Youth placed in juvenile justice institutions face a fundamental obstacle in their career pathway: They have been removed from their communities and lack access to the full array of educational and job opportunities available to their peers. Accordingly, the best long-term solution to the many barriers to career success “disconnected” youth face is to keep them out of the juvenile justice system entirely — and, in particular, out of juvenile detention and correctional institutions.
It’s not every day that people working on health collaborate closely with people who think about how to reform the juvenile justice system. I was recently part of a research project that did just that.
I openly admit that transitioning from avoiding the trauma issue to becoming a trauma-informed and responsive organization wasn’t easy, but the value of that transformation is facilitating better outcomes for the children we serve. If we as service providers don’t take the trauma issue straight on, we are doing the children who are counting on us for help a disservice.
Although it’s too soon to tell if integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) sciences is making a difference for the teens living at Home on the Range, a residential treatment center in Sentinel Butte, North Dakota, it’s made a huge difference for the people who work there.
It is essential that trauma-informed reforms go beyond simply acknowledging that many justice-involved youth have been traumatized, and provide practical skills that adults and youths together can use.
Girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system is growing disproportionately at a time when arrest rates for boys are declining. And yet, girls’ behavior has not changed; rather, our response to their behavior has changed. This is especially true for girls in the child welfare system.
Delinquent behavior is far more likely in a youth who has experienced trauma. This is not an excuse from good behavior, but a likely cause that must be addressed for the youth to move forward in a noncriminal life.
Solitary confinement is a practice that has been used in the U.S. prison system since 1829. It is based on a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible use the time to repent, pray and find introspection.
Research over the past several decades has established that youth exposure to violence is a widespread and significant problem. This is particularly true for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, as research has shown that up to 90 percent of these youth have histories of violence exposure, with many reporting multiple serious incidents.