Around 2.4 million children in the juvenile justice system are victims of grave societal inattention and deprivation. Over one year, substance abuse was a significant contributing factor to the offenses of 78.4 percent of juveniles arrested. The system failed at all levels to address substance abuse as an independent problem and an array of other issues faced by these adolescents.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated that in 2007 there were 195,700 arrests of juveniles for drug abuse violations out of a total 2,180,500 juvenile arrests. They were most likely neglected or abused by parents, were brought up in impoverished or dangerous environments, slipped through the loopholes of the health care system, went unnoticed by providers, and were ignored by schools and administrators.
A report published in 2004 by CASAColumbia discovered that 1.9 million of 2.4 million juvenile arrests involved substance abuse and addiction. Only 68,600 juveniles received substance abuse treatment. The report revealed that 69 percent of violent offenses, 72 percent of property offenses and 81 percent of assaults, vandalism and disorderly conduct involved drug or alcohol abuse.
Other notable findings in this report include:
- An estimated 30 percent of incarcerated adults had been arrested as juveniles
- 92 percent of arrested juveniles tested positive for drugs
- Up to three-fourths of incarcerated 10-to-17-year-olds had a diagnosable mental health disorder
- Eight out of 10 imprisoned juveniles suffered from learning disabilities
- Compared to juveniles who had not been arrested, those who had been arrested in the past year were more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, 3.5 times likelier to have used marijuana, three times more likely to have abused prescription drugs, nine times likelier to have used cocaine and 20 times likelier to have used heroin
If only 12 percent of juveniles stayed in school and avoided drugs and crime, it would save a $5,000 investment into addiction treatment for each of them. The report further found that preventing crimes and incarceration of 12 percent of substance-involved adult inmates with juvenile records would result in 60,480 fewer inmates, 5.9 million fewer crimes and save $18 billion in terms of criminal justice and health care costs and employment benefits.
The “school to prison pipeline” describes how some youth are pushed on a one-way path that disconnects them from school, forcing them to drop out and eventually enter the justice system. School policies that rely on overly disciplinary responses to student behavior and on law enforcement have led to increases in suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the juvenile justice system, even for minor infractions. As a result, students are taken out of school, missing important educational opportunities and often made unable to return to school.
Juveniles face many barriers to their re-entry into traditional schools. The vast majority of these students never graduate from high school. Missing out on all the important developmental factors that would add up to their success as an adult undermines their future attempts of progress, whether at school, work or society. Shunned and judged, they resort to criminal activities or criminal groups that they feel they can relate to more.
Information about child delinquency is inadequate due to being underreported and often unnoticed. Recognition of problematic behavior early on is crucial for long-term recovery. White River Academy provides timely treatment and education for adolescent boys with behavioral health disorders in a nurturing boarding school environment. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information.