Reform Juvenile Treatment: Save Money, Save Lives

Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center

The tab for holding juvenile offenders in secure state facilities averages $221 per day per youth over a stay of 14 months. That amounts to almost $100,000 per kid. The result? Seventy-four percent of those confined in state facilities are convicted of another offense within three years.

Writes Mike Thompson in the latest edition of the Jefferson Policy Journal:

We now know that, for most juvenile offenders, community-based placements are far more effective. This is especially true for youth with non-criminogenic health needs, such as a mental illness or substance abuse issues. While specific data varies, recidivism rates generally are 50 to 75 percent lower for youths placed in proven programs closer to home than those for state lockups. And these community-based placements obtain these far better recidivism rates at a much lower cost, as low as $10 to $15 per day.

Other states have shown that removing many juvenile offenders from lockup facilities and treating them in community settings can save taxpayers money while turning the adolescents’ lives around. Maybe Virginia should take a closer look.

– JAB

One Response to Reform Juvenile Treatment: Save Money, Save Lives

  1. well .. not sure what got you on this..and I bet most folks won’t find it as compelling as other issue you articulate… BUT

    it gives me yet another opportunity to stress just how important K-3 public education is.

    Most kids that go wrong start that slide in K-3 where they do not have sufficient parental “support” and they do not succeed at the basics of reading and writing – and downstream things start to unravel for them.

    No every kid does this. Some kids are very bright and easily master K-3 but lack character development and a moral compass especially if their parents were unable to imbue or unfit themselves.

    But kids do get “rescued” by good teachers. Seen it happen over and over – even kids with not-good parents… parents who have been in jail or are drugs or the kid has a chaotic home life -
    that elementary relationship with a good teacher – can turn them on a good course for the rest of their lives .. remember back in your own life to your teachers and how they influenced you.

    The kids that don’t make it end up in the hands of the legal system and “fixing” them is much more difficult with a much higher rate of failure.

    But if we listen to some folks – elementary school is a money game and public school teachers get paid way too much and we could easily replace them with private teachers earning much less money.

    If you think that I believe in public schools and their worth to this country – you are correct. I think they are one of the greatest innovations in the history of this country – and of the planet.

    we have lots of problems.. we spend way too much money on public schools – but not for K-3 teachers.. for the many mile-wide, inch-deep “frills” in high school rather than hard core academics that provide a global competitive education for getting a job.

    If the GOP ..REALLY wants to help the “makers” and “takers” and provide jobs – there is a very important initial aspect to providing jobs and that is the person who wants the job has to have a serious education – and every one that does not – we pay tons of dollars to provide them with “Juvenile Services”.

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