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From our national partner Voices for America’s Children:

Originally Posted by Joanna Shoffner Scott on May. 12

You can make a more dramatic impact on a person’s life the younger you reach out to them. We believe that in a lot of issues, like education and health. But crime prevention might be the best example of the idea of “get ’em young.”

Youth who have been previously tried as adults are, on average, 34 percent more likely to commit crimes than youth put in the juvenile justice system. This and a body of other research shows that making an effort to get troubled children onto a better path pays off, preventing adult crime and reducing juvenile recidivism.

Click here to support juvenile justice reform with a message to your member of Congress.

I received this in my in-box earlier this week and want to share it with those of you interested in or working on the issues of racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice.  The Burns Institute out of San Francisco, just released the first-ever “Juvenile Justice Racial and Ethnic Disparities Data Map” which can be accessed at their website.  With a few clicks on the map, anyone can view the following information, where available, in any of the 50 states:

·   One-Day Count Incarceration Data: Publicly available counts and rates of youth in juvenile residential placement facilities on any given day by State, collected every two years from 1997-2006. The Burns Institute has displayed the information by the race/ethnicity of the juveniles.

·   Annual Juvenile Justice System Data by Decision-Making Point: The rate of involvement of youth in the juvenile justice system by decision-making point (arrest, court referral, secure detention, transfer, etc), where available, at the State and County levels.

·   Other Information Including: 1) Each State’s Three Year Plan for reducing disproportionate minority contact (DMC); 2) Contact information for each State’s Juvenile Justice Specialist and State DMC Coordinator; 3) States’ statutory guidelines for detention and age of juvenile jurisdiction; 4) Information about each State Advisory Group (SAG).

I hope you find this information as interesting as I did and valuable in your work.

Julia Neighbors, Project Manager

JUSTGeorgia

www.justgeorgia.org

When I get the opportunity to talk to communities about the need for juvenile code reform and juvenile justices issues generally, the “point system” invariably comes up.  People often express frustration about its outcomes and confusion about why and how it should be used.  What’s known as the “point system” is actually a detention assessment instrument (DAI), a tool used to evaluate each arrested youth to determine the need for secure, locked confinement.

 Currently in Georgia, the DAI is used as a matter of policy and practice, not law.  Judge Teske of Clayton County Juvenile Court advocates using a DAI and writes in this Tuesday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution that he uses it because it is an “objective instrument that removes racial, ethnic and socioeconomic biases” and that “the proper use of the DAI provides that delicate balance between community safety and youth rehabilitation.”

I agree with his reasons for using the DAI.  Kids are detained to protect public safety. However only those who are a risk to public safety need to be detained. A DAI creates uniform, objective, and consistent criteria to determine which kids are a threat to public safety.  This is particularly important now, given that the Department of Juvenile Justice has fewer beds this year than last year.  Shouldn’t the kids that pose the greatest threat to public safety get these beds?

Isn’t it time Georgia looks for alternatives to how we treat our troubled youth?

Georgia currently spends about $200,000,000 locking up kids, most of whom have not committed violent offenses.  What results would we see if we tried out the Missouri model and used some of that money for programs located within local communities that actually provides counseling and rehabilitation

As the Project Manager of JUSTGeorgia, I hope to serve as a resource for you, sharing timely and important information about what’s going on in the juvenile justice and child welfare fields in Georgia and on the national front while at the same time, building a coalition of advocates committed to justice and safety for our children.

To that end, I read an editorial in last week’s New York Times titled “Juvenile Injustice” calling for a new way of delivering justice for kids, citing the Missouri model which calls for smaller regional facilities that focus on rehabilitation and keeping kids closer to home so parents and the community are involved in their rehabilitation.  The Missouri Model has received a lot of attention as a promising model of juvenile justice reform by reducing the costs of confinement and decreasing recidivism rates.  What do you think would be successful?  Let us know.

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