No More "Boot Camps" for Young Offenders

Meeting on youth substance abuse and the juvenile justice system

Johnson, Bassin & Shaw, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in substance abuse and juvenile justice issues, helped convene a national conference on youth substance abuse and the juvenile justice system.

The three-day conference, entitled the "Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse National Planning Meeting," was held November 3–6, 1998, in Annapolis, Md.

Key Results

  • The conference was attended by 61 participants from federal, state, and local agencies, universities, and community-based organizations.
  • Prior to the meeting conference participants received five papers, commissioned by meeting organizers and prepared by experts in the field, to guide their discussions at the meeting.

Key Recommendations

Meeting organizers summarized recommendations derived from the conference in a working paper submitted to RWJF, Overview of the Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse National Planning Meeting. Among the key recommendations:

  • Federal and state governments, foundations, and organizations with national influence should play a leadership role in swaying public opinion and policies away from the currently popular punitive response to adolescent crime and substance abuse.
  • A better system must be devised for communicating information about effective treatment models to practitioners in the field.
  • At both the national and state levels, current laws and sentencing practices affecting substance-abusing juvenile offenders should be reviewed and re-assessed. Of particular concern were:
    • Increased use of judicial waivers to transfer young offenders into the adult criminal justice system.
    • Disproportionate involvement of minority and poor youth in the juvenile justice system.
    • Use of harsh deterrence strategies, such as military-type "boot camps without treatment components."
    • Efforts should be made to change existing policies or develop new policies as needed.
  • Earlier identification and more comprehensive assessment of youthful offenders with substance abuse problems are needed.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $153,382 from February 1998 to March 1999 to support the meeting.

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