Posted by Tara Manthey on January 9th 2009
AACF report urges Arkansas to take advantage of lower crime rates to move system toward community-based treatment centers.
LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas is at a critical turning point in juvenile justice reform, according to a new report from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. The state should take advantage of a drop in juvenile crime rates to move from an institution-based system to one that allows youth to be treated for underlying problems in their communities, according to the report.
"There are proven methods to effectively attend to the needs of these youth and a promising effort by key stakeholders to bring real change," said Paul Kelly, report author and AACF senior policy analyst. "Our sense of justice should dictate early involvement and a long-term approach to ensure the future success of our youth."
The report calls on the state to move from incarcerating youth in far-away prisons where their problems may be exacerbated, to treating and preventing their conduct, behavior and substance-abuse problems in community-based programs and facilities.
Among the findings in "Juvenile Justice in Arkansas: A Long Road to a Promising Future::
- Juvenile arrests have decreased 41 percent from a high of 20,032 arrests in 1998 to 11,814 in 2007.
- Only 6 percent of delinquent youth were committed to the DHS Division of Youth Services in the 2006 state fiscal year. That compares to 18 percent of delinquent youth committed between 1990 and 1995.
- Only 88 of the 14,229 children and youth adjudicated delinquent in 2006 were ordered to family services such as family therapy and parenting classes.
- Arkansas still does not have the capacity to track juvenile offenders across the juvenile and adult justice systems.
- Youth confined to the Arkansas Juveniles Assessement and Treatment Center (AJATC) have behavior problems complicated by multiple behavior and substance abuse disorders.
The report was released during a break in a meeting of the Division of Youth Service's 50-member Arkansas Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform. The group was discussing a draft of its Transitional Plan for Juvenile Justice Reform.