If Not the Adult System, Then Where? Alternatives to Adult Incarceration for Youth Certified as Adults
From Campaign for Youth Justice comes a report focusing on youth charged as adults who do not benefit from juvenile justice reform. The number of youth in adult facilities has been decreasing over the past five years due to raising the age reforms and falling crime rates in many communities. Some youth are still ending up in the adult justice system because of the nature of their crimes, typically “violent” offenders; however, these individuals are receiving higher rates of case dismissals or probation. So why is the system putting youth offenders in the adult system at all? The report outlines alternatives to adult incarceration for youth including changing state laws for how and when youth are processed in the adult system, offering diversion programs to more youth, developmentally appropriate facilities for youth, and by allowing youth charged as adults to stay in the juvenile justice system for more appropriate services. The report offers a few suggestions for further change in the system to keep youth out of adult facilities: more culturally relevant evidence-based practices and community-based alternatives, hiring well-trained advocates for youth re-entering the community, therapeutic placements, more education programs, and embracing restorative practices in the juvenile justice system.
Promoting a New Direction for Youth Justice: Strategies to Fund a Community-Based Continuum of Care and Opportunity
From the Urban Institute, is a report focusing on how to reinvest in community-driven solutions for youth justice now that the US is seeing a shift away from reliance on youth arrest and incarceration. Through interviews conducted with individuals from inside and outside of the juvenile justice system, the report identifies strategies for states and localities including reinvesting the savings from reductions in the number of incarcerated youth, building relationships with policymakers, and using some child welfare funds for some programs. Being innovative in finding funds for community programs means having system partnerships, evidence-based programs with mentors, and engaging/relevant approaches to serving youth. Investing in these ways opens doors for communities (specifically the communities that have the highest juvenile incarceration rates) and means that more culturally-relevant, engaging, and rehabilitative programs can be implemented to help heal families, youth, and communities affected by the juvenile justice system.
See Community-Based Alternatives for more information.
From Vera Institute of Justice, is a report on ending girls’ incarceration in America by 2029. Vera promotes “building stronger, safer, and more equitable communities” for girls and gender expansive youth of color. The Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration focuses on three ways to eliminate girls from detention in the juvenile justice system: work on targeting the states with the highest incarceration of girls, learn from the states with low incarceration rates, and devise new plans and models to build a network prime for change. The “Top 8” incarcerator states house over half of the girls incarcerated; Vera is working to target those states and bring down the total population of incarcerated girls. At the same time, using the lowest number states means that state stories can be used as inspiration for others. The report stresses that connecting states and communities with successful, new, and innovative ideas can help get girls and gender expansive youth of color out of incarceration.
Collaborating for Successful Reentry: A Practical Guide to Support Justice-Involved Young People Returning to the Community
A practical guide published by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice outlines how practitioners can focus on helping youth successfully reenter their community. Previously, the system has bombarded reentering youth with meetings, classes, and people to report too. The guide recommends that practitioners switch to a more strengths-based model on reentry, meaning that the reentry plan makes use of a youth’s unique skills and abilities. There are seven areas of need emphasized for successful reentry of youth: housing, financial wellness, education, employment, social-emotional, mental health, and legal needs. For each need, the report defines the anatomy of the problem, types of support necessary, potential outcomes for the different types of support, and ends with examples of successful programs in place for each need. These secondary needs cannot be met unless the basic needs of the youth are fulfilled first. Having support that is “community-based, culturally and gender-responsive, and not overwhelming” sets youth up with a promising reentry plan (p. 40).
See Reentry for more information.
Deportation by Any Means Necessary: How Immigration Officials are Labeling Immigrant Youth as Gang Members
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center published this report to address the changing climate around immigrant youth, specifically how the Department of Homeland Security is falsely accusing immigrant youth of gang involvement which can lead to detention, deportation, or a lack of possible immigrant benefits. The ILRC conducted surveys of attorneys to gather information on how immigrant youth are tried for gang accusations. One of the major issues facing attorneys fighting gang allegations is the vagueness of the law when it comes to what is and is not considered gang involvement. One allegation against an immigrant youth can be used to create a whole legal case against them. Once someone is accused, attorneys report that the burden of proof falls on them, or someone else, to prove the allegation as a negative. The evidence presented against immigrant youth is often flimsy and comes from: tattoos, gang databases, police reports, client’s oral testimony, or social media posts including certain sports logos or clothing brands.
Attorneys cite the lack of transparency regarding the original source of accusations as one big challenge in these legal cases. To combat the problem of vague laws and unclear origin of accusations, attorneys are conducting in-depth public records searches and record requests for information regarding their clients and cases, presenting records showing community involvement, and using client testimony to fight allegations. Strategies for attorneys who represent clients that do not contest the gang allegations are: showing records of rehabilitation, letters from community members (employers, pastors, etc.), and client testimony that highlights rehabilitative actions and growth. The report concludes with best practices for immigration attorneys representing clients with gang accusations.
Published by the National Juvenile Defender Center, this report highlights important information needed by juvenile defenders representing immigrant youth. It outlines how defenders can attempt to avoid triggering any immigration consequences their clients might face. Through tips and recommendations, the report helps defenders connect with and support their clients; starting with how to ask about citizenship, understanding the different immigration consequences, seeking diversion from the system, record clearance, family engagement, and immigration relief possibilities.
Working with noncitizen youth in the justice system has two main legal consequences: inadmissibility and deportation. The report discusses the various definitions and fall out that follows grounds for inadmissibility and deportation but also provides an in-depth discussion on how to obtain possible waivers or other ways for juvenile defenders to work through the charges a youth may be facing. Along with the various ways defenders can support their clients, the report consistently urges defenders to seek the advice of immigration attorneys for any clarification needed for the best possible representation of immigrant youth.
