Juvenile Justice Realignment in the United States

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There are two general methods of dealing with juvenile offenders. The placement of juveniles in state facilities represents an older model that has been leftover from the movement towards mass incarceration of criminal offenders. A newer model known as realignment calls for a shift in responsibility and resources from state to local governments in the providing of juvenile justice services and supervision for adjudicated youth. A small number of states have implemented realignment strategies to provide counties with budgetary resources to support and manage alternative-to-incarceration strategies for juveniles, and while they differ in name, their core objectives remain the same: eliminate the unnecessary use of secure detention, keep adjudicated youth close to home, develop effective rehabilitation and supervision programs, and redirect state funds to the local level to manage adjudicated youth.

The core philosophy of realignment revolves around management and budgetary responsibility at the county level. Realignment has become a viable option because placement in state facilities costs the state exorbitant amounts of money, whereas community supervision and services cost considerably less and are more effective, especially for low-risk youth. Under the traditional model of juvenile justice, states shoulder the majority of costs associated with institutional placement. Because counties often do not have the financial resources to develop local programming for youth, county courts may have no alternative but to send youth to secure state facilities, regardless of the severity of the juvenile's offense or level of risk. For states that have been able to reduce the number of juvenile placements in secure facilities, the financial savings have been redirected to fund local programs and services for at-risk youth.

The effectiveness of realignment lies in its implementation at the community level.

Communities adopting realignment strategies must establish a menu of program options that can address the needs of at-risk juveniles. Options can range from mental health and substance abuse treatment, aggression management, education, and employment services to mentoring, parental training and support, home detention, in-home services, and community restoration. Counties employing realignment strategies typically provide youth with individual assessments to match them with the appropriate services, and ongoing evaluations ensure the effectiveness of the treatment and services.

County governments are in the unique position to manage rehabilitation and treatment services for juvenile offenders at the local level. With the proper funding and resources, counties can develop responsible approaches to juvenile rehabilitation that recognize the importance of community integration and family involvement throughout the process. A challenge that policymakers face is how to reduce financial incentives for counties that send juveniles to costly state institutions, and further, how to redirect the savings from incarceration expenditures towards the development of local programs and services that can improve the success rate for adjudicated youth.

Roots of Realignment

The philosophy behind realignment can be traced back to the establishment of the California Youth Authority (CYA) in 1941. The CYA was responsible for housing incarcerated youth, but its groundbreaking contribution to juvenile justice was the design of local programs to keep adjudicated youth close to home. Over the next decade, probation became a conventional sentence for low-level youth offenders because counties had the resources and personnel in place to fund and operate probation programs. By the 1960s the caseloads of probation departments were growing rapidly. Probation officers had caseloads over three times the recommended standard, which made it impossible to deliver effective supervision and services to every individual on probation. Meaningful classification and treatment of offenders became impractical because so much time was devoted to paperwork and routine management of probationers. Overworked probation officers responded to this problem by referring excess juvenile offenders to state correctional institutions because the belief was that inmates could receive better treatment while incarcerated. This process resulted in a massive growth of the correctional system in California, where the rehabilitative success rate was barely 50%. [1] As the correctional system expanded, new institutions were constructed, more persons were incarcerated, and state expenditures on corrections increased to the highest in the nation.

To reestablish the rehabilitative philosophy of community probation, the California Legislature enacted the Probation Subsidy Act of 1965 to offer financial incentives to local communities that utilized probation instead of costly state corrections. The program was based on the assumption that probation is the most successful and cost-efficient method of dealing with at least 25% of the offenders sent to state institutions. If probation departments were given rewards for meeting certain goals, the belief was that the practice of probation could be greatly improved. The Probation Subsidy Act granted counties financial incentives ranging from $2,080 to $4,000 for each offender not committed to a state facility. The $4,000 amount was based on the minimum cost per juvenile for admission to a state correctional facility. [2] 

