An Enlightened & Effective Effort to Treat Juvenile Offenders

While some states are attempting to crack down on rising rates of juvenile delinquency with a “scared straight” approach of tough laws and long jail sentences, Missouri is taking a more humane, enlightened and effective approach to solving this problem.

An article by CNN’s Stephanie Chen reports on Missouri’s efforts to give young offenders a better chance at a brighter future:

While America’s juvenile system is often criticized for corruption and abuse, Missouri state officials say its juvenile justice solution has saved billions of dollars and reduced the number of repeat offenders. In the last four decades, the state has transformed its juvenile system into one that defies the traditional prison model.

Known as the Missouri model, the program focuses on therapy, comfortable living conditions and an emphasis on job training and education. Missouri’s facilities are serving thousands of young offenders, and they are receiving national acclaim.

Each offender is placed in a small group of 10 to 15, assigned a case worker and sent to school during the day. Offenders also put on Shakespeare stage productions and play sports. They learn about teamwork through camping and rock climbing.

“Young people are really turning their lives around and becoming productive citizens,” Tim Decker, director of Missouri Division of Youth Services, told CNN. “We’ve redefined what’s possible in the juvenile justice system.”

Experts Advise: Allow Suicidal Teens to Talk about Suicide

Several psychologists and professors who specialize in adolescent psychology are trying to come up with new ways of preventing teenage suicides. The solution may be in a certain kind of talk therapy.

Teenage suicide attempts occur about two million times a year. Teens who attempt suicide become ten to 60 times more likely to die by their own hands in the future.

Dr. Barbara Stanley of Columbia University and her colleagues refused to accept the supposition that suicide prevention does not work because teenagers who enroll in it notoriously drop out.
Her group suggests that after teenagers attempt suicide, they should talk to a therapist unafraid of discussing the events that led up to the suicide attempt.
Dr. Stanley noted that most suicidal teenagers are depressed so an event that can appear trivial to the adults in their lives can be significant enough to push them over the edge

“The brains of depressed people who attempt suicide are different from those who do not,” said Dr. Stanley. “Our point of view is that while they need treatment for depression, they also need therapy tailored to help with their suicidal thoughts and behavior.”

The study appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Is Your Child at Risk for Huffing?

“Huffing” is the practice of inhaling fumes from household items such a spray paint in order to get high. There are several ways that young people can abuse inhalants, but all of them are dangerous and potentially deadly.

“The initial euphoria of huffing… may be followed by dizziness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination, inhibition and control. Some kids become agitated or irritable. Hallucinations and delusions are possible.

If an inhalant causes the heart to begin working too hard, a rapid, irregular heartbeat (dysrhythmia) may trigger lethal heart failure – even for first-time inhalers.” [Source: Mayo Clinic]

Liver, kidney and brain damage are also possible consequences of inhalant abuse.

Though inhalant abuse can be easy to conceal there are some warning signs. Look for hidden rags or clothes, empty containers of products that could be abused, or chemical odors on your child’s clothing or breath.

Mississippi Town Mulls Curfew for Teens

A proposal introduced to the Jackson, Mississippi, City Council would enact a curfew for the city’s teenagers. The city’s Planning Commission recently approved the measure:

Under the proposed new law, children ages 17 and under would have to be home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and by midnight on Friday and Saturday. The new statute also makes it a crime for children ages 5-17 to loiter during school hours. [Source: Clarion Ledger]

Proponents of the measure believe it would help reduce violence committed against and by teenagers.

In an interesting twist, however, the teens won’t be the ones penalized if they break curfew. Instead, parents will be assessed fines. In addition, businesses that allow young people in their establishments after the curfew can also be fined.

Study Reveals Prevalence of Sexual Activity Among Pre-Teens

Low-income city children have their first sexual intercourse around age 13, and one in four of them, ages 11 to 16 years old, are sexually active, according to research from Iowa State University.

Dr. Brenda Lohman collected data on children ages 10 to 14 in 1999, again in 2001, and again in 2006. She found that the average age of first sexual intercourse was 12.48 four boys and 13.1 for girls from low-income families in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio.

“If twelve years old was the average age, that meant that some kids were starting at ten or even younger,” she said. “A handful of kids report having sex as early as age eight or nine. … One boy reported having sexual intercourse for the first time at age nine and had fathered four children by the time he was 18.

This study appeared in the Children and Youth Services Review.