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USA

Kansas juvenile justice reforms cut detentions by 34 percent 

Reforms to Kansas’ juvenile justice system have already sharply reduced detentions for young people, and are projected to allow the state to shift over $72 million in savings to alternative approaches for dealing with troubled youth, according to a recent report.

Between July 2016 and June 2017, the total juvenile “out of home population” – which includes youth sent to detention facilities, group homes and state correctional facilities –dropped by 34 per cent, a report from the Kansas Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee said.

The report, summed up by the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP), said the reductions allowed the Kansas Department of Corrections to close one of its two juvenile correctional facilities and shift more than $12 million to “evidence-based supervision and services for youths living at home.”

The reductions were the first results of juvenile justice reforms adopted by the state in 2016.

“Research shows that residential commitments do not typically improve outcomes and can increase the likelihood of reoffending, particularly for youths who have committed low-level offenses,” wrote Jake Horowitz, director of research and policy for the PSPP.

“Despite these findings, a majority of youths were placed out of home before the reforms for such offenses at a cost of up to $89,000 per youth each year.”

According to the state’s predictions, the reforms will slash out-of-home youth placements by 60 percent by 2022, saving over $72 million. The Kansas juvenile legislation requires that the savings be reinvested in effective alternatives to incarceration.

Horowitz said Kansas has joined the list of other states who have developed strategies to reduce the number of young people held in correctional institutions. They include: Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.

All these states have reoriented their programs to invest in recidivism reduction, while reserving the use of detention for young people who are chronic offenders or commit the most violent offenses.

“Kansas’ experience shows that by aligning policies and resources with research, states can reduce incarceration and get a much higher return on their juvenile justice investments to better serve youths, their families and communities,” Horowitz wrote.

The full study can be downloaded here.

5 March 2018 

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