Test shows value of alternative to jailing youths

Placing youths in community-based programs instead of detention facilities helps reduce recidivism, cuts court costs and improves other outcomes, a recent study shows.

Six juvenile courts in Michigan were awarded In-Home Care (IHC) grants totaling $635,000 to establish pilot community-based treatment programs during fiscal year 2015-16. The state funds, which supported programs in Marquette, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Benzie, Van Buren and Leelanau counties, served 350 youths who otherwise would have been placed in detention facilities.

The results: a reduction in recidivism, lower court costs, strengthened families and better education outcomes. And, of course, money saved by having fewer young people in detention facilities.

“These outcomes—which were consistent across each county—support our premise that community-based, in-home solutions for young people are an effective alternative to detention,” said Jason Smith, the study’s author and the director for youth justice policy for the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency. “It also makes the case that these grants should be extended and that the reach of this program should grow.”

The goal of the grants was to improve and expand sustainable, evidence-based treatment for youth and reduce confinement costs.

Approaches by the counties included implementing an anger management training program in Marquette, Grand Traverse, Benzie and Manistee counties; establishing a diversion program for girls in Leelanau County,  and offering multisystem therapy in Van Buren County.

“Thanks to the In-Home Care grant, we were able to implement an evidence-based program that targets a majority of our youth,” said Jennifer Weber, the therapeutic/program manager for the 13th Circuit Court’s family division in Grand Traverse County. “The ART program has been instrumental in providing our youth with valuable social and emotional skills that they can utilize in everyday life.”

ART stands for Aggression Replacement Training, an anger management program.

The MCCD is a nonprofit organization dedicated to youth justice reform, specifically a reduction in youth confinement through community-based and other alternative measures. For additional information, go to www.miccd.org.

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