Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Meeting Treatment Needs: Overall Effectiveness and Critical Components of Juvenile Drug Court/Reclaiming Futures Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Meeting Treatment Needs: Overall Effectiveness and Critical Components of Juvenile Drug Court/Reclaiming Futures Programs

Article excerpt

Introduction

Adolescence is a critical period in human development because significant physical and neurological maturation occur. Substance use during childhood and adolescence can have numerous negative effects that have the potential to significantly impair healthy development, as well as lead to substance abuse, substance dependence, or a substance use disorder (SUD) (Dennis, Babor, Roebuck, & Donaldson, 2002). SUDs among youth in the United States (U.S.) are not uncommon (Swendsen et al., 2012). More than 1.7 million (7%) U.S. youth ages 12 to 17 have an SUD, with significantly higher rates among those involved with the juvenile justice system (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2013). Moreover, adolescents involved with the justice system have more severe substance abuse-related issues than their noninvolved peers (Tarter, Kirsci, Mezzich, & Patton, 2011). Thus, incorporating effective substance abuse treatment into the juvenile justice system has become critical for achieving effective youth rehabilitation and eliminating lifelong addiction and recidivism. Treatment programs backed by promising research are being implemented in juvenile drug courts nationwide. However, just as no two juvenile court jurisdictions are the same, no two individual juvenile clients are the same. Successful completion of a juvenile drug court program that includes substance abuse treatment by one client does not guarantee successful program completion for everyone. Characteristics unique to the implementation of the juvenile drug court program, as well as characteristics unique to the individual being treated, have an impact on whether a particular youth will successfully complete juvenile drug court and, thus, successfully complete treatment.

Juvenile Drug Courts

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that adolescent substance use, which had come to a peak in the 1990s, remained alarmingly high (National Drug Court Institute [NDCI] & National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges [NCJFCJ], 2003). Given the aforementioned risks associated with adolescent substance use, this increase was viewed as a major public health crisis. The peak in adolescent substance use occurred roughly a decade after a similar peak in use among adults. Drug-related arrests among adults dramatically increased in the 1980s, in large part due to a drastic increase in accessibility and use of crack cocaine (NDCI & NCJFCJ, 2003) as well as the enforcement of increasingly harsh antidrug laws (Peugh & Belenko, 1999). In response, jurisdictions began creating separate dockets to focus on individuals who had been brought into the criminal justice system as a result of substance abuse. Rather than being exclusively punitive, sentencing practices under these dockets included therapeutic elements focused on treating the underlying dependence that often accompanied criminal activity. As these dockets grew in number, they began to be evaluated. Research conducted on these courts was encouraging, demonstrating a decrease in recidivism among participants of adult drug courts compared to those in non-specialized courts (Hora, Rosenthal, & Schman, 1999).

The demonstrated successes of adult drug courts combined with the reported dramatic increase in adolescent substance use during the 1990s motivated a small number of jurisdictions to experiment with implementation of drug courts targeting juvenile offenders, the first of which began in 1993 (Cooper, 2001). As the number of juvenile drug courts increased, several evaluations were conducted yielding mixed results (Belenko, 2001; Marlowe, 2010; Roman & DeStefano, 2004), which some indicate were due to poor methodology (Mitchell, Wilson, Eggers, & MacKenzie, 2012). Additional research, however, demonstrated that the inclusion of evidencebased practices increased positive outcomes, including reduction of substance use and crime (Belenko & Logan, 2003; Henggeler et al. …

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