The Probation Subsidy Act was successful on several levels. Numerous probation officers, supervisors, support staff, and aides were hired to provide more effective supervision. With a stronger emphasis on probation, California was able to shut down at least one secure institution. From 1965 to 1969, the percentage of convicted individuals sent to state prison dropped from 23.3% to 9.8%, and overall the program led to the diversion of more than 45,000 offenders from state institutions to community probation and rehabilitation-based programs. Philosophically, it established the practice of cost sharing between the state and counties. [3] Despite its successes, the program became gradually more expensive due to the rising number of offenders entering the system, most of which were arrested for drug-related crimes. Furthermore, programs and services for offenders supplementary to probation were never implemented at the county level. In 1978 the Probation Subsidy Act was discontinued and a new program that provided grant funding to individual counties superseded it. [4] 

California Realignment

In the 1980s the philosophy of the CYA shifted from treatment to incarceration as crime rates escalated nationwide. During this period the population of juveniles in CYA custody grew massively, surpassing the 10,000 mark in 1996. This drastic increase led to overcrowding and created deplorable conditions in CYA facilities, which resulted in violent conditions including several deaths and youth being forced into 23 hour a day lockdown. [5] It was the cost rather than the conditions of incarceration that compelled the state to make a change.

The state of California shouldered the majority of the financial burden for youth placed in a CYA facility. Until 1996, counties were only required to pay $25 per month to hold one juvenile in CYA custody. [6] To address the rising costs to the state for CYA placements and the lack of financial responsibility at the county level, the California legislature introduced a requirement for counties to contribute to the cost of youth placement on a sliding scale. The new system was based on financial disincentives: counties sending violent or serious offenders would pay a small flat fee while counties sending low-level offenders would be responsible for up to 100% of the costs of commitment for juveniles who commit minor offenses such as drug possession or parole violation. [7] 

The disincentive system sparked a massive reduction in CYA commitments every year since 1996, falling to a low of 1,499 youth incarcerated in 2009. [8] Despite this significant decrease, the cost of sending a juvenile to CYA (which became the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2005) facilities skyrocketed to $225,000 per year in 2007. [9] The enormous cost was due in large part to state regulations that made it difficult to reduce a large CYA staff that was not necessary to oversee a dwindling youth population.

In response to the rising costs of institutional placement and a three-year recidivism rate around 70% for youth released from state facilities, [10] the California legislature passed Senate Bill 81, which realigned juvenile justice responsibilities from the state to the county level. The purpose of the Bill was to shift state funding from CYA placement to local programming and services for all but the most violent juvenile offenders and ensure that non-violent youth would no longer be sent away to state facilities.

Senate Bill 81 did not come without problems. After its implementation, probation departments had little time to prepare for the influx of new caseloads. Existing programs had to be adjusted to suit the needs of a new class of juveniles sentenced to county probation, and departments, probation officers, and resources have been greatly strained during this transition. Also, because placement depends only on the current offense to the exclusion of prior offenses, juveniles with a violent criminal history could be detained in counties if their current offense was of a non-violent nature. [11] Most importantly for the future outcomes of Senate Bill 81, no state entity has been assigned responsibility for overseeing county responses to SB 81, and counties are not required to report how state money is being spent and whether outcomes are being fulfilled. [12] 

RECLAIM Ohio

Ohio adopted realignment strategies specifically for juvenile offenders in 1993 in response to preexisting punitive policies that led to an unrestricted number of juveniles being sent to overcrowded state institutions. RECLAIM Ohio (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors) is a state funding initiative that shifts financial responsibility for juvenile incarceration to counties and empowers local communities to either treat juvenile offenders locally or send them to state institutions. [13] There was an incentive to keep juveniles close to home: from the start of RECLAIM through 2003, counties were responsible for 75% of the daily rate for an institutional bed in a state facility and only 50% of the daily rate for a community corrections bed. [14] 

Before the initiation of RECLAIM Ohio, juvenile facilities were vastly overcrowded. According to the administrator of the Department of Youth Services (DYS), in 1992 juvenile facilities were at nearly twice their capacity, which contributed to incidents of maltreatment and negative publicity in the media. [15] An investigation into state facilities led to the development of RECLAIM, which has shown promise in reducing juvenile commitment rates and fostering community based programs for at-risk youth since it was adopted statewide in 1995.

