States are moving delinquent youth out of huge juvenile lockups and, in the best cases, into local alternative programs, reports the American Prospect. That trend is a hard-won victory for advocates of reform. Local control sometimes comes with pitfalls that some reformers say could make a teen offender’s fate a matter of geographical chance rather than deliberate policy.
To save money and address long-standing abuse in juvenile detention centers, New York and most other states have been reducing the number of youth they confine, turning more responsibility over to cities and counties. The governors of California and Arizona have gone one step further, proposing to shut down their states’ juvenile corrections agencies completely. In Oregon, Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to eliminate half of the state’s juvenile jail beds. In Ohio, the number of youth held by the state youth corrections agency is less than half of what it was three years ago. That’s good news, given the shocking conditions in youth prisons. A 2010 U.S. Department of Justice study found that 13 percent of kids in state lockups are sexually abused, most often by staff.