Justice System

Children who have interacted with the justice system tend to have an extensive history of being exposed to trauma. Being addressed by the justice system at an early age usually serves as a signal that there are multiple layers of unresolved adversity. A lack of resources on the systemic level has led many of these youth to go under served in acquiring the care they so desperately need. Traumatic histories can produce certain byproducts found in wide-ranging behaviors that are harmful to the individual and the people around them.

Accountability for criminal misconduct is important for the preservation of society but there is a need to go one step further in developing an understanding behind the offense. Justice system professionals (such as judges, attorneys, law enforcement, and probation officers) can play a crucial role in addressing this reality through trauma-informed care and improving the outcomes for the families they serve.

Please review the resources and tools below for more information on being a trauma-informed justice system professional and fostering safety and resiliency within a community.

Articles, Factsheets, and Handouts for Justice System Professionals

By: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
Date: 2019

Research on childhood adversity has showcased how traumatic experiences have the potential to manifest into emotional dysregulation and maladaptive or impulsive behaviors when left untreated. Thus, it’s not a shocking notion that the vast majority of adolescents interacting with the juvenile justice system have histories of complex trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) developed “Justice” based on this frame-of-reference to empower professionals with evidence-based knowledge and concrete guidelines on trauma-informed care. This resource offers a variety of tools for individuals working in the justice system and depicts how trauma-informed care can improve outcomes while still valuing safety and accountability.        

“Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System”
By: National Child Traumatic Stress Network staff
Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
Date: 2015

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s “Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System” takes a systemic approach to trauma-informed care by identifying opportunities for institutional change while considering childhood trauma. This resource addresses the common principles of trauma-informed organizations and programs illustrating and breaking-down these concepts into feasible modes of application. The foundational argument for these changes in the justice system is that it will dramatically diminish the emotional and behavioral concerns that led to conviction, thus reducing the recidivism rate and improving the quality of safety for all involved. 

Videos for Justice System Professionals

“Juvenile Justice” (Module 2: Trauma-Informed Child-Serving Systems)
By: JBS International
Source: JBS International
Date: 2014
Time: 12:50

“Juvenile Justice” is a video that is part of a much larger trauma-informed care series developed by JBS International Inc. and Georgetown University. This video analyzes the juvenile justice system depicting how certain methods of conduct and program construction can actually exasperate traumatic symptoms. The content offers some reasonable suggestions for incorporating trauma-informed care into current practice, helping convicts grow and improving environmental safety and security.       

“Inside Juvenile Detention”
By: The Atlantic
Source: YouTube
Date: April 2nd, 2018
Time: 10:40

The Atlantic takes viewers through the daily life realities of a correctional facility in their thought-provoking video “Inside Juvenile Justice.” This video explores the juvenile justice system in Bon Air, Virginia displaying some of the structural barriers in corrections and the community efforts for social change. The content depicts a process of transitioning the systemic strategy and attempts to find balance between public safety and adolescent rehabilitation.      

“Children, Violence, and Trauma—Innovations in Juvenile Justice”
By: Office for Victims of Crimes
Source: YouTube
Date: April 10th, 2014
Time: 8:34

The Office for Victims of Crimes’ “Children, Violence, and Trauma—Innovations in Juvenile Justice” video depicts how collaboration and cooperation among systems can elevate community well-being. The content portrays some creative programs which serve as a guide for options in collective organizing and action. This video seeks to find a medium which produces public safety and justice for victims and simultaneously addressing the trauma and disturbances that fueled the crime. 

“Juvenile Education: Inside a Confined World”
By: PBS NewsHour
Source: YouTube
Date: February 2nd, 2012

PBS NewsHour’s “Juvenile Education: Inside a Confined World” interviews Richard Ross, a photographer and professor, who spent five years researching the juvenile justice system. He indicates the need for educational options and treatment for adolescents in the system and instill measured accountability for their criminal transgressions.    

“Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice”
By: DocuThesis
Source: YouTube
Date: September 12th, 2011
Time: 3:49

“Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice” follows Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman, a behavioral psychologist, as she investigates the current juvenile justice system. The narrator explains the importance of assisting offenders (even those who have committed serious crimes) with access to treatment. Many of these adolescents will end up back in society, reinforcing the public need to supply rehabilitation services in an attempt to aid offenders and preserve the common good.