Building Blocks to Success – Celebrating Achievements in Your Drug Court

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Almost seven years ago, New York Times columnist Allina Tugend wrote an insightful column on redefining success, quoting author Katrina Kenison: “There’s a beauty in cultivating an appreciation for what we already have.” This National Drug Court Month, I wanted to congratulate all Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) practitioners on your tireless work and encourage you to cultivate an appreciation of what you have accomplished; to think beyond the traditional measures of success, specifically the expectation we place on our participants to graduate.

Almost every time I travel to work with a JDTC, I end up telling this same story. It’s not even my own, it’s Dr. Jaqueline Van Wormer’s, but it’s a good one, so I’m going to share it with you:

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Validate Me!! In Defense of [Properly Utilized] Risk Assessments

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How do you know whether the young person in front of you in court is likely to commit another crime? Historically the American justice system has looked at somewhat subjective factors like, “what crime did you commit?” or “have I seen you in court before?” In the past twenty years, the justice system has attempted to standardize the assessment of an individual’s likelihood of recidivism, reduce subjectivity, and target intentions at those who need them most. Continue reading “Validate Me!! In Defense of [Properly Utilized] Risk Assessments”

In Re Gault – Progress or Regression

“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown

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As I walked into my first (and only!) law class in grad school, there was a quote written on the whiteboard. Our professor looked at us and asked, “How does this apply to our case today?” The case in question was “In re Gault,” the landmark US Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency cases in 1967. That may have been my only law class, but I continue to grapple with the issues raised by this case through my work training and providing technical assistance to juvenile drug treatment courts. In the 51 years since Gault, we’ve come a long way to ensure justice for youth, but there are still steps we need to take, especially when it comes to the right to counsel.

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Historical Hysterics over Youth Culture

Panic in the StreetsEvening news stories’ headlines, bloggers, public opinion, all broadcast the dangerous effects of social media on today’s youth. Some argue that online sharing has replaced human interaction, stunting emotional growth and leaving young people socially isolated. Others fret that the increased access to sexual and violent content and general vulgarity that the internet allows is causing an erosion of teens’ moral perceptions. Whatever the conclusion, it seems everyone agrees the kids are not alright.

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It Could be You

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JPO Student Assistant Karina Rivero

On May 25, the New York Times published an in-depth look at Drug Induced Homicide Laws (DIH), intended to punish people with sentences equivalent to those for manslaughter and murder for providing or purchasing drugs which resulted in an overdose death. Though states started enacting these laws in the 1980s, there has been a gradual increase in their application over the past 15 years. The current opioid crisis has created a trend of legislators and prosecutors passing and utilizing these laws as they search for ways to deter opioid use. After reading the article, I conducted an informal survey on a small group of my friends, family, and significant other. I explained the premise of the laws, which now exist in at least 36 states. Those around me saw the logic, if they were used to punish kingpins of drug trafficking rings. But as the New York Times article pointed out, the sad reality is that these laws are not being used against kingpins. Instead, they are being used to target the family members, friends, and significant others of those who have died from overdoses. I posed the question, “What if I overdosed one Friday night and you got sent to jail for murder?”

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A Place Called OSCA

The Justice Programs Office is celebrating National Drug Court Month by sharing the personal perspectives of those who work in the treatment court field. Angela Plunkett, Statewide Drug Court Coordinator for the State of Missouri, finishes our guest series with her personal journey from a tough-as-nails parole officer to becoming a drug court advocate and statewide coordinator. 

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Just by looking at my 5’1 stature, you wouldn’t guess I used to be a hard-nosed, pistol-packin’ parole officer (PO), nicknamed The Iron Maiden (the only nickname I care to repeat).

I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I was a big-headed, judgmental PO who used to say to clients, “If I can say NO to drugs, you can too,” and “You’d better not EVER lie to me…”

The associate judge approached myself and three other PO’s in the law library one day after court. He asked if we had ever heard of “drug court.” My response, which surprised even me, was, “I don’t know what it is, but I’m all in!” After 12 years at Probation & Parole I was tired of the generational, revolving door and needed something new.

