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More than 1,100 Police Chiefs, Sheriffs and Prosecutors urge Congress to reduce juvenile lock-ups in favor of family responsibility to prevent crime
Washington, DC, September 17 - Representing more than 1,100 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors, members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids are meeting with lawmakers in Congress on Thursday, September 17. Their message: states across the nation must continue efforts to reduce the number of juvenile offenders in state-run facilities and focus instead on family interventions that have been proven to reduce juvenile crime and save taxpayer dollars.
The law enforcement leaders are making their case with a release of a report -- "Never is Better, But Once is Enough," which calls for reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Calling the federal-state legislation a "game-changer" for juvenile justice, the report shows interventions available to youth in most states across the nation can cut recidivism in half and save the public between $9,000 and $27,000 per youth, a sharp contrast to the $88,000 average annual cost of housing and expenses at juvenile facilities.
To view the report and a campaign video, please visit www.fightcrime.org/jjdpa.
"My deputies have arrested some individuals again and again for serious offenses from back when they were kids, and now we're arresting their children for crimes as well," said Limestone County, Texas Sheriff Dennis Wilson, who is First Vice President of the Texas Sheriffs Association. "We don't want to see another generation threatening public safety at a huge cost to taxpayers. The interventions we're talking about today coach parents and hold them and their kids accountable for getting off the path to prison -- and the research shows they can cut re-offending in half compared to locking kids up."
Originally enacted in 1974, the JJDPA sets guidelines and provides some federal funding for state and local juvenile justice systems. Long overdue for reauthorization, the legislation recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. It would encourage communities to engage most youth offenders in interventions with a proven impact on reducing crime, while reserving lock-ups at state run facilities for only the most serious offenders. It would also encourage states and localities to track the impact of interventions and lock-ups on recidivism. Doing so would show which responses are actually reducing juvenile crime.
"Don't get us wrong -- we're going to stay tough on crime, but we've also got to be smart on crime by directing our money and efforts toward responses that stop this revolving door of recidivism from one generation to the next," said Enfield, New Hampshire Police Chief Richard Crate, Jr.
While "Never is Better, but Once is Enough" spotlights several proven interventions, it notes that these programs are now only available to a limited extent in most communities. This means that prosecutors and judges are often only left with two choices for juvenile offenders: probation, which may be too lenient, or custody, which may not be the most effective approach for that youth.
JJDPA provides modest funding, about $800 million through fiscal year 2020, to communities to create these programs. But more importantly, it sets the stage for a much smarter approach to juvenile crime prevention in the future by encouraging states to focus on what really works and will save money for taxpayers. Programs spotlighted in the report are as follows:
Aggression Replacement Therapy (ART) is a coaching program for youth with aggressive or disruptive behaviors. It fosters the development of anger management and interpersonal and social problem-solving skills and can be applied in home, school and community settings. A study in Washington state found that participation in ART cut felony convictions within 18 months by 24 percent.
Functional Family Therapy (FFT) provides coaching to youth and parents together, enabling families to work together to replace negative behaviors. In one study, FFT cut re-arrests in half, and in another participating youth were one-fourth as likely to be placed outside their home for later offenses.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) provides parent-youth coaching for more serious offenders and also emphasizes ways for schools and community organizations to reinforce positive behaviors that steer youth away from crime. In one trial, a 22-year follow-up showed troubled youth who did not receive MST were three and a half times more likely to be arrested for a violent felony than those who did.
Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) provides specially trained foster parents for six to nine months for seriously troubled youth who cannot stay with their parents and who would otherwise be placed in residential facilities. While the youths receive training from foster parents, their own parents learn how to guide their children away from destructive behaviors when they return home. In one long-term study, boys in MTFC were six times more likely to avoid additional arrests as those not served by the program.
"Taxpayers shouldn't spend more than the cost of a year at Harvard to lock kids up in facilities that may or may not stop them from committing crimes," said Cumberland County, Pennsylvania District Attorney David J. Freed. "We need a better return on our investment -- and that's what we get with the interventions that JJDPA encourages."
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of nearly 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors who promote public safety through investments that prepare young people to grow up healthy, well-educated and well-prepared for lives free of the criminal justice system.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is an anti-crime organization of nearly 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors. We take a hard look at the research about what prevents kids from becoming criminals and put that information in the hands of policymakers and the general public.