Restoring Community

Terry Frieden of CNN reports on Tue October 4, 2011 titled, "Report Calls for Sharply Reducing Juvenile Incarceration":

Locking juvenile offenders behind bars is costly and largely ineffective, according to a report released Tuesday by an advocacy group that favors alternatives to youth detention.

The report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation examined data from the past four decades and found that removing juveniles from detention facilities in cash-strapped states has not caused crime rates to jump.

"Numerous states have closed facilities or lowered correctional populations, reaping significant savings for taxpayers without any measurable increase in youth crime," the report found.

The report's researchers found, for example, that in Texas, since 2007 when authorities began to decrease the jailed youth population, juvenile crime fell by 10% and juvenile arrests fell by 9%.

Locking up juvenile offenders in correctional facilities, which costs states a yearly average of $88,000 per youth, is not paying off from a public safety, rehabilitation or cost perspective, according to the report.

And with a dateline of October 6 Kirk Mitchell of the Denver Post reports in an article titled, "With Fewer Kids Held, Colorado To Close Two Juvenile Detention Facilities." According to the story:

"The closures come as the total number of youths in the detention system dropped 32 percent, from 1,480 to 1,000, since 2006, levels not seen since 1998."

“That’s a pretty dramatic shift in youth corrections,” said John Gomez, state youth corrections director. “It is good news. There are fewer kids going to detention.”

The reduction in Colorado juvenile detentions follows a national trend, Gomez said.

He credited programs that identified substance abuse, delinquency and familial problems earlier with reducing the number of youths entering the juvenile justice system.

As we've noted here and in the eForum, Colorado is also a state that has embraced restorative justice as an important option for youth. And unlike prisons, restorative justice has been shown to be effective in many terms (see for instance, Restorative Justice: The Evidence— Report Draws Attention to RJ in the UK):

  • RJ reduced recidivism for offenders of both violent and property crimes.
  • RJ reduced post-traumatic stress symptoms and the desire for revenge for victims.
  • RJ processes were preferred over CJ (conventional justice) by both victims and offenders.
  • RJ reduced costs when used as diversion from CJ.
  • When RJ was an option, two or more times as many cases were brought to justice (including cases of robbery and assault).

 

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