Oregon’s youth offenders would get less help and less hope of escaping future trouble under reductions facing state and county operations, The Oregonian reports. The system is intended to keep the 15,600 kids a year referred to juvenile departments from ever seeing the inside of an adult prison. Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to take millions of dollars from youth programs to keep the adult prisons running. That, executives at state and county juvenile agencies say, would hurt kids in the short term and be self-defeating in the long run.
Under the cuts, the state juvenile justice system would lose hundreds of beds housing the most at-risk kids. Some youths would be shifted to less secure community programs. Kids in those programs, in turn, would be bumped out the door just when they are most open to the changes that can set them straight for life, juvenile authorities say. “These cuts will cause a major shift in how we handle juvenile justice in Oregon,” said Scott Taylor, director of the Multnomah County Community Justice Department. Those who tend young offenders appreciate the terrible budget chore facing the governor. But they say they have worked years to make their systems smarter and more focused, catching kids earlier and turning around even the seemingly most incorrigible. The number of criminal referrals to juvenile authorities has dropped by one-third in 10 years.