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.

Ben Chambers On What Juvenile Courts Should Know about Trauma and Delinquency

It’s not a secret that many youth in juvenile court struggle with symptoms related to trauma, but it can be hard to remember in court, when faced with a defiant youth who’s been repeatedly delinquent. So it’s great to see a new publication from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and Delinquency.(Even though it seems to be aimed only at judges, it’s useful for all staff who work with or in juvenile court.)

Scoff at the idea that trauma could be related to breaking the law? Here’s a telling observation from the publication:
It does not go unnoticed by youth when their safety and well-being is not addressed but their delinquent behavior is. These kinds of paradoxes and frustrations can increase the likelihood that youth will respond defiantly and with hostility to court and other professionals who are in positions of authority. System professionals would benefit from recognizing that imposing only negative or punitive consequences will likely do little to change the youth’s patterns of aggression, rule breaking, and risky behaviors because such a response does not address the impact of traumatic stress on the child.

Illinois to Cut All Alcohol and Drug Treatment Spending – Will Other States Follow?

Blogger Benjamin Chambers brings up the subject of debilitating state budget cuts, pointing out the depressing news that the state of Illinois plans to zero-out its budget for alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs and asks, just how bad can it get? As of March 15, the state of Illinois is cutting its $54 million budget for alcohol and drug treatment and prevention services to zero (full disclosure: I wrote the news summary linked to here). That’s right: zero. According to providers, that means many of them will shut down. What’s left, without state money?

Wanted: Insights on Trauma and Delinquency

Exposure to trauma, delinquency and school failure are related, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).  More than sixty percent of children have witnessed violence and 46.3 percent have experienced physical assault.

If you have direct experience with kids who’ve gone through traumatic experiences, you may want to join the online forum called “Chronic Trauma and the Teen Brain”. Benjamin Chambers writes that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collecting information and data.  If you can answer the following question, this forum is for you:

“Where are there opportunities within these adolescent systems to better identify, assess and intervene to support the needs and healthy development of young people affected by chronic trauma?”

For more information:

Chronic Trauma and the Teen Brain – An Online Forum

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation