Juvenile Offender Comprehensive Reentry Substance Abuse Treatment

By Watson, Donnie W. | Journal of Correctional Education, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Juvenile Offender Comprehensive Reentry Substance Abuse Treatment


Watson, Donnie W., Journal of Correctional Education


Substance Abuse and Crime

The literature provides ample evidence of the relationship of substance abuse to crime. Research over the last 20 years has established a strong correlation between substance abuse and juvenile delinquency (held, 1998). Currently, there are more than 350,000 juveniles on probation and in continuing care programs in the U.S. who have substance abuse histories (75-95%) but who rarely receive appropriate treatment (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment/ Department of juvenile justice [CSAT/DJJ], 1999). Furthermore, 60% of the 1.7 million adjudicated youth in the United States each year experience some substance abuse related problem (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2001). Systematic methods to assess the course and incidence of treatment across juvenile systems are in the early stage. However, a 1997 survey of juvenile correction facilities suggested that only 36% offered some type of substance abuse intervention (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, [SAMHSA], 1997). Substance abuse is one of the most common problems in the juvenile justice system, with prevalence estimates as high as 67 percent (Dembo et al., 1993). In fact, surveys of juvenile probation departments identified substance abuse intervention services as among the most critical expansion needs (National Council of juvenile justice, 1999). In 1999, there were 23,000 juveniles on probation in California. Crimes against persons were the major types of offenses, followed by property and drug crimes. Nearly 80% of these crimes were related to substance use by the offender and/or offenders were arrested for drug-related crimes.

Adolescent Substance Use in the juvenile justice System

The problem of substance use is more pronounced among adolescents in contact with the juvenile justice system. Recent survey results among youthful arrestees provide evidence of illegal drug use. For example, more than half of juvenile male arrestees tested positive for at least one drug; marijuana was the most frequently detected drug (National Institute of justice, 1999). Prescott (1998) concluded that 60 to 87 percent of female offenders need substance abuse treatment. Among youthful arrestees, marijuana use increased from 25% in 1991 to 62% in 1999; it appears to have become the drug of choice among youth who get in trouble with law enforcement (National Institute of justice, 2001). ÅgIn 1986, nearly at the height of the drug war, 31 out of every 100,000 youth were admitted to state prisons for drug offenses'; by 1996, that figure had jumped to 122 per 100,000 youth, representing a 291 percent increase in one decade (Beatty, Holman, & Schirald, 2000). Consistent with national trends, the state of California has significant problems providing drug treatment for youth offenders because there are not enough available treatment slots (State of California/California Youth Authority, 1999). In fact, the California Youth Authority indicated that 60-75% its wards are at risk of developing substance abuse problems. Several publications cite the effectiveness of drug treatment in reducing drug use and decreasing criminal activity during and after treatment (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Department of juvenile justice [CSAT/DJJ], 1999; National Institute on Drug Abuse [NlDA], 1999).

Juvenile Delinquency, Gangs, Drugs, and Drug Use

The target population of juvenile offenders admits to more than 10 gang affiliations (James, Pynoos, Foy, & Wood, 1998). There are, of course, no easy answers to the complex problem of violence related to drug use and other related factors. However, a review of the literature (Howell & Decker, 1999) suggests that the relationship between gangs, drugs and violence fall into three categories. First, pharmacological effects of the drug on the user can induce violence. second, the high cost of drug use often impels the user to support continued drug use with violent crimes (e. …

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