Wednesday, October 15, 2014

As juvenile detention rates decrease in many states, rates are on the rise in some rural states

The U.S. has reduced the rate of juvenile incarceration by nearly half since the mid 1990s, as states turn to other methods, such as mediation, family therapy and substance abuse treatment, Dana Goldstein reports for The Marshall Project. "A large body of research shows that for juveniles, those interventions are more successful than incarceration in helping them avoid further crime, complete their educations and find employment."

"West Virginia, however, is one of a handful of states that has been moving in the opposite direction," Goldstein writes. Juvenile confinement in West Virginia has risen 42 percent since 2001, the highest rate of any state, and "the state places offenders as young as 10 in facilities such as detention centers and group homes." (Goldstein photo: Kenneth Rubenstein juvenile detention facility in Davis, W.Va.)

South Dakota leads the nation in highest rate of juvenile incarcerations, at 492 for every 100,000, Goldstein writes. Wyoming's rate is 433 incarcerations for every 100,000 juveniles, followed by Nebraska, 337, Oregon 281, West Virginia 278, Arkansas 270, Indiana 258, Kansas 255, Nevada 245 and North Dakota 241. The national average is 196, with Vermont having the lowest average with 59 incarcerations for every 100,000 juveniles.

"A year in a West Virginia juvenile facility costs more than $80,000 per child, compared with $1,000 to $33,000 per child in community programs that have reduced recidivism by up to 20 percent in other states," Goldstein writes. "Research from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that since 2002, stricter enforcement of low-level offenses like truancy have put thousands of kids into contact with the West Virginia juvenile justice system." One West Virginia probation officer told Pew, “There is a considerable wait period for most therapeutic services in our surrounding area—a wait period that is unacceptable when I am faced with families that need immediate attention."

Other rural states "that are lacking in treatment options, including South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska, are also taking an aggressive approach to minor infractions like truancy, alcohol consumption, school fights and violations of probation," Goldstein writes. "West Virginia, for example, defines truancy as more than five days of unexcused absences from school and confines juveniles for this offense at five times the national rate. While the school-to-prison pipeline is often thought of as an urban phenomenon, it is prevalent in rural areas, too."

"Some states—many rural ones—have been trying to find other ways of providing that structure," including banning juvenile incarceration, Goldstein writes. Ohio has RECLAIM, "a program in which every county is offered state funding to provide juvenile offenders with family therapy and substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration... Georgia’s 2014 budget provides $1.6 million for grants to both nonprofit and for-profit health service providers that are able to bring treatment programs to juvenile offenders in rural parts of the state," and a 2009 regulation in Idaho requires that before a case goes to a judge they receive a report from a team identifying relevant services for the child outside of secure facilities. (Read more)

No comments: