions Training

by Jessica Pearce
juvenile-drug-courts_grass-behind-barsIncentives and Sanctions in Juvenile Drug Courts
Effective incentives and sanctions are essential tools in motivating youth to change their behavior. What can we learn from behavioral research and what can we learn from the experience of others? This two-part highly interactive online workshop will help you discover and put into practice the key components of a system of incentives and sanctions that can help bring about and sustain behavior change.
Part I:              June 28, 2011 – 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (EST)
Part II:             July 6, 2011 – 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (EST)

Please plan to attend both Part I and Part II. This is a web and telephone based training, and you will need to have access to BOTH a computer and a telephone. In addition, because of the nature of the training design, each person participating will need to have a computer and telephone. If you have a group that would like to register, please sign up each individual.
Please contact Jessica Pearce at (775) 784-1661 to register and participate in this exciting online training opportunity. Hurry! Space is limited to 20 participants.
Related Post:


Jessica Pearce is Associate Projects Coordinator in the Juvenile and Family Law Department of the National Council of Juvneile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ).


Photo: Joost J. Bakker |JMuiden, under Creative Commons license.



Creating a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles in the Justice System

by John Roman Ph.D.

juvenile-justice-reform_hands-coming-together[Testimony given April 2011 by John Roman, Ph.D., before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. Reprinted with permission from The Urban Institute. -Ed.]

Good morning. My name is John Roman and I am a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where I have studied innovative crime and justice policies and programs for more than a decade. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about integrating innovative practices to better serve juveniles involved with the justice system and to improve public safety.

Using Lessons from Recent Innovations to Create a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles

Over the last decade, across the United States, there has been tremendous interest in reforming juvenile and criminal justice systems to both improve their performance and to improve public safety by reducing crime and delinquency among adjudicated youth. What I would like to describe today is how those innovative practices—the Reclaiming Futures initiative, drugs courts and other alternatives to commitment, and Project HOPE—might be integrated to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs.

In the first phase of Reclaiming Futures, begun in 2002, multidisciplinary teams in ten communities worked collaboratively to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. All ten projects relied on judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, interorganizational performance management, enhanced treatment quality, and multiagency partnerships to improve their systems of care for youthful offenders with substance abuse problems.

Reclaiming Futures was founded on the assumption that positive outcomes for youth are best achieved when service delivery systems are well managed and coordinated, and when they provide young people with comprehensive, evidence-based substance abuse treatments along with other interventions and supports. Reclaiming Futures was an effort to design and implement a model of organizational change and system reform that could improve the juvenile justice response to youth with drug and alcohol problems.

The second initiative which is showing evidence of success is Project HOPE. Project HOPE is a graduated sanctions program focused on swiftly and certainly detecting violations of supervision requirements. The HOPE model is straightforward: individuals under supervision are closely monitored and any infraction receives an immediate response. In effect, HOPE allows large numbers of individuals to be supervised with little cost.

The third initiative is better known: drug treatment courts. Drug courts combine graduated sanctions with treatment under the close supervision of a judge and successful participants graduate and have their charges dismissed or reduced.

These three initiatives have some shared characteristics that are notable:

  • Systems reform is at the core of each, with a focus on changing the way the system approaches an individual. In effect, they make individuals, rather than agencies, their focus, and in drug courts and Reclaiming Futures, they change the system so that all services are brought to a youth. In the more traditional model, youth travel to different agencies with differing responsibilities for that youth.

  • When these initiatives are successful, they focus exclusively on their core mission. Effective drug courts focus only on drug desistance and relapse prevention. Effective Reclaiming Futures initiatives focus exclusively on identifying the needs of youth and providing efficient triage so that only the minimal necessary intervention is administered. Project HOPE focuses exclusively on detecting infractions.

Integration of these three ideas would have important advantages for the District. In practice, youth would be funneled through a triage process. In the first stage of processing, youth would be supervised in a HOPE-like environment, where the threat of punishment, coupled with a high likelihood that infractions are detected and sanctions are received, would cause many youth to self-select into compliance, thus preserving scarce treatment and commitment resources for youth who cannot.

In the second stage of processing, youth proceed through a Reclaiming Futures-like process, where youth undergo a bio-psychosocial diagnostic assessment to determine if there are underlying problems, such as alcohol or drug disorders, that are contributing to their lack of compliance. If youth fail less intense interventions, the response becomes progressively more intense, culminating with commitment. Commitment is thus reserved only for those youth who are not responsive to less intense interventions.

This approach is not in conflict with the philosophies that have guided youth-serving justice agencies in the District, but it would require a more integrated system, with more data sharing, more clear lines of communication, and, ultimately, more of a youth than an agency focus.

John Roman is a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where his research focuses on evaluations of innovative crime control policies and justice programs. Dr. Roman has directed studies on juvenile justice, drug courts, prisoner reentry, capital punishment, systems reform, police investigations, forensics, and wrongful conviction. He directed the evaluation and cost-benefit analysis of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Reclaiming Futures initiative. Dr. Roman is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania and an affiliated professor at Georgetown University.



Butts, Jeffrey B., and John K. Roman. 2007. “Changing Systems: Outcomes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Reclaiming Futures Initiative on Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.




juvenile-justice-reform_John RomanJohn Roman, Ph.D. directs the District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute at The Urban Institute.



Photo at top: iciio, under Creative Commons license.


Juvenile Justice Journeys: Kyle Boyer, Part 5 of 5 – A Day in Juvenile Drug Court

by Bill Sanders

Just joining us? This is part five of a five-part series. >>Start from the beginning. This segment focuses on the juvenile drug court Kyle Boyer participated in after being arrested at age 15 for burglarizing houses for prescription painkillers.

Part 5: A Day in Drug Court

juvenile-drug-court_prescription-pillsCobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program.

One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids. The assigned probation officer and counselor chime in, giving her an update on how the week had gone for the juvenile.

For these kids, failing a drug test, disregarding a curfew or skipping out on house arrest, most likely means the judge isn’t going to let them go home. More often than not, someone shows up on Wednesday night with one or both of their parents, and ends up being taken to the county Youth Detention Center (YDC) here in suburban Atlanta.

For the most-addicted kids, or the ones with the most rebellious attitudes, a stint in YDC is fairly common. But it doesn’t take long for kids to realize that Stedman, who can be as compassionate and loving a woman as there is, isn’t one to be tested.

“Todd, why do you think I’m so upset with you?” Stedman asked one of the teenagers in a previous class.

“Because I smoked?”

“You smoked pot three days after I released you. Did you not think I looked serious?”

“Yes ma’am, you did.”

And she was. Todd went back to jail that day.

Not everyone succeeds in drug court. And almost all of them will relapse at some point along their path to recovery.

Lynn Abney, a licensed professional counselor and part of the drug court team, said watching kids relapse is one of the hardest parts of the job for her and her teammates.

“I’d say more times than not, we expect relapse,” Abney said. “It’s an unfortunate part of the illness. But I’m a firm believer that even with a slip up, the kid is further along than he or she was at the last slip up. A lot of times, it’s two steps up and one step back. If someone is truly an addict, you at least hope that the time between relapses gets wider and wider. Sometimes it’s about managing relapses.”

Abney, and a handful of other counselors working the Cobb County juvenile drug court, make in-home family counseling visits with the kids – maybe weekly at first, then less often. But it’s a way for this to be more than just a justice or law enforcement program.

“To me, the No. 1 reason it is as effective as it is, is the accountability of the legal system and the clinical treatment of therapy,” she said. “It’s like treating someone with a major depressive episode – medicine is OK and therapy is OK. But medicine and therapy is the best, together. Our program is more successful than just incarcerating or just doing therapy.”

Not everyone who goes through the drug court will succeed. The grip of drugs and alcohol can sometimes prove to be too much.

“It’s tough,” Abney said. “Sometimes what you can do is not going to be enough. I think sometimes, we try too long with some families. We’ve seen tragedies where someone did not have long-term success. Still though, we believe that something that was done or said was helpful. It might not have saved them or prevented relapse, but we were planting a seed. If it didn’t help that kid, maybe it helped his brother, or his friend. Those are things we have to hang on to when we see things go bad.”




The post above is reprinted with permission from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, supported by the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. 


juvenile-drug-court_Bill-SandersBill Sanders has written and reported stories out of metro-Atlanta for 15 years.

 "His devotion to telling stories in the most compelling way is exceeded only by his sensitivity to the people whose stories he tells. His writing demonstrates remarkable insight into people. He does not sugar coat anyone, but his empathy for human beings shows through clearly." – David Simpson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Multimedia credits: Clay Duda