This blog has previously addressed the fact that the statistics describing the state of the juvenile justice system in this country are alarming. About 53,000 juveniles are incarcerated on any given day in the United States. Many jurisdictions report recidivism rates exceeding 50% during a one to three year period. We have also learned that education is closely linked to criminal behavior. Incarcerated juveniles are 13% less likely to complete high school, and 22% more likely to be incarcerated as adults. At least one study estimates that 200,000 young offenders are tried sentenced, and/or incarcerated as adults each year, and juveniles in the adult system are between 34% and 77% more likely to be re-arrested.
We have also recognized that juvenile involvement with the criminal justice system stems, at least in part, from the fact that a young person’s brain is underdeveloped relative to that of an adult. A series of United States Supreme Court decisions delivered over the last few years found that this leads young offenders to make poor decisions that result in criminal conduct. It also prevents juveniles from fully appreciating the consequences of their conduct.
None of this is new. In fact, we have known about all of these facts and issues for some time. However, a new approach to dealing with juvenile crime, as well as kids who are at risk for becoming criminally involved, has already shown considerable promise. Continue reading