RECLAIM Ohio has alleviated the state juvenile justice system in terms of placement numbers and total costs. The number of juveniles committed to Department of Youth Services (DYS) institutions has decreased every year since the program's inception. Concerning the cost effectiveness of RECLAIM programs, a study of the taxpayer costs of RECLAIM found that when all the costs associated with arresting, adjudicating, and processing a juvenile offender are taken into account along with the indirect costs of victims and recidivism, RECLAIM is the most cost efficient placement for all but those who are at very high risk for recidivism. When the costs of recidivism are not factored in, it costs taxpayers $85,390 to process 10 youth in RECLAIM programs, $365,710 to process 10 youth in community correctional facilities (CCF), and $571,940 to process 10 youth in DYS facilities. [16] Studies comparing the recidivism rates of youth in RECLAIM, CCF, and DYS have shown that DYS placement actually has a detrimental impact on low-risk youth in regards to their risk for recidivism but little to no effect on higher-risk youth, who may be better served by placement in a DYS facility. [17] 

The greatest benefit of RECLAIM is that it appeals to both sides of the political spectrum. The program provides judges with considerable discretion in determining how juveniles should be handled. On the liberal side, it advocates rehabilitation and treatment services to meet the needs of adjudicated youth. In support of the conservative philosophy, judges still retain the authority to incarcerate serious and violent juvenile offenders at no charge to the county. [18] RECLAIM transcends political bias in implementing the most effective and cost-efficient services for juvenile delinquents.

Redeploy Illinois

Illinois launched a realignment program in 2004 to address the harmful effects of incarceration on youth. Modeled after RECLAIM, Redeploy Illinois began as a pilot program in four counties with the intent of reducing youth incarceration in state facilities. Prior to Redeploy the state paid for juvenile institutional commitments, the costs of which reached over $70,000 annually for each offender. Between 2000 and the start of Redeploy, Illinois spent over $100 million incarcerating approximately 1,800 juvenile offenders each year. During this time period, almost half of the juveniles sent to state facilities were convicted of property offenses and nearly one-third was sent for a short-term court evaluation. [19] 

Since its implementation, Redeploy reallocates state funds to participating counties to provide treatment and intervention programs to at-risk youth (excluding murderers and Class X forcible felons). In its first year of existence, $2 million was budgeted to reimburse the Redeploy pilot sites for funds spent on the management of adjudicated youth at the county level. The Redeploy program costs individual sites no more than $6,000 annually for each youth, but in order to be eligible to participate in this program and receive funding, counties are obligated to reduce juvenile commitments to state institutions by 25% in the first year. [20] 

Redeploy Illinois encourages county involvement in the providing of community-based services to juvenile offenders. Individual counties are free to devise and structure programming for juvenile offenders as long as it adheres to the goals of Redeploy: reducing reliance on correctional institutions, protecting communities, holding youth accountable, and providing youth with opportunities to succeed. [21] Each pilot county has incorporated some form of assessment to determine the treatment and programming that will best suit the needs of each juvenile. Counties use a wide variety of rehabilitative programming including but not limited to educational advocacy, employment services, home detention, aggression replacement training, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, family support services, and community restorative boards. [22] Redeploy also includes an evaluation component intended to assess the impact of the program and gather statistics and information on juveniles sent to state facilities.

Redeploy Illinois has shown significant success in its brief existence. In its first year, Redeploy saved over $2 million of state money from being spent on incarcerating youth, which does not include the long-term savings expected from decreased recidivism. [23] Within three years, Redeploy sites reduced commitments to state institutions by 51% and led to nearly $19 million in cost avoidance (action taken to prevent future costs) to the state compared to costs of less than $5 million in Redeploy program expenditures. [24] Most importantly, Redeploy has given juvenile offenders an opportunity to avoid incarceration and work towards a productive and successful lifestyle. Currently, 23 Illinois counties utilize Redeploy strategies.

