The prevention of juvenile crime through after-school and summer programs, access to mental health care and early intervention services is cost effective and it is being "smart on crime." A child's capacity to fully understand the implications of their actions is not the same as an adult. A system developed to deal with juvenile offenders must be restorative and treatment oriented.
The National Center for Youth Law and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency recently released Arkansas Youth Justice: The Architecture of Reform. The report details efforts to transform the juvenile justice system in Arkansas. The gist? Efforts by government officials, advocates, judges, service providers, youth, and their families have reduced the state's reliance on secure confinement for children in the juvenile justice system. For a series of recommendations and goals, read this analysis from the National Center for Youth Law.
Serving Non-Violent Youthful Offenders in Their Communities: The Costs and Benefits of a More Effective Juvenile Justice System for Arkansas talks about how locking up non-violent youthful offenders is costly and ineffective. Using community-based alternatives to incarceration - like education, job training, drug treatment, and rehabilitation programs - saves the state $41,786 per youth and reduces their chances of ending up back in the juvenile justice system.
Juvenile Justice in Arkansas: Building on Success describes how far Arkansas has come in reforming the juvenile justice system and lays out a plan for moving forward. The state's laws, regulations, and practices must align with its commitment to a system of juvenile justice that will effectively serve youth for the long term. A thoughtful, engaged, and community-driven approach can reduce the incarceration of low- and moderate-risk youth. Reinvesting state savings in proven-effective, community-based alternatives is the most promising way to ensure that our continued successes builds on what we've accomplished thus far.
Brain research is providing new insights into what drives teenage behavior, moving lawmakers to rethink policies that treat them like adults.
The Northwestern Juvenile Project (NJP) studies a randomly selected sample of 1,829 youth who were arrested and detained in Cook County, IL, between 1995 and 1998.
Reforming the Arkansas Juvenile Justice System
During the past three years Arkansas has created a task force of stakeholders, commissioned a comprehensive review of its juvenile justice system, developed a vision and set long-term goals for system change, and held regional meetings to discuss the comprehensive strategy for making changes and reforming the state's approach to juvenile justice. These include redirecting resources from incarceration and punishment to prevention and treatment to ensure more effective and less costly services, leading to greater public safety for the citizens of the state. This means that youth and their families receive services in the community where they live, that these services are evidence-based and show effective outcomes, and that they are strength-based and empower youth and families to succeed.
After-School Framework Becomes Law
March 4th 2011
You can help reform the juvenile justice system in Arkansas:
- Read the Annie E. Casey Foundation's "No Place For Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration."
- Use the "Truth of Youth" toolkit created to help advocates educate the public about the need for reform in Arkansas.
- Look at examples of Letter to the Editor and Letter to Policy Maker to compose your own letter in support of these reforms. Use the slideshow below in public presentations or embed it on your website.