After struggling for years to rehabilitate and punish young criminals in razor wire-ringed institutions, states are shuttering dozens of reformatories amid plunging juvenile arrests, softer treatment policies, and bleak budgets, the Associated Press reports. In Ohio, the number of juvenile offenders has plummeted by nearly half over the past two years, pushing the state to close three facilities. California’s closures include a youth institution near Los Angeles that operated for nearly 115 years. Texas is closing a facility that got its start as a World War II-era training base.
In stark contrast to the adult prison population, the number of juveniles in state lockups has dropped dramatically, partly because there are fewer juvenile arrests and more offenders in county-based treatment programs. States dealing with depleted budgets can’t afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds. Why are fewer kids getting in trouble? Some experts believe more kids are avoiding drug trafficking. Others think programs such as group homes, halfway houses, and after-school tutoring closer to kids’ homes have reduced recidivism. “No fancy stats suggest this is a cure-all, but what I think you do see is the accumulation of those small results of people doing this increasingly in cities and towns all across the country,” said Elliot Currie, a University of California-Irvine criminologist.