The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has just taken a blow, one which could possibly put it’s connection with state governments at risk.
Appropriations leaders in both the House and the Senate have finalized a bill which cuts the office’s funding from $275 million in fiscal 2011 to $262.5 million for fiscal 2012.
John Kelly, a writer for YouthToday, has a wonderfully detailed explanation of how these funds are allocated and the series of bills leading to this point. As to the outcome, it seems funding will be cut from a number of programs and tactics that we at HE support:
Prospects on what will happen with the formula funds are complicated. The funds are allocated to the states in exchange for their compliance with four core standards of juvenile justice operations: not detaining or incarcerating status offenders; keeping all juveniles out of adult jails, and separating them by sight and sound from adult detainees in the rare exceptions when jail is allowable; and addressing disproportionate minority contact in the system.
Compliance with these practices is something we desperately need more of, not less. This stance will hobble rehabilitative and community based programs across the U.S. while putting more youth at risk. In the long run the money “saved,” here will probably be spent on incarceration. (In which case it really is not a “saving,” is it?)
SparkAction’s online petition sums it up well:
[…] deep cuts to federal funds that now support state and local juvenile justice and delinquency prevention efforts will hurt kids and families and jeopardize public safety. Cuts of this magnitude will result in more children in dangerous, costly lock-ups, greatly increasing risks of suicide, sexual and physical abuse, and disconnection from family, positive support, education and the workforce.
The timing on this is horrible. Studies consistently show that a rehabilitative approach is not only far more effective but also far less costly than incarceration, which has become a booming business here in the sates. Many states have been becoming pro-active about embracing more theraputic and community driven programs, the exact kind of programs facing the budgetary knife.
The Wasington Post just ran an editorial spelling out exactly why this is bad legislation:
Delinquency prevention or diversion programs are significantly cheaper than incarceration. According to the American Correctional Association, states spent between $66,000 and $88,000 in 2008 to incarcerate each juvenile offender. The costs associated with imprisoning youths are substantially higher than for adults because of the additional services, including education, that incarcerated youths require. Incarceration may be appropriate for juveniles who commit violent offenses, but it is too often chosen for those who commit nonviolent infractions. The incidence of such counterproductive punishment will almost certainly rise if these federal funds are cut further.
This will not reduce juvenile crime, and it will probably end up costing much more than the alternatives. And when I say cost I mean cost to the youths and their communities as well as the budgetary numbers.
Image Source: Images_of_Money on Flickr, used under it’s Creative Commons license