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February 20, 2008

Homeward bound, I'm glad juves are

Simon_garfunkelhomeward_bound_sWith apologies to riffing from a great song from one of my all-time favorites, this piece from today's New York Times gives sentencing folks a reason to hum a happy tune.  The article is headlined "A Home Remedy for Juvenile Offenders," and here are highlights:

[A] new alternative sentencing program, which the city started in February 2007 ... called the Juvenile Justice Initiative, sends medium-risk offenders back to their families and provides intensive therapy.  The city says that in just a year, it has seen significant success for the juveniles enrolled, as well as cost savings from the reduced use of residential treatment centers....

The city said that in the year since the program began, fewer than 35 percent of the 275 youths who have been through it have been rearrested or violated probation.   State studies found that more than 80 percent of male juvenile offenders who had served time in correctional facilities were rearrested within three years of their release, usually on more serious charges....

Some states and other counties in New York, including Westchester, have been experimenting for years with intensive in-home and in-community therapy for children who have significant criminal records but are not psychopathic.  The basic idea is to reach and help borderline youths at a moment of crisis, and turn them away from a more serious criminal path. By treating them in the context of their families and environments rather than in isolation, officials found that recidivism was usually less than half that of residential correction programs. The city says that it hopes its program will be as successful, but that it will take many years before it can be sure.

Still, at roughly $17,000 per child, such in-home therapy programs cost a fraction of the annual expense of keeping a child in secure detention, which can be $140,000 to $200,000. In fact, the financial incentive is such that both the city and state are rapidly moving away from residential detention.

February 20, 2008 at 08:18 PM | Permalink

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