The majority of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events. A recent study of youth in detention found that more than 90 percent had experienced at least one trauma, and more than 55 percent reported being exposed to trauma six or more times. For youth who experience traumatic victimization, the brain and nervous system are altered in ways that increase stress reactivity, anger, and impulsivity while reducing the ability to self-regulate. This puts them at high risk for delinquent behavior, contact with law enforcement, and entry into the juvenile justice system.
-- These statements are from an excellent report titled: Trauma Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.
Additional Trauma resources for judges.
To better understand trauma and how to successfully address issues related to trauma in the courtroom, the following resources are essential reading:
Family Court Tool Kit: Trauma and Child Development - developed by the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (Link is to the Court Implications section of the tool kit.)
Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed Judge - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges)
10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and Delinquency - developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
The National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges held the National Conference on Juvenile Justice in March. The conference offered a wealth of information and innovative practices, including:
- Addressing disproportionality and disparity in the juvenile justice system;
- Understanding Implicit Bias;
- Truancy prevention through the Student and Family Empowerment Program;
- Utilizing community service hours to develop the Pro-Social interests of youth to promote long-term success;
- A thorough research analysis of Dual System Youth;
- The main Juvenile Justice Initiatives states are pursuing; and
- Ten National Juvenile Justice Trends.
Edward Palmer Sr., who presented the Understanding Implicit Bias session noted above, will also be speaking at The 33rd National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community in Jacksonville, Florida. The conference, sponsored by the Office of the Attorney General, is May 30 - June 1, 2018, but Mr. Palmer will be speaking at the preconference on May 29. More information about the conference is available at http://www.preventblackcrime.com/.
Though juveniles use opioids at a much lower rate than adults, overdose death rates among those aged 15–19 are highest for opioids, specifically heroin. CDC report here. Youth who do not use opioids may still be at risk of neglect, physical and emotional trauma, and criminal activity via parents, other family members, or friends who abuse opioids.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente addressed the opioid crisis in a recent article on how family court judges can respond to this crisis, available here.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) also recognized that juvenile and family courts are often the initial contact point for opioid abusers and a critical partner in providing substance abuse treatment and support. NCJFCJ has developed some recommended practices and resources for judges, available here.
The Florida Legislature is in session and several bills that address juvenile justice matters are moving through the process. Major issues being addressed include: increasing the age for direct file; making the predisposition report an indispensable prerequisite to commitment which cannot be waived; and expanding civil citation and similar diversion programs. To review complete bills, please go to https://www.flsenate.gov/
A major review and update to the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) screening tool is nearing completion. A final meeting to vote on and approve the new DRAI is scheduled for the end of January. If the new DRAI is approved, implementation should begin in the spring and continue through 2018. Part of the implementation plan for the new DRAI calls for training for judges, law enforcement, probation officers, detention staff, and others who work with the juvenile justice system.
Communities across Florida and throughout the country have found that creating partnerships among courts, schools, law enforcement, state agencies, and service providers is an effective way to keep children in school and out of court, increase graduation rates, and reduce unnecessary referrals to juvenile court. For information on school-justice partnerships and tools for creating a partnership in your circuit, please visit Florida's School-Justice Partnerships.
On a national level, NCJFCJ has recognized the importance of this type of collaboration and they developed a National Resource Center on School-Justice Partnerships.
A few of the important resources available at the resource center include:
Collecting Data and Sharing Information to Improve School-Justice Partnerships
A report on the School Responder Model
The Intersection of Juvenile Courts and Exclusionary School Discipline
NCJFCJ and its partners have developed a new benchcard: Applying Principles of Adolescent Development in Delinquency Proceedings. It outlines key principles and research on adolescent development that judges should consider and integrate at each stage of a child's case. Important judicial considerations and practical guidance is offered to help judges translate those principles into practice in the courtroom with sample questions and colloquies that can be utilized in judicial decision-making and interactions with youth in court. The benchcard is available here.
Florida is working to implement the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) statewide. Stakeholders representing the Department of Juvenile Justice, the judiciary, state attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement, probation, the Department of Children and Families, and school systems recently visited New Jersey to learn from their successful example. Where JDAI has been implemented, it is clear that moving low-risk youth from secure detention into community-based alternative programs ensures public safety and produces better outcomes for youth and their families.
The Department of Juvenile Justice has some excellent JDAI resources here.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation pioneered JDAI and has information here.
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) held a regional Juvenile Justice Reform Summit in the spring of 2017. States throughout the Southeast sent teams of stakeholders to learn about current juvenile justice issues, identify local needs, and develop action plans.
Issue of significant statewide concern identified by Florida’s team included:
- Identifying and treating youth with mental health needs who are in the juvenile justice system, and
- Education on racial and ethnic bias to reduce disparate treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has an excellent resource section on each of these issues.
Additionally, the Department of Juvenile Justice has a recent statewide report on Disproportionate Minority Contact/Racial Ethnic Disparity.