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Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Training at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Conference

Our juvenile drug treatment court team is excited to join our partners and friends at the National Association of Drug Court Professional Annual Conference (NADCP). Don’t miss out on the workshops we are hosting!

The OJJDP Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines Workshop: Kids Matter
Wednesday, May 30, 8:45 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. | 351 B/E
Trainers: Matthew Collinson, Evan Elkin, Bridgett Ortega, Jessica Pearce, Doris Perdomo-Johnson, Zoë Root, Wendy Schiller, Megan Ward, Jacqueline van Wormer

All juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs) want to see the best outcomes for the youth in their programs, but until recently there hasn’t been a clear path to achieve this goal. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines provide courts with an outline of evidence-based practices shown to respond to the unique needs of adolescents and improve outcomes for youth. Join the Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Training and Technical Assistance Initiative, a project partnership of the Justice Programs Office at American University and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, for an in-depth training on how the Guidelines can shape a JDTC that is functional, developmentally appropriate, equitable, and results in youth living healthy and save lives.

The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines: The Big Picture, The Critical Details
Thursday, May 31 at 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. | 360 AD
Presenters: Zoë Root and Jacqueline van Wormer

 All juvenile drug treatment courts want to see the best outcomes for the youth in their programs, but until recently there hasn’t been a clear path to achieve this goal. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines provide courts with an outline of evidence-based practices shown to respond to the unique needs of adolescents and improve outcomes for youth. Join the Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Training and Technical Assistance Initiative, a project partnership of the Justice Programs Office at American University and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, for an overview of the key principals of the Guidelines.

Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment for Juveniles
Thursday, May 31 at 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | 360 AD
Presenter: Doris Perdomo-Johnson

It is well established that youth differ significantly from adults in brain development, affecting their behavior and risk-taking calculations. Join Doris Perdomo-Johnson, clinical research coordinator at the University of Miami, to learn how juvenile drug treatment courts (JDCTs) should apply an adolescent-based approach in the development of their policies and procedures and improve outcomes for the youth in their court. Ms. Perdomo-Johnson will explore the differences between adolescent and adult substance use, effective methods to address substance use during the teenage years, and ultimately the creation of a “culture of change, acceptance, and resilience” in JDTCs.

Prescription Opioid Use Among Youth and Implications for Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts with
Friday, June 1 at 1:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | 320 C
Presenter: Marc Fishman, MD

The rate of opioid use among teens may not be as high as in the adult population, but recent research has shown that youth are much more likely to experience negative outcomes from opioid misuse than adults. Dr. Marc Fishman will discuss prevention strategies for opioid misuse and how juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs) can play a role in implementing those strategies. In addition, JDTC practitioners will receive training on how this public health concern could potentially affect the participants of their programs and how they should be prepared to respond.

 

“But the data says no” … In which a researcher learns compassion

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Allow me to begin with a confession: I’m a researcher at heart, and I have an unhealthy obsession with data. This has its benefits (bear with me . . .): If you make an argument you can support with data, I will be on your side, all in. But it also has a downside: sometimes, while the data suggests a certain course of action, because “it will likely result in the best outcomes,” this actually doesn’t convince normal humans, and it certainly fails to quiet our conscience which asks, “is that really the best thing to do?”

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Revolutionary Empathy

“No touching!” the corrections officer yelled at me, pointing at my outstretched hand as I sat down in the attorney interview room across from my client Raphael. “Oh right, sorry!” I snatched my hand away quickly. In my first year as a public defender, I had a hard time “un-learning” my natural instincts about how human interaction should work. On this occasion, I was meeting with Raphael at Rikers Island to interview him for a letter I was writing to the judge about why she should give Raphael a shorter jail sentence for his heroin possession case than the DA was recommending. Continue reading “Revolutionary Empathy”