Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Addiction Implicated in 4 of 5 Crimes Committed by Juvenile Arrestees | Center on Addiction

Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Addiction Implicated in 4 of 5 Crimes Committed by Juvenile Arrestees

Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Addiction Implicated in 4 of 5 Crimes Committed by Juvenile Arrestees

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 7, 2004

4 of every 5 children and teen arrestees in state juvenile justice systems are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing their crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit having substance abuse and addiction problems, or share some combination of these characteristics, according to a new report released today by CASAColumbia (CASA*) at Columbia University.

The 177-page report of the five year study, Criminal Neglect: Substance Abuse, Juvenile Justice and the Children Left Behind, is the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of substance abuse and state juvenile justice systems. The report found that 1.9 million of 2.4 million juvenile arrests had substance abuse and addiction involvement and that only 68,600 juveniles receive substance abuse treatment.

“Instead of helping, we are writing off these young Americans,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “We are releasing them without attending to their needs for substance abuse treatment and other services, punishing them without providing help to get back on track. If the Congress, the governors and the presidential candidates are serious about leaving no child behind, we must end the criminal neglect of these children who so desperately need our help.”

“I have been there. I have witnessed the deplorable conditions forced upon these young people,” added Charles W. Colson, Founder and Chairman of the Board, Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims and their families. “The system must be changed to address the needs of these juveniles and prevent them from living a life crime and drug addiction.”

The report reveals that drug and alcohol abuse is implicated in 69.3% of violent offenses, 72% of property offenses and 81% of assaults, vandalism and disorderly conduct.

“Juvenile justice systems were originally conceived as institutions to help young offenders get on the path to law abiding lives,” said Califano. “As a result of their failure to address these problems, they have become colleges of criminality, paving the way to further crimes and adult incarceration for many of their graduates. We have 51 different systems of juvenile injustice with no national standards of practice or accountability.”

Other Notable Findings in This Report Include:

  • An estimated 30% of incarcerated adults have been arrested as juveniles
  • 92% of arrested juveniles who tested positive for drugs, tested positive for marijuana; 14.4%, for cocaine
  • Up to three-quarters of incarcerated 10 to 17 year-olds have a diagnosable mental health disorder
  • As many as 8 out of 10 incarcerated juveniles suffer from learning disabilities

Compared to juveniles who have not been arrested, those who have been arrested once in the past year are: more than 2 times as likely to have used alcohol; more than 3 ½ times likelier to have used marijuana; more than 3 times likelier to have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes; more than 7 times likelier to have used ecstasy; more than 9 times likelier to have used cocaine and more than 20 times likelier to have used heroin.

The arrest rate for female juveniles increased almost 7.4% between 1991 and 2000 while the arrest rate for male juveniles decreased almost 18.9%. The arrest rate for black juveniles is more than 1 ½ times the rate for white juveniles.

Based on the report’s findings, the CASA report calls for a complete overhaul of the juvenile justice system to assure that each child receives a comprehensive assessment of needs, substance abuse treatment and other appropriate services. The CASA report is based on 2000 arrestee and juvenile court data, the most recent available in sufficient detail for this analysis. The report found that juvenile justice systems cost society $14.4 billion a year just in law enforcement, courts, detention, residential placement, incarceration, substance abuse treatment and federal block grants. If other costs, such as those for probation, physical and mental health, child welfare and family services, school and victims are included; the price would more than double.

A $5,000 investment in substance abuse treatment and getting other appropriate services for each juvenile who would otherwise be incarcerated would pay for itself in the first year if only 12% stayed in school and remained drug and crime free. Moreover, the report found, if we could prevent crimes and incarceration of 12% of substance-involved adult inmates with juvenile records, we would have 60,480 fewer inmates and 5.9 million fewer crimes, and we would realize $18 billion in avoided criminal justice and health costs and in employment benefits.

The CASA Report Recommends:

  • Creating a model juvenile justice code to set a standard of practices and accountability for states in handling juvenile offenders
  • Training all juvenile justice system staff, including juvenile judges, law enforcement and other court personnel how to recognize and deal with substance-involved offenders
  • Extending to juveniles diversion programs such as drug courts
  • Making available treatment, health care, education and job training programs to children in juvenile justice systems
  • Expanding Federal grant programs for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention and conditioning such grants on reform of state systems
  • Developing state and national data systems to judge progress in meeting the needs of these children

CASAColumbia (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.

*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."


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