Wisconsin Youth Aids

Wisconsin was the first state to hold counties financially responsible for juvenile placements in secure facilities and offer financial support for counties to fund local services for juvenile delinquents. Under the previous system the state paid for juvenile placement in secure facilities and counties were responsible for funding services for delinquent youth. Acknowledging the financial incentives for counties to send juveniles to state facilities rather than supervising and treating them locally, in 1981 the Department of Juvenile Corrections (DJC) launched the Youth Aids program. The mission of the program was to decentralize financial management of the juvenile justice system through the distribution of funds to each county. The formula for dispersing funds incorporates three factors: each county's total youth population, its total number of juvenile arrests, and the number of secure placements from each county. The state then bills individual counties for the cost of each juvenile placed in a state facility, and remaining funds are to be used for local rehabilitative programming for youth. [25] In 1997, the Youth Aids program contributed 45.4% of the $181.4 million cost to counties for services directed towards juvenile delinquents. For their share, counties used revenue from property taxes and grants to supplement the Youth Aids funds. [26] 

Judges have the discretion to sentence adjudicated juveniles to either in-home or out-of-home dispositions based on information about the juvenile's offense and background. In-home arrangements may consist of supervision that is minimal (i.e. weekly check-ins) to strict (i.e. electronic monitoring) in addition to possible requirements to attend one or more of the following programs: individual and/or family counseling, vocational training, payment of restitution to victims, or victim-offender mediation. Out-of-home placements are reserved for juveniles who have committed serious or repeat offenses or those with damaging home environments. These arrangements can vary in level of restrictiveness from minimal (i.e. foster homes, group homes) to severe (i.e. institutions, secure facilities). [27] 

The Youth Aids program has experienced significant funding issues over its 30-year existence. Freezes in county allocations have made it difficult for counties to address the perpetually rising costs of youth incarceration and county delinquency services programs. Also, counties gradually have been forced to use more of their own funds to pay for juvenile delinquency services. These concerns have compelled counties to struggle to find outside revenue to fund community services and DJC placement. Despite this ongoing problem, Youth Aids was able to reduce the amount of juveniles in secure placement by 23% over a six-year span, and in Milwaukee County commitments fell nearly 75% between 1995 and 2005. [28] 

Wayne County, Michigan

The juvenile division in Wayne County was in horrible shape at the turn of the century. Facilities were over capacity, youth were being removed from their communities and in some cases sent to facilities out of state, 67% of incarcerated youth were returned to the system within six months of release, and the overt philosophy was to "lock 'em up and send them away." [29] A structural and philosophical change was necessary in the Wayne County juvenile justice system. No longer to be considered diseases that needed to be removed from society, the county employed treatment programs that recognized juvenile delinquents as individuals in need of support. Additionally, the county resolved to cut its youth detention population in half, provide options to enable adjudicated youth to remain in their communities, and reduce juvenile justice budgetary expenditures.

Wayne County was able to achieve these missions through the establishment of the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) and five Care Management Organization (CMO) agencies, which are overseen by the Wayne County Department of Children and Family Services. These agencies, which consist of collaborations between mental health, substance abuse, and conventional juvenile justice agencies, create and manage individual treatment plans for each adjudicated youth. The JAC, which is the entry point for all juveniles entering the system, is accountable for evaluating the health and safety of each juvenile every six months and for authorizing changes in a juvenile's level of care when necessary. The JAC also gives feedback to families on the progress of youth. CMOs have complete responsibility for devising individualized interventions that meet the needs of each juvenile under CMO care. To this end, CMOs have the authority and financial capacity to access and pay for specific services for juveniles. CMOs also conduct continual observations and assessments of youth treatment progress. [30] Each juvenile in the program is assigned to a CMO case manager who establishes a temporary bond with each juvenile and works directly the juvenile's family, educating them about the system and teaching them how to be credible parents. Case managers, who oversee no more than 20 juveniles, are available around the clock to deal with personal problems and family emergencies. [31] 

