What is Re-entry and Aftercare for Youth?

What do you think should happen when a kid is incarcerated? If you’re like most Americans, you think rehabilitation should be a top priority for youth correctional facilities, according to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts. But are kids actually getting what they need in facilities to ensure they don’t commit new crimes when they return home? Evidently not:

Two-thirds of these youth don’t return to school after their release from secure custody. Even though parents and families are the most important factor in determining youth success in reintegrating into the community, only one in three families report being included in any release plans made for their children by juvenile facilities.

Evidence-based Practices at the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub

The Skinny on Evidence-Based Practices

Social scientist Robert Martinson famously concluded in 1974 that “nothing works” to change the behavior of people encountering the justice system. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then. Policymakers and system stakeholders now have an ever-growing set of policies, practices and programs that help youth in trouble with the law change their behavior and make communities safer. And far-sighted policymakers have invested heavily in evidence-based practices in a number of states. Examples include Connecticut and Nebraska (where advocates like the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance and Voices for Children in Nebraska, along with their allies, played a role in the adoption of evidence-based practices).

Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice

A recent report from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), titled, “Bringing Youth Home: A National Movement to Increase Public Safety, Rehabilitate Youth and Save Money,” documented the extraordinary number of states and jurisdictions (at least 24) that are closing or downsizing their youth correctional facilities, due to budget cuts, legislation, lawsuits, and pressure from reformers. (Download the report for tips on ways to downsize wisely.)

This is a good thing, because it means taxpayers can save money or avoid the high cost of incarceration, and reallocate those monies to community-based programs that are more effective at helping young people turn their lives around. Right on the heels of the NJJN report comes a new report from Jeffrey A. Butts and Douglas N. Evans from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center in New York, titled, Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment: Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice. In it, they ask:

Do these reforms represent a permanent shift in policy and practice, or are they merely a temporary reaction to tight budgets and low rates of violent crime? Will policymakers maintain the reforms if and when crime rises and budgets rebound?

Apply Now for Reclaiming Futures Judicial Training

Making change in the juvenile justice system to help teens with drug and alcohol problems requires a strong community leader who can convene diverse players, some of whom are not used to working together. Judges are uniquely placed to take on this role. That’s why we’re offering two trainings for juvenile court judges new to the Reclaiming Futures model, titled, “Leading Change in the Juvenile Justice System for Teens with Drug and Alcohol Problems.” (see below for details). Leading Change
Reclaiming Futures helps young people in trouble with drugs, alcohol, and crime. Our six-step model has been implemented in 29 communities around the country.

Benjamin Chambers On the School-to-Prison Pipeline

How do you reduce the number of kids going into the juvenile justice system? Overhaul school disciplinary policies. Here’s a quick overview of research on the problem, a great video that puts a human face on the issue in Connecticut, and some things you can do. Just yesterday, the Council of State Governments Justice Center released Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement. The report is based on a groundbreaking study of nearly 1 million secondary school students in Texas.

Benjamin Chambers Interviews Gordon Bazemore: How to Tell if Your Community is Really Doing Restorative Justice

What’s one of the biggest drivers pushing kids into the juvenile justice system these days? Schools. Schools often suspend or expel youth who misbehave, ostensibly to maintain order. Unfortunately, an analysis of 30 years of data on middle school expulsions and suspensions issued last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the sanctions were unfair and ineffective. So what can be done?

Benjamin Chambers On Why Treating Teens for Substance Abuse Issues Matters

Does it really matter if we screen and assess teens for alcohol and drug problems?  Most adults, after all, started experimenting with alcohol or other drugs before they turned 21 — and if they didn’t, they almost certainly knew a lot of kids who did. And most of them (though not all) survived into adulthood. So what’s the big deal if we turn a blind eye to identify teen drinking or drugging?  Federally-funded research shows why it’s a big deal from a public health standpoint:

(Click the image for a larger view.) It’s taken from an excellent presentation, “Characteristics, Needs and Strengths of Substance Using Youth by Level of Involvement in the Juvenile Justice System,” given by Dr. Michael Dennis, Senior Research Psychologist at Chestnut Health Systems, at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami last month. I’ll be posting more slides from his presentation soon – stay tuned! Here’s Dr. Dennis’ notes on the slide (emphasis added):

This figure shows …

Benjamin Chambers Interviews Karen Pittman on Why Helping Teens Beat the Odds is Not Enough

Isn’t it great when you see a young person beat the odds? You know what I mean — you’ll read a story or see a video about a teen who struggled with drugs, alcohol, and crime, and somehow overcame all of that (and probably more) … and it just makes you feel fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, it should. But Karen Pittman, CEO and Founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, has an even more inspiring idea, which she shared in an interview at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

 

 

You can also see Karen’s full presentation at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute here.

Benjamin Chambers Interviews Dr. Jeffrey Butts on Positive Youth Development

Positive youth development is a key part of Reclaiming Futures. But what the heck is “positive youth development?” According to juvenile justice researcher Dr. Jeffrey Butts, it blends what we know about adolescent development and what we know about effective services. But don’t take it from me — here’s a brief interview on the subject that I did with Dr. Butts at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

The above story is reprinted with permission from Reclaiming Futures, a national initiative working to improve alcohol and drug treatment outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Benjamin Chambers: Speaking in a Loud Voice – A Juvenile Probation Officer Makes Documentary about Sex Trafficking

Charles Taylor Gould, a former co-worker of mine, is a juvenile probation officer in Multnomah County, Ore., who’s been hearing stories for 15 years from teenage girls in the juvenile justice system who’ve been sexually exploited or victimized by sex trafficking. So what did he do? He did what anyone would do: he made a full-length documentary. And along the way, he interviewed people like U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and actress Daryl Hannah. Your American Teen “follows three teens for approximately two years.