Youth Prison Model Sets High Bar

California Passes Law to Move More Adult Inmates to Counties, as It Did With Juveniles
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2009

After recent changes to California’s juvenile-prison system brought down recidivism rates and the number of incarcerated youths, and also saved millions of dollars, the state is now aiming to treat its adult prisoners more like youthful offenders.

Overall, the recidivism rate for juvenile offenders in California communities that track such statistics has fallen to 25% from nearly 35% since 2007, according to the Chief Probation Officers of California, an industry association. California’s juvenile crime rate also declined between 2007 and 2008, with violent offenses committed by juveniles falling 3% in that period, the state Department of Justice reported.

“There’s plenty to learn from how we improved the juvenile system,” said state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat who as a former chairwoman of the corrections-oversight committee supported overhauling the juvenile-prison system.

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Report: State Juvenile Correctional Facilities Lack Mental Health Services

Cindy Rodriguez of WNYC:

The report by the Center for New York City Affairs says state run facilities don’t have a single psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse on staff who can prescribe medication or monitor children on psychotropic drugs. Instead, facilities rely on clinicians from nearby hospitals who make weekly short visits.

As a result, the report says untrained and overworked employees often resort to violent or aggressive tactics. John Ruiz, board member of the Public Employees Federation, the union that represents workers, says the system is in chaos and more professional staff are needed.

Recently, the Department of Justice investigated these upstate facilities and found widespread abuse. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services says it’s currently negotiating a settlement with them and can’t comment on the report.

Coming Out in Middle School

The New York Times recently delved into the issue of junior high school students coming out, the support they’re getting and the obstacles they still face. Some thought-provoking excerpts:

“Just how they’re faring in a world that wasn’t expecting them — and that isn’t so sure a 12-year-old can know if he’s gay — is a complicated question that defies simple geographical explanations.”

“The challenging school experience of so many gay and lesbian students — and the suicides last spring of a sixth grader in Massachusetts and a fifth grader in Georgia, both of whom were relentlessly bullied at school for appearing gay — reinforces the longtime narrative of gay youth in crisis.”

“All of this fluidity, confusion and experimentation can be understandably disorienting for parents and educators. Is an eighth grader who says he’s gay just experimenting? Could he change his mind in a week, as 13-year-olds routinely do with other identities — skater, prep, goth, jock — they try on for a while and then shed for another? And if sexuality is so fluid, should he really box himself in with a gay identity? Many parents told me they especially struggled with that last question.”

Mentally Ill Offenders Strain Juvenile System – NYTimes.com

In the 1960s and ’70s, the increasing availability of antipsychotic medications coincided with a national movement to close public mental hospitals. Many private hospitals barred psychotic patients, including juveniles. By the 1980s, juvenile justice systems had become the primary providers of residential psychiatric care for mentally ill youths.

But as cutbacks have worsened, the debate has intensified over what constitutes adequate mental health care. Often juvenile justice systems have very little to go on when attempting a diagnosis.

“Often Daddy is nowhere to be found, Mommy might be in jail,” said Daniel Connor, a psychiatrist for the Connecticut juvenile corrections system. “The home phone is cut off. The parent speaks another language, so it’s often hard to figure out exactly what’s going on with each kid.”

School records often do not arrive with arrested youths, nor do files often come from other corrections institutions. The lack of information is particularly problematic when psychiatrists try to prescribe medications. Joseph Parks, medical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health and a national expert on pharmaceutical drug use in corrections facilities, said many juvenile offenders are prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs as they move from mental health clinics to detention halls to juvenile prisons.

via Mentally Ill Offenders Strain Juvenile System – NYTimes.com.

Mental Illness and Juvenile Justice: A National Disgrace

INTRO TO THE TONAL

Why are some kids so hostile?