Wayne County and Michigan have completely modified the way the new juvenile justice program is funded. Under the new system private contractors manage the funding for juvenile justice services, which allows for more immediate adjustments in expenditures as programs change and new ones emerge and develop. Also, the state now matches what Wayne County spends on juvenile justice services, which is the opposite of the old method and provides the county with control over its expenditures and much needed budgetary flexibility. Wayne County's new system of juvenile justice has had a substantial impact on reducing the number of incarcerated juveniles and alleviating the county budget. In 1998, there were 731 juveniles in secure facilities and in 2010 this number dropped to two. Also, spending on juvenile placements has been reduced by over $50 million per year. [32] Most importantly for Wayne County, the new system has drastically improved the success rate of all juveniles who enter the program.

Realign New York

The New York Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), inundated with financial waste, poor conditions in facilities, and high recidivism rates, is in need of significant reforms. Currently, over half of the 23 juvenile state facilities in New York have empty beds, some housing as few as one or two residents. One facility is completely empty but its large staff remains funded to act as if it is in operation. [33] The source of this problem lies in union stipulations that require one-year notifications prior to closing these facilities. This keeps facilities fully staffed and salaried and places continual strains on local and state budgets. Shutting these facilities down would provide significant savings that could be redirected to local alternative treatment programs, which would cost $18,000 per year compared to $270,000 per year for state facility placement. [34] 

A more crucial concern than the cost to local and state governments is the fact that youth in state facilities are removed from their communities, separated from their families, and given minimal treatment and rehabilitative support. State secure facilities are typically hundreds of miles from the homes of youth, which makes it difficult for family members to visit. Closing these facilities would provide funds that communities could reinvest into local programs and supervision for adjudicated youth.

Juvenile justice systems have an obligation to attempt to rehabilitate at-risk youth, and the New York DJJ has done a poor job of this. While juvenile recidivism rates in New York City have soared over 75% in recent years, [35] this is the wrong statistic to focus on. Recidivism rates may not indicate a failure on the part of facilities. This is to be expected because secure facilities are where the most serious offenders are sent. Therefore, we would anticipate the recidivism rate of juveniles from secure facilities to be higher than juveniles placed in community corrections facilities or programs for low-level offenders. Instead of focusing on recidivism, we should be more concerned with success rates such as educational performance, school attendance, work status, the achievement of life goals, and future prospects for success.

The future of juvenile justice lies in realignment initiatives that transfer responsibility for treating youth from the state to local counties. States are accountable for ensuring that juveniles have every opportunity to succeed in life, and local jurisdictions are in the best position to allocate resources, implement programming for youth, and ensure that program objectives are being met. Given the remarkable successes of juvenile realignment programs in other states, New York must cease spending money on empty and hardly-used state facilities that do nothing to rehabilitate youth and instead fund programs that give hope to youth, their families, and their communities.

Figure 1 - A brief history of juvenile justice and realignment

Year

Milestone

1825

House of Refuge started - first facility to provide reformation for juvenile delinquents

1899

First Juvenile Court appears - Cook County, Illinois

1925

Probation becomes available for juveniles in all 48 states

1941

California Youth Authority begins - first to focus on juvenile rehabilitation

1965

California Probation Subsidy Program lays the roots of realignment

1966

Kent v. United States - provided juveniles with due process rights

1980

Wisconsin launches Youth Aids, which requires counties to pay for juvenile incarceration

1993

RECLAIM Ohio begins

1996

California disincentive program attempts to keep delinquent youth close to home

2000

Wayne County initiates its own juvenile justice realignment program

2004

Redeploy Illinois begins in four pilot counties

2007

California Senate Bill 81 realigns juvenile justice responsibility from state to counties

Figure 2 - California Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ - formerly the California Youth Authority) institutional population, 1994-2010

Sources: Krisberg, B., Vuong, L., Hartney, C. & Marchionna, S. (2010). A new era in California juvenile justice. Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency. [1994-1996]

