Less Cost, More Safety: Guiding Lights for Reform in Juvenile Justice

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Identifying challenges faced by youth workers in juvenile justice programs, the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) recognized programs that achieve "notable successes for a price significantly lower than what more conventional programs currently spend on failure."     

The report lists eight challenges to overcoming "commonplace problems that now cripple America's efforts" at juvenile delinquency prevention. The challenges include reducing reliance on incarceration for non-dangerous youth offenders, employing research-proven strategies to reduce delinquency, intervening with youth at high risk for chronic delinquency, providing quality education and career development services, and reducing inappropriate detention for youth awaiting trial or pending placement.

AYPF provides an example of a U.S. program that meets each challenge in a cost-efficient manner while still producing overall success. For example, Tarrant County Juvenile Services in Texas is identified as effective in providing a "continuum of community sanctions and interventions." The county's probation agency has a limited number of locked pre-trial detention beds, but has fostered a Youth Advocates Program (YAP) along with other non-residential sanctions that result in limiting the number of youth who are in secure confinement or residential treatment.

"Particularly when it comes to juvenile justice, a strategy of human reclamation is not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy," the report concludes. "Reforming juvenile justice represents a common sense, dollars-and-cents opportunity." 70 pages. $5. American Youth Policy Forum, 1836 Jefferson Pl. NW, Washington, DC 20036. (202) 775-9731. www.aypf.org.