A new resource looks at the prevalence of trauma among youth in the juvenile justice system and outlines ways to protect their mental and emotional well-being. The fact sheet, produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is part of a growing call from child and adolescent health experts to reform longstanding juvenile justice policies and practices.
“Efforts aimed at improving our juvenile justice system must extend beyond issues related to youth arrest and detention and consider the comprehensive needs of children and adolescents who are among the most marginalized in our society,” says Mikah Owen, a pediatrician and AAP member. “These young people are more likely to experience childhood trauma and have unmet medical, mental health, behavioral and psychosocial needs.”
Owen’s advice echoes a growing body of research that captures — and defines — the longstanding impact of traumatic childhood experiences and the science of adolescent brain development. More than half of all justice-involved youth have experienced domestic violence, traumatic loss or bereavement, according to the AAP, which is a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the nation’s flagship pediatric organization.
Unfortunately, the current juvenile justice system can and does inflict further trauma on these young people — including through the use of isolation and solitary confinement, which are “too often used to control or punish,” the fact sheet says.
“Pediatricians understand that justice system involvement — and the childhood adversity that often precedes it — can derail young people’s chances for healthy development,” says Liane Rozzell, a senior policy associate with the Casey Foundation.
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