What Do Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota and Tennessee have in Common?
Date:  03-13-2013

They have reduced juvenile confinement rates by over fifty percent
Reentry Central recently posted a report detailing why Connecticut is being hailed as the model for juvenile justice reform. Now, Connecticut is also being recognized as one of five states that are responsible for significantly reducing the rate of juveniles held in confinement. Along with Connecticut, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona and Minnesota have implemented policies that are responsible for cutting the confinement rate of young people to over 50 percent.

In a press release, Spike Bradford, author of the new report, Common Ground: Lessons Learned from Five States that Reduced Juvenile Confinement by More than Half, stated “These states have taken advantage of circumstances, both good and bad, to reshape their juvenile systems away from the over-use of confinement and towards recognition that young people are different from adults; the reasons that put them in contact with the justice system are different and the way we respond to their behavior should be different.”

To obtain similar results, Bradford suggests that other states:

  • Recognize opportunities to push change. The top performing states capitalized on falling arrest rates, budget shortfalls and litigation-driven reforms to shift their systems from confinement.

  • Consider the legal route. Many of the most effective reform movements have begun through the process of settling litigation. If conditions are poor and a case can be made, advocacy organizations have it in their power to kick-start reform by bringing a suit against the state.

  • Create/re-energize existing juvenile justice commissions/task forces to promote collaboration among stakeholders. These cross-system groups can ensure that litigation is truly a "call to action" and that there is buy-in from those decision makers who could push forward reforms.

  • Collect useful and reliable data and make it accessible. Progress can only be confirmed through measurement, so states should ensure that all agencies keep relevant data that enable them to track changes and make adjustments accordingly.

  • Utilize experts for technical assistance. Initiatives such as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change project and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) are designed to help states coordinate reform and tailor it to their unique situation.

  • Promote a return to the American juvenile justice ideal of treating young people in trouble differently than adults and with therapeutic interventions rather than harsh punishment.

    Source: Justice Policy Institute
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