With many states facing alarming budget shortfalls, a coalition of juvenile justice advocates has issued a report recommending what it says are cost-effective strategies to improve and shrink juvenile justice systems. The National Juvenile Justice Network has published “The Real Costs and Benefits of Change: Finding Opportunities for Reform During Difficult Fiscal Times,” which explores reforms that states have successfully utilized to improve outcomes for youth, increase public safety, and reduce costs.
One strategy discussed is a fiscal realignment model, through which states provide incentives to encourage localities to treat young offenders through community- and evidence-based programs, and decrease use of costly state-funded juvenile prison beds. Programs in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and California have saved states significant amounts of money while improving outcomes for kids, the group says. “Rather than indiscriminately cutting juvenile justice funding, we can use the current budget crisis as an opportunity to serve youth better by rethinking our current modes of spending,” says Betsy Clarke, co-chair of NJJN. The report also describes the closing of youth correctional centers and lowering detention populations, saying that Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and New Mexico have realized significant savings that way.