A report from the National Juvenile Justice Network finds that immigrant youth are being caught in the crosshairs of the justice system due to the increase in anti-immigration rhetoric in America. Supporting immigrant youth in communities has become increasingly difficult due to the cooperation of local and state governments with federal immigration law and an increase in local policies that fail to protect immigrant youth. NJJN reports that communities are failing to protect the privacy of immigrant youths’ school records and are failing to provide “trauma-informed, culturally and linguistically competent services” to immigrant youth (p. 1).
The report recommends policies that support and promote positive development in immigrant youth, regardless of immigration status. NJJN recommends that local jurisdictions and school officials do not cooperate with federal immigration policies, do not use gang databases, do not allow federal government access to youths’ school records without a warrant, reduce the use of school resource officers for disciplinary actions, avoid detaining youth, and ensure that immigrant youth in the justice system have access to legal counsel that can advise them of the immigration consequences of their case. If youth are involved in the justice system, the report recommends access to community-based alternatives that are culturally and linguistically relevant to their immigration status.
This collaborative report from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the State Justice Institute, and the National Juvenile Defender Center is about understanding and addressing bias in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The juvenile justice system has reduced the number of youth coming through courtrooms; however, the number of youth of color passing through the system remains steady. Racial and ethnic disparities persist in the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system, despite findings that race or ethnicity have no significant effect on adolescent development and rates of child abuse and neglect are not significantly different for families of color.
The report identifies the different types of biases present in the system and highlights the ways that judges may be able to address the biases in the justice and welfare systems. Starting with practicing self-reflection and understanding their own personal implicit biases, judges can help themselves and their peers understand bias and further educate themselves on how to shift implicit attitudes. The report provides examples of ways to dismantle and prevent bias in the system; from questions to ask, practices to put into place, and advice on handling specific situations. The report stresses that eliminating bias from the juvenile justice and child welfare systems would mean increased success for both systems.
See Racial-Ethnic Fairness for more information.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has enacted a judicially led School-Justice Partnership initiative to promote collaboration between “schools, mental and behavioral health professionals, law enforcement, and juvenile justice officials” (p. 2) in their efforts to reduce school-based arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system. The report finds that successful collaboration requires a system to collect and share accurate and complete data between agencies.
Effective data collection and management allows School-Justice Partnerships to investigate causes of referrals to juvenile court and to identify successful strategies for diverting youth from the justice system. The report identifies two types of data that are important for collection: individual and aggregate. Individual data is important for School-Justice Partnership programs to outline a plan of action for a specific youth. Aggregate data is critical to evaluate the effectiveness of implemented strategies and programs. Overcoming obstacles to information sharing is critical to the process, and the report outlines ways for partners to obtain, share, and collaborate with the data collected.
See Evidence-Based Practices for more information.
A report published by the RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice discusses the challenges faced by youth involved in both the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems. Dual-status youth are at an increased risk of exposure to adversity and trauma. The report outlines “the characteristics, demographic disparities, exposure to trauma, outcomes, and financial impact of dual-status and provides policy recommendations to support the healthy development of youth with dual-status better”(p. 8). The recommended policies must stem from the federal, state, and local levels in three different categories: cross-system collaboration, trauma-informed approaches, and technology and innovation improvements for furthering the success and prevention of involvement in the juvenile justice system of dual-status youth. Findings show policies that encourage increased access to coordinated health, behavioral health, and education services for dual-status youth can improve their future and help them have a healthy transition into adulthood.
See Dual Status Youth for more information.
Smart, Safe, and Fair: Strategies to Prevent Youth Violence, Heal Victims of Crime, and Reduce Racial Inequality
from a collaboration between the Justice Policy Institute and the National Center for Victims of Crime comes a report highlighting how community-based alternatives can help serve youth involved in violent and nonviolent crime. The report finds that youth are better served through community engagement than secure confinement and that victims and victims’ advocates do not equate accountability with confinement, but instead believe in principles of rehabilitation, victim safety, and the provision of ample services for both parties.
Current confinement practices are ineffective because they make inefficient use of resources, disproportionately impact youth of color, and rarely meet the needs of victims of crime. The report emphasizes that youth involved in criminal activity want policies that “meet the needs of youth, strengthen(s) families, and addresses the underlying causes of crime” (p. 18). The principles and policies in place to serve youth need to be consistent across communities, regardless of whether youth are confined or in a community program. The report stresses the need for positive youth justice and trauma-informed approaches, the provision of supportive and well-qualified staff, partnerships with families, and programming with a purpose for both confined and community youth. The report concludes with a discussion of ways to overcome the barriers that prevent greater use of community-based alternatives as well as the steps required to better meet the needs of crime victims.
from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) addresses the long-standing history of inequitable treatment by the police in the U.S. against communities of color and youth in particular. The policy platform includes recent statistics about the “deeply unequal and fundamentally lethal treatment” youth of color experience from police and the judicial process more broadly. It outlines several factors that account for this including over-policing, racial profiling, implicit and explicit biases by police and society that cause police and courts to perceive youth of color as older and more culpable than their white peers. It further notes the lack of effective accountability for police mistreatment and brutality as a primary factor perpetuating these problems.
“Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities” from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyses the latest school discipline data (2013-14) from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Juvenile Justice Principles Work Group released its January 2018 report identifying 12 principles for effective juvenile justice policymaking. The report’s principles and illustrative examples are intended to help states invest in proven methods of juvenile justice reform.
is a Technical Assistance Bulletin from the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. It details the steps necessary to implement the School Responder Model which helps to keep kids with behavioral health needs from moving into the justice system.