Mindfulness and meditation as an adjunctive treatment for adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system: Is repairing the brain and nervous system possible?

Soc Work Health Care. 2017 Aug;56(7):615-635. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2017.1316341. Epub 2017 May 9.


Adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system are prone to more traumatic events than other adolescents, leaving them in danger of developmental difficulties. Trauma exposure is predictive of poor outcomes including mental and physical health issues as well as criminal activity. Current treatment approaches either have a nominal effect on recidivism rates or increase the likelihood of future criminal offenses. This article explores adolescent brain development, the unique difficulties that juvenile justice youth face, and mindfulness meditation as an adjunctive treatment to system-based treatment. Mindfulness meditation may be a way to redress damage to the brain and facilitate healthy brain development, thus impacting prosocial behavior. Practice implications include integrating mindfulness meditation as an important part of rehabilitative efforts with juvenile justice youth.

Keywords: Clinical social work; executive function; juvenile justice youth; mindfulness meditation; neuroscience; recidivism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / physiology
  • Criminal Law*
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control
  • Meditation*
  • Mindfulness*