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AECF: Pediatric Organization Calls for Juvenile Justice Reforms


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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Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

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