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (2011). DJJ Research and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Juvenile_Justice/Research_and_Statistics/index.html [2000-2010]

Figure 3 - Youth adjudicated for felony offenses compared with felony adjudicated youth committed to DYS facilities, Ohio (FY2000 - FY2009)

Source: Department of Youth Services, RECLAIM Ohio Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.dys.ohio.gov/dnn/Community/ReclaimOhio/RECLAIMOhioStatistics/tabid/144/Default.aspx

Figure 4 - Recidivism rates in Ohio, comparing releases from RECLAIM Ohio programs, community corrections facilities, and Department of Youth Services facilities (FY 2002)

Source: Department of Youth Services, RECLAIM Ohio Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.dys.ohio.gov/dnn/Community/ReclaimOhio/RECLAIMOhioStatistics/tabid/144/Default.aspx

Figure 5 - Number of New Admissions to Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Statewide (FY2001 - FY2008)

Source: Redeploy Illinois Annual Report: Implementation and impact (November, 2008). Retrieved from www.jjustice.org/pdf/Redeploy%20Legislative%20Report%2011%2008.pdf

Figure 6 - Wisconsin Youth Aids: List of County Programs and Services Utilized

Alternatives to Aggression

AODA Services

At-Risk Management Program

Boys and Girls Club

Bullying Program

Child and Family Aides

Child and Family Social Workers

Child At-Risk Education

Community Adolescent Program

Community Impact Program

Community Service Program

Community/Truancy Tracking

Competency Building Program

Comprehensive Outpatient Assessment

Corrective Thinking Group

Crisis/Emergency Mediation

Deferred Prosecution Monitoring

Delinquent Social Workers

Drug Screens

Education Incentive Program

Electronic Monitoring

Family Aides Contracting

Family Partnership Initiative Program

Family Training Program

First Time Juvenile Offenders Focus

First Time Offenders Program

Home Detention Program

In-Home Family Services

In-Home Family Therapy

In-Home Services

In-Home Team Services

In-Home Therapy

Institutional Prevention Initiative

Intensive Aftercare

Intensive Community Services Program

Intensive In-Home Counseling

Intensive In-Home Treatment

Intensive Intervention Program

Intensive Supervision Program

Intensive Treatment Program

Juvenile Court Intake Services

Juvenile Justice Incentive Program

Juvenile Restorative Justice Programs

Juvenile Supervision

Mentoring Services

Monitoring Program

Neighborhood Intervention

On the Right Track Program

Operation Fresh Start

Outreach

Parent Aid Program

Parental Counseling

Reintegration

Report Center Services

Respite

Restitution Program

Social Workers

SOPORT (social services & welfare)

Specialized Supervision

Staff Position

Status Program

Summer Youth Program

Supervision and Support Services

Teen Court

Teen Groups

Think Ahead Program

Truancy Program

Victim/Offender Conferencing

Victim/Offender Mediation

Wrap-Around

Youth/Family Education Courses

Youth Skill Development

Source: Community Intervention Program Allocations. (2009). Wisconsin Department of Corrections: Juvenile Corrections. Retrieved from http://www.wi-doc.com/PDF_Files/CIP Allocations 2009

Figure 7 - Wayne County, MI: Juvenile Services Reform Outcomes

Measure

Baseline (through 1999)

Fiscal Year 2009

2-year Recidivism

38-56%

18.1%

Probation Completion

Unknown

73%

Placements in other States

200

0

Secure Detention Utilization

> 500/day

250/day

State Ward Caseload

~3,400

~1,800

Training School Use (ADP*)

731

18

% of Caseloads in Home-Based

<20%

~60%

High Secure length of stay

> 2 Years

11 months

Positive Diversion Completion**

N/A

82.6%

*Average Daily Population

**No new authorized petition or warrant for one-year after program termination

Source: Wayne County Children & Family Services (2010). Overview: Juvenile services reform. Juvenile Services Division: Wayne County, Michigan.

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