The 2015 What Works Conference was held January 9, 2015 at the Oregon Convention Center. This year's conference was devoted to juvenile justice, including emerging trends and best practices. The conference featured local and national juvenile justice experts exploring options for policy makers, elected officials, and practitioners to craft programs to address the unique set of circumstances for justice-involved youth. Community treatment and trauma-informed care as policy tools for successful treatment were highlighted.
Speakers and topics included:
- Robert Listenbee, Administrator of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention delivered the keynote presentation to launch the conference. Listenbee was clearly impressed about the trauma-informed, developmentally responsive, and evidence-based work done in Multnomah County. He emphasized the importance of utilizing a developmental approach to juvenile justice in order to achieve the best possible outcomes..
- Dr. Robert Anda, co-principle investigator of the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, gave an overview of the ACEs study, which was originally completed in 1995. The ACE study examined the health and social effects of ACEs throughout the lifespan among over 17,000 Kaiser patients in San Diego County. ACEs include childhood abuse and neglect and growing up with domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness in the home, parental discord, and crime. The ACE study concluded that ACEs are common and tend to come in groups (for example, children who witness domestic violence often also experience childhood abuse). ACE scores have a strong influence on obesity, adolescent health, reproductive health, smoking, mental health, substance use, stability of relationships, homelessness, risk of re-victimization, and chronic health problems that may lead to death.
Dr. Anda indicated the majority of the patients who completed the ACEs survey were mostly white and educated. He discussed implications, therefore, for ACEs scores of youth and families of color who are disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system. In fact, Dr. Anda indicated he sees hope in other disciplines because of the leadership of promising practices in juvenile justice. Dr. Anda also spoke to building self-healing communities. Policy makers should integrate the following components: populations affected by ACEs, justice systems, education systems, medicine and public health, and child and family services. This integration can lead to better collaboration and outcomes for our communities.
- Dr. Alisha Moreland-Capuia deepened Dr. Anda's presentation by introducing trauma and its impact on brain development and behavior. Dr. Moreland-Capuia explained the brain's neurological response to trauma and traumatic events, particularly when trauma exposure is chronic and experienced over long periods of time. Individuals who live in a constant state of fear learn maladaptive behavior and ways of functioning. This experience may then lead to stress sensitization. When unchecked, traumatization can lead to aggressive behavior, and other behaviors the criminal justice (and other) systems find challenging. The human brain tends to remember what happened when there is a robust emotional response attached to the memory of the event.
Dr. Moreland-Capuia asserted that ACEs and trauma experiences, lead to disrupted neurodevelopment. This is particularly true with clients in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Dr. Moreland-Capuia discussed the necessity of being trauma-informed, which fundamentally changes the way systems engage with clients from "what's wrong with you?" to "what happened to you?" To see Dr. Moreland-Capuia's entire presentation, please see this video on YouTube.
- Jerry Madden, Right on Crime Senior Fellow, Jerry Madden discussed his time as a Texas state legislator and how he participated in changing the way Texas reinvested prison money into community services and treatment. Mr. Madden explained since the day he was told, "Don't build new prisons. They cost too much," he has taken on this change using science and evidence-based practices to inform Texas system reform. His work resulted in decreased prison costs in the adult and juvenile justice systems and positive public safety results.
- Legislative Panel: Oregon State Representatives Jennifer Williamson, Andy Olson, Jeff Barker, and Lew Frederick entertained questions posed by Multnomah County District 3 Commissioner Judy Shiprack. All four law makers expressed interest in pursuing juvenile justice related work.
- Fariborz Pakseresht, Director of the Oregon Youth Authority, thoughtfully introduced three young men currently serving sentences at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility. For many in the audience, this panel was the highlight of the day. Noah, Robert, and Stephen are well educated, articulate, and have high goals and expectations for their lives. The young men indicated personal relationship and connection with program staff has been key to their successes. They allowed themselves to meaningfully engage in services and education due to the rapport and trust they have found in many staff and teachers and the leadership of Mr. Pakseresht.
- Youth Villages Oregon's Executive Director Lynne Saxton, Assistant Director Andrew Grover, highlighted the Intercept Model. Interventionists Liz Crabtree and Brie Murphy shared touching stories about the youth and families they serve. It is clear Youth Villages provides intensive treatment and services to very high risk, high need youth.