Pew: Less Time, Community Programs Better for Juvenile Offenders
by Todd Beamon, Newsmax.com
May 27, 2015
Community programs and lower sentences were better at reducing juvenile crime than jail—and several states have moved in this direction with innovative policies and efforts, according to an analysis of multiple studies by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The analysis compared data involving juvenile offenders in such states as Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
The report, released last month, found overall that youths placed in community-based treatment and similar programs were less likely to commit crimes or be arrested again than those who had been placed in jail.
Noting that “in certain instances,” placing young offenders is jail “can be counterproductive,” here are some of Pew’s findings:
- Young offenders in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania—when compared on 66 factors, including demographics and criminal history—those who had been jailed “fared no better in terms of recidivism than those on probation.
- In Texas, youth in community treatment and monitoring programs had lower re-arrest rates over those who had been jailed.
- Juveniles in Cook County, Illinois, who had been jailed were more likely to drop out of high school and go back to prison as adults than those who were not jailed.
- Low-risk youths in diversion in Florida had lower recidivism rates than those who had been in jail.
- And young offenders in Ohio’s jails had higher rates of returning than those who were kept for shorter periods.
“In general, research has found that juvenile incarceration fails to reduce recidivism,” the document said.
As for whether American taxpayers were getting a strong return on their incarceration dollar, Pew found that:
- In 2013, Georgia spent two-thirds of its $300 million juvenile justice budget on jails, or $91,126 per person, while 65% of those released in 2007 were rearrested or convicted as adults within three years.
- That same year, Hawaii spent $199,323 on every jailed youth, yet three of every four released between 2005 and 2007 were rearrested or convicted within three years.
- In 2012, California spent an average of $179,400 on every juvenile in prison, though 54% of those released in fiscal 2007 and 2008 were back in jail—juvenile or adult—within three years.
Many states, according to the report, are cutting the number of juveniles placed in jail or are lowering sentences.
Hawaii, for instance, does not jail youths for misdemeanor offenses, while Kentucky no longer places misdemeanor offenders and low-level felons with their states’ Department of Juvenile Justice, the report indicated.
Todd Beamon is the associate editor for Newsmax Media Inc.
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