I have worked since 1981 with teenagers who are homeless, runaways, addicted to drugs and alcohol, in the criminal justice system, former gang members and victims of abuse and neglect. I am now the director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, the largest program in Vermont for this population.
Ronald Reagan didn’t start the war on drugs but he did his best to finish it. Law enforcement budgets soared, the jails were packed and the war was carried as far afield as Latin America and Afghanistan.
So it might count as one of history’s minor ironies that here in Dixon, just a few blocks from Reagan’s boyhood home, the local police have called a ceasefire in the war on drugs.
Children and youth could see some gains under a bill that passed Congress early this morning, funding the government through March 23. The bill raises caps on domestic and military spending by about $300 billion and allots money for disaster relief and the opioid epidemic.
In Michigan, 17-year-olds are not allowed to buy lottery tickets, get a tattoo, rent a car or hotel room or drop out of school. They can’t vote, serve on a jury or sign a legal contract either, presumably because they don’t possess the requisite maturity to make adult-level decisions. This distinction, however, is tossed out the window if a 17-year-old breaks the law. Suddenly, they are adults, facing devastating repercussions that can come with an adult conviction.
As “bathroom bills,” military transgender bans and elimination of protections for LGBTQ federal employees demonstrate, we are a long way from a society in which coming out is a realistic option for all. The truth of this likely hits youth the hardest, who still risk family rejection, bullying, even homelessness for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
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…
Juvenile drug treatment courts must do more to bring families into the treatment process if they want to help young offenders overcome addiction and stay out of the criminal justice system, a team of mental health professionals concluded in a sweeping report released today.
Adolescents with substance abuse problems too often cannot access treatment unless they land in the juvenile justice system, experts say.
Relying on the justice system to treat substance abuse also means treatment is rooted in racial divisions, says Evan Elkin, national executive director of Reclaiming Futures. Youth of color are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system.
“We operate two public health systems in America. One is for people of color and one is for the white population. Public health is mediated through the justice system,” he said.