AZ Juvenile Justice Agency Improves; Problems Remain


Arizona’s Department of Juvenile Corrections has tried to shake its reputation as an agency more interested in warehousing offenders than providing rehabilitation for the 1,000 youths under its supervision. The Arizona Republic says a new report from the state Auditor General’s Office shows the agency has evolved in the five years since the U.S. Department of Justice found serious deficiencies at a number of facilities. Administrators have implemented nationally recognized methods to treat juvenile offenders, installed new training and oversight measures, and created a position to help juveniles transition back into schools.

Yet the audit says the agency’s employees don’t have the training or resources to implement new programs properly. Fewer than half – 29 of 68 – of the juveniles who should receive sex-offender treatment were housed in a unit that provided the treatment. Similarly, a little more than half of juveniles requiring substance-abuse treatment were housed in units that offered such treatment. The agency added an additional housing unit for sex offenders in January and said all children who need to be in chemical-dependency units are placed there. The audit said staff members relied on inaccurate and inadequate data when making decisions on how to treat and when to release juvenile offenders. House Minority Leader David Lujan worries that budget cuts state officials make to juvenile programs will have a ripple effect for years to come. “It’s only going to increase the demands on our prison system in the future, and it’s a public-safety issue,” he said.

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