Is your organization looking to help juveniles diagnosed with mental illness? Mental illness currently takes a severe toll on the New Jersey Juvenile Justice System and many other states across the country. Many juveniles in jails have some form of mental illness. About 71% of youth in the NJ juvenile justice system have a MH disorder based on recent NJPC report. 

There are prevention and management programs available for nonprofits dedicated to helping youth with mental illness.  Through targeted mental health grants, organizations, communities and families can find ways to help those cope with mental illness and avoid contact with the juvenile justice system.

The Surgeon General's Report on Children’s Mental Health speaks to twenty percent of all children having a diagnosable mental disorder with half (10%) having a need severe enough to interfere with their functioning. In New Jersey alone, there are as many as 411,627 children (birth to seventeen) who have some diagnosable mental health need and as many as 205,813 have a need severe enough to interfere with their functioning. 

A local New Jersey study showed more reason for concern about juvenile justice. The New Jersey Parents's Caucus study (NJPC) of 472 children and youth, ages 14 to 17, who were waived (transferred to), sentenced and incarcerated in New Jersey's adult prison system between 2007 - 2015, showed:

· According to NJPC 

Youth are subject to solitary confinement - especially youth with mental health disorders: Although solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children, 53% of these youth spent a total of approximately 15,359 days (42 years) in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2015; 5 percent spend over a year there, and about 4 percent spent 2 years or more in solitary.  Nearly 70 percent of those placed in solitary had a mental health disorder, with nearly 37% having two or more diagnoses.

Youth can suffer abuse while in adult prison: once incarcerated in an adult prison, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse; 5% reported sexual abuse.

According to, The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Criminal Court (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Mental Health and De) 1st Edition

 Despite declining juvenile crime rates, every state in the country has increased the number of youths tried and punished as adults.

GrantWatch has several juvenile justice grants currently available as well as ongoing opportunities. The statistics on this subject from New Jersey are startling but luckily there are organizations dedicated to juvenile justice causes. 


About the Author: Kathy Wright is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, developing programs that empower family members and youth to create systemic change. A 2014 Fellow of the National Juvenile Justice Network Youth Justice Leadership Institute, she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in Psychology and English at Drew University