An effective juvenile justice system is one that offers a host of professional and empirically tested supervision and treatment programs to the youth within the system. A system is effective if it provides the proper treatment programs to those within and those released and works towards building positive relationships between the youth and the community. A good system is one that follows the set standards and a bare minimum, assesses, and separates high-risk repeat offenders from lower-risk youth. The separation of high-risk and lower-risk youth creates a system of meaningful treatment because the latter tend to respond to treatment faster and more positively than the former (Chassin, 2008).
Chassin, Mulvey, and Schubert (2010) found that the most significant link between serious juvenile offences and substance use is the similar patterns in fluctuation and the sequential and reciprocal inference from these consistent trends. The two also tend to decrease as the individuals approach late adolescent, suggesting that if properly handled, the adolescent treatment system can reduce the number of juvenile offenders who become adult offenders. Serious repeat juvenile offenders are more likely to be drug and substance users and qualify for the treatment system. Offending at one age and substance use is considered significant predictors of future serious offences.
Experience and empirical research have both shown that there is no single significantly effective treatment method. Instead, a multiplicity of complementary systems such as residential therapeutic communities, contingency management, multisystematic therapy, motivational enhancement, and family therapy showed significant success. Since none of these methods is superior to the other, the best practice recommendations for effective treatment focuses on a combination of two or more of the methods depending on the specific nature of the cases. The best-case practices are derived from profession consensus and empirical advice.
Chassin (2008) posits that while the National Institute on Drug Abuse principles is applied within criminal justice populations, there are very few that are specific to the adolescent treatment system. This despite the fact that there is a clear difference between adult and adolescent substance use treatment, and different approaches to treatment. For example, medications are used less in adolescent treatment than in its adult equivalent.
Generally, the NIDA principles recognize the criminal justice system and its invariable links to the treatment systems. According to Chassin (2008), NIDA recommends that substance treatment in the justice system should incorporate careful treatment planning. This includes the continuity of care when the juvenile offenders are re-integrated back into society and the application of a balanced system of rewards and sanctions to encourage the individual to engage in prosocial behavior and participate in the treatment program. The use of medication is thought to be core in treating offenders, especially those who have mental health problems.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has also issued a comprehensive set of minimum standards of care that include formal evaluation, specific treatment, family involvement, and diagnosis of co-occurring disorders. Most of these standards are different for juvenile offenders already in the system because of the restrictive setting and interaction with society.
The final list of quality elements in the linking between the juvenile justice system and the adolescent substance abuse treatment converges substantially with both AACAP and NIDA principles. It includes, in part, an integrated treatment approach, developmentally appropriate planning, continuing care, qualified staff, measurement of treatment outcomes, and family involvement. The subset to this elements is based entirely on empirical evidence and include use of effective standardized risk assessment tools, ninety-day-duration, family involvement and treatment orientation.
Currently, a majority of justice system programs do not incorporate a majority of the set standards. The lack of family involvement and qualified staff, for example, is a glaring problem in many jurisdictions. Ones study by Henderson et. al , for example, found that out of 144 adolescent programs reviewed, only 10 percent had developmentally appropriate treatment while over 50% of them used the assessment tools.
The most glaring factors missing from the adolescent treatment programs currently applied within the juvenile system is the lack of comprehensive and continuing care services. As of 2002, no state within the United States had made legal provisions or structures for adolescent-specific treatment provide certification. Oregon had affected an almost-similar statute in 1999 but the juvenile justice systems were still wanting in the effectiveness of the treatment programs embedded.
The nexus of the juvenile justice system and adolescent treatment programs is the fact that they are invariably linked by similar patterns especially among serious offenders. The latter depends on the former to access such individuals and provide quality and continuing care. The adolescent treatment system is thus integrated into the juvenile justice system. Although a series of standards exists, very few juvenile systems have embraced the expected quality. Most of them focus on a few elements despite the compelling evidence of the need for a concerted approach as opposed to single-system based one.
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Chassin, L. (2008). Juvenile Justice and Sbstance Use. Juvenile Justice, Vol. 18, No. 2. Retrieved 6th April from http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=31&articleid=46§ionid=159.
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