The juvenile justice system is too often used as a dumping ground for youth whose primary problems include serious emotional disturbance, developmental disabilities, substance abuse or a combination of these challenges. These youth are in desperate need of alternatives because juvenile justice systems can be particularly harmful for youth with specialized needs.
While good mental heath and substance abuse services are vital for incarcerated youth to facilitate their rehabilitation, it is critical that juvenile justice involvement is seen as appropriate only when a youth’s delinquency—not his disabilities—is the primary reason for confinement.
Principles of Reform
- Reduce Institutionalization
- Maximize Youth, Family and Community Participation
- Improve Aftercare and Reentry
- Create Smaller Rehabilitative Institutions
- Recognize and Serve Youth with Specialized Needs
- Create a Range of Community-Based Programs
- Ensure Access to Quality Counsel
- Reduce Racial Disparity
- Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons
Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces the nine principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least one principle. These principles and the associated text are from “A Blueprint for Juvenile Justice Reform,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group.