Juvenile justice systems need ways to identify youths’ mental health and rehabilitation needs across various settings (such as pretrial detention, juvenile court clinics, probation, and juvenile corrections). Systems can also benefit from assistance in applying developmental research and incorporating this information into their laws, policies, and practices.
Our research focuses on improving the identification of and response to the behavioral health and delinquency risk of youth in juvenile justice systems. We help juvenile justice systems to adopt best practices for the screening and assessment of youth to address these needs and to decrease the likelihood that they will offend in the future. We have had a series of studies assessing the effectiveness of implementing risk/needs assessment and behavioral health screening tools into different points of the juvenile justice system. We are also interested in how juveniles’ psychological developmental characteristics impact their functioning in legal settings. We provide technical assistance to states regarding juveniles’ competence to stand trial, including brief consultations, sharing applicable research findings, giving input on proposed bills, and providing written and/or oral legislative testimony.
Our current studies examine:
- The screening (e.g., MAYSI-2) and assessment of behavioral health needs of youth in juvenile justice settings
- The assessment of potential for serious re-offending of youth and the best targets for intervention to decrease the likelihood of re-offending
- Integrating mental health or risk for re-offending screening and assessment procedures into diversion, dispositional and case planning
- The development of callous-unemotional traits in youth and young adults
- The assessment of forensic issues and national policy to assist judicial decisions such as youths' competence to stand trial
- The underlying functionalities of adolescent substance abuse in the brain
- Creation and validation of short or comprehensive risk instruments to be used at various decision points
- Implementation research for screening and assessment activities in the juvenile justice system
- Implementation of developmental research to provide technical assistance to states to develop or improve systems related to competence to stand trial
- The impact of development upon youth's functining in legal contexts