2017 Issue


Implications of Sentencing Reform on Mental Health Symptoms in the Declining Juvenile Justice Populations

Rachel Ruiz, MSW, San Diego State University, School of Social Work
Geoff R. Twitchell, Ph.D., County of San Diego Probation Department
Melinda Hohman, Ph.D., San Diego State University, School of Social Work
Mark B. Reed, Ph.D., San Diego State University, School of Social Work
Pages 1-15

Though the juvenile justice system was built on the premise of rehabilitation, “tough on crime” policies in the 1980s and 1990s exponentially increased arrest and incarceration of minors. The turn of the 21st century marked the beginning of comprehensive reform in California due to a Court-ordered consent decree citing the illegal conditions existing in youth detention facilities.  In addition to realignment of supervision of justice-involved youth from the State to the County level, California legislators implemented sentencing reform regarding marijuana possession, truancy, and re-assignment of misdemeanor status for some non-serious, non-violent felony convictions. This study examined changes in mental health symptoms in 7,437 detained youth within the context of these policies, as indicated by Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument (MAYSI-2) scales. Results revealed significant decreases in alcohol/drug involvement and substance-related symptoms over time as well as an increased need for screening for suicidal ideation. In addition, youth reporting more traumatic experiences had higher levels of mental health symptoms. The results of this study highlighted a need to further understand mental health characteristics in light of the changing composition of youth who are detained or incarcerated. Download Article

Family Environment and Delinquency: Impressions of the People Doing the Work

PJ Verrecchia, York College of Pennsylvania
Ciara Wood, York College of Pennsylvania
Pages 16-27

This paper examines the connection between family environment and delinquent acts. Where past research has utilized official data to explore this connection, we surveyed 357 juvenile justice professionals (mostly juvenile probation officers) and asked them about their opinion on this connection, based on their experience. Results showed that older, more conservative professionals believe that family environment plays a role in delinquent behavior, while younger, more liberal professionals do not. Download Article

Mentoring Programs in Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts: Understanding the Difficulties of Applying Best Practices

Logan A. Yelderman, Ph.D., Prairie View A&M University
Pages 28-49

Mentoring programs have the potential to positively influence youth, especially at-risk youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Several researchers have proposed a set of mentoring “best practices” as guidelines to establishing successful mentoring programs that, if implemented appropriately, can yield positive results benefitting both the youth and the community. One particular juvenile justice program that can benefit from mentoring programs is the juvenile drug treatment court (JDTC) program. JDTC programs are diversion programs that provide assistance to youth who struggle with substance use issues and delinquency. Because these programs are community based and champion reintegration of youth in the community, they are prime candidates for mentoring programs. In this study, data were collected from ten mentoring programs operating within JDTC programs. Researchers interviewed JDTC team members and mentor program workers, analyzed JDTC and mentoring program policy manuals, and held a focus group of JDTC and mentoring professionals. JDTC mentoring programs’ practices were subsequently compared to mentoring best practices proposed in the literature. Results suggest that there is relatively little overlap between current mentor best practices and JDTC mentor program practices. This is likely the result of several structural and population based barriers unique to JDTCs. Implications are discussed. Download Article

Demystifying Literacy Education Behind Bars: Effective Strategies for Increasing Human Capital

Sarah C. Staples-Farmer, PhD, Lincoln Public Schools
Pages 50-57

Review of Demystifying Literacy Education Behind Bars: Successful reading and writing strategies for use with incarcerated youth and adults. Download Article

Why Aren’t We Celebrating?

Wayne Bear, CEO and Board Members, National Partnership for Juvenile Services
Pages 58-60

This story originally was written for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE), a national news site that covers the issue daily. It is being reprinted here with permission from JJIE. Download Article