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Juvenile Justice - Juvenile Justice Reform

This Article considers legislative decriminalization of juvenile misconduct, an underutilized method for juvenile justice reform (p. 5).

In five years, the Close to Home Initiative has transformed the experience of youth who come into contact with the justice system in New York City. By prioritizing investments in programs and resources within and around the neighborhoods in which youth live, Close to Home has begun to realign New York State’s youth justice system with research and nationally-recognized best practices that give youth the best chance of becoming productive and law-abiding members of society. As is expected with implementation of any initiative on the scale of Close to Home, ACS and its partners agencies have faced challenges over the past five years. However, the efforts described in this report to implement Close to Home and overcome those challenges have made New York City and New York State national models for reform (p. 28).

At the end of 2012, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) launched the Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative (JJRRI) in three demonstration sites in Delaware, Iowa, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The goal of JJRRI was to bring evidence and best practices to bear on juvenile justice operations. This was done through the use of empirically based risk and needs assessment, the development of dispositional matrices that provide evidence-based recommendations concerning dispositional options, and the implementation of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP™) rating system to assess and guide improvements in the programs delivered to juvenile justice youth. Together, these tools were intended to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of juvenile justice resources.

This study examines the mental health needs of a detained juvenile justice population within the context of legislative reform to better identify targets of treatment to meet these changing needs. With low-level offenders actively diverted from the system, the purpose of this study is to identify the mental health needs of the reduced population of youth who are placed in a custodial setting (p. 3).

Since 2013, seven states have engaged in the evidence-based Comprehensive Strategy for Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Initiative to change their juvenile justice system through legislation. Through this initiative, states also receive implementation assistance to maximize the impact and sustainability of enacted changes. As a result, over half the states have closed secure facilities, choosing instead to fund community alternatives to out-of-home placement. Other state results include decreased court referrals, reductions in youth on probation, and thousands of cases diverted from placement. While legislation and implementation priorities have differed across states, each state identified its own path to improving outcomes for youth and their communities through enhanced training and stakeholder engagement to effectively implement change. This brief summarizes improvement strategies across states, highlighting common themes and reporting early outcomes of the initiative.

Based on recent scientific and legal developments, there’s an urgent need to ensure that adolescent development research is incorporated into existing practices and future polices pertaining to youth … [this is an excellent] series of research-based, educational briefings on adolescent brain research, the systemic causes of youth contact with the justice system, and the implications for future legal standards and best practices … seven “deep dive” policy briefing … will each focus on a specific topic, where Vera will bring in noted experts and practitioners in the field." These topics cover status offenses, risk and needs, behavioral health, defense, family involvement, reentry, and interagency collaboration. This website provides access to the video recording of each event:  'Kick Off Event: Adolescent Development Expert Science and Legal Perspective, followed by a screening of 'Kids for Cash'”; "Making Court the Last Resort: Youth and Expert Voices on System Change"; "Examining the First Point of Contact: Youth Risk and Needs Assessment Tools"; "Meeting their Needs: Identifying and Treating Youth with Behavior Health Disorders"; "Raising the Bar: The Lawyer’s Role in Promoting Youth Justice"; "Working Together: Family Engagement with the Juvenile Justice System"; "Returning Home: Creating Paths for Success in Communities"; "Connecting the Dots: How Interagency Collaboration Can Better Serve Vulnerable Youth"; and "Wrap Up Event: Narrowing the Net, Plugging the Pipeline and Expanding Consideration of Special Populations".

The State of Juvenile Justice: A National Conversation about Research, Results, and Reform Cover

This report delivers the evidence and rationale for two interdependent approaches. First, it calls for reducing the size of the probation population dramatically by diverting far more youth from the juvenile justice system to community resources. Second, it seeks to transforming probation into a more effective intervention for the much smaller population of youth who will remain on probation officer’s caseloads. It describes necessary elements of reform, such as building relationships; embracing families and community organizations; motivating youth through incentives and opportunities; and setting clear and meaningful outcome goals for probation itself.

Presently, advocates for length of stay reform rely on two primary arguments: recidivism and costs of confinement. This Article argues that this framing misses a critical component, as a better understanding of the linkages between length of stay, health, and mental health are essential for achieving the foundational goals of the juvenile justice system—i.e., rehabilitation, decreased recidivism, and improved community reintegration (p. 45).

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