Youth Promise Act: Trying to Reform Juvenile Justice

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Jun 22, 2015 10:00:00 AM

5th time’s the charm with support from both sides of the aisle

You might think that after introducing a bill four times over the course of eight years, its sponsor would give up. Not so for Rep. Bobby Scott. The Democrat from Virginia has reintroduced the Youth Promise Act for the fifth time. After previously not reaching the House floor for a vote, the prospects for it being passed look good.Bobby_scott

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, bipartisanship, Youth Promise Act

Diverting Juvenile Offenders Can Reduce Michigan’s Prison Budget

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

May 20, 2015 4:00:00 PM

Michigan can reduce its $2-billion state prison budget partly by diverting juvenile offenders to treatment.

When Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder decided to present his ambitious plan for justice reform, he chose Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, which makes it a practice to hire former convicts, as his setting. He also chose to have representatives from the Livingston County juvenile court and a Multisystemic Therapy (MST) supervisor from Highfields, Inc. in attendance. Snyder’s staff learned of the court’s success implementing programs that help kids, programs that save money.


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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, success stories,

Youth Incarceration Costs Are Enough to Give you Sticker Shock

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Mar 2, 2015 9:30:00 AM

The Cost of Jailing Juveniles—Enough to Give You Sticker Shock 

The Justice Policy Institute recently issued a report spelling out the staggering costs of incarcerating juveniles. The institute, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to finding ways to improve the justice system and reducing the number of people imprisoned, gathered information from 46 states on what they spend on their juvenile correctional facilities. These states accounted for 93 percent of the U.S. population in 2013.sticker_shock

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, Cost of youth incarceration, juvenile prison costs

Texas Juvenile Justice Reform Reduces Juvenile Crime

Posted by Lori Moore, MST Services

Feb 26, 2015 1:00:00 PM

Texas Juvenile Crime Justice Reform Reduces Crime & Saves Money

In 2007, after abuses were reported in Texas’ juvenile facilities, the legislature put together a reform package. Part of its aim was to keep youthful offenders close to home in the hopes of reducing the size of the correctional system, the second largest in the United States. Money that would have been spend putting kids behind bars, building new jails and prisons, and all the ancillary costs of incarceration was to be funneled into community supervision.texas_blog

Over the course of the years since the reforms began, juvenile incarcerations plunged from 4,305 to 1,481, a 66-percent drop. At the same time, arrests fell by 33 percent from 136,206 in 2007 to 91,873 in 2012. So, it would not appear that locking up fewer adolescents was a threat to public safety.

By closing eight juvenile correctional facilities, the state shaved its appropriations from $486 million to $290 million from 2006-2007 to 2014-2015. The savings went to local probation departments that find community supervision, services and treatment for the offenders.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, Texas

Juvenile Sentencing Reform Picking Up Public Support

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Feb 18, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Pew Poll Finds Voters  Support Juvenile Sentencing Reform For Those Who Commit Lesser Crimes

In the 1990s, the country and its lawmakers took a “get tough on juvenile offenders” stance. Keep the community safe by getting delinquents off the street and locking them up was the attitude. 

Judging by a 2014 Pew Charitable Trusts poll, the times, they have a-changed.


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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, bipartisanship

For Adolescent Offenders, There's No Place Like Home

Posted by Patrick Duffy, MST Services

Feb 4, 2015 4:00:00 PM

The top 6 Reasons MST eschews out-of-home placement  

Juvenile crime is, unfortunately, a common topic in today’s news and leaves parents, police and communities struggling in their search for answers. Also unfortunate is the call by some people for “more of the same”—incarceration, residential facilities or other cocktails of the commonly used approaches that have failed to curb the problem.


Our juvenile justice system is like a bicycle stuck in one gear, and that gear is incarceration. But it just doesn't make good sense to keep building prisons and sticking youth in them for non-violent offenses. The body of evidence on successfully rehabilitating juvenile offenders emphasizes keeping adolescents with their families and in their schools. Worse still, locking kids up doesn’t make our communities safer.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, Cost of youth incarceration, Out of home placement

Quick Action Juvenile Justice Reforms In South Dakota

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Jan 28, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Update: South Dakota Moves Quickly on Juvenile Justice Reform 

Often the wheels of government turn very slowly. From the inception of an idea to passage can take years of wrangling, modifications and more wrangling before it reaches consideration in the legislature.

Such was not the case in South Dakota. Having had success with an overhaul of its adult justice system, Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Chief Justice David Gilbertson were intent on improving the juvenile system. After all, it was costing $140,000 a year for each youth commitment. Annual tuition at the University of South Dakota is only $13,904. And the returns on the commitment investment were not good. Forty percent of the adolescents were back with the Department of Corrections (DOC) three years after they were released.south_dakota_legislatures

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, juvenile justice, Cost of youth incarceration

The issue that has Newt Gingrich and Van Jones walking arm in arm

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Jan 20, 2015 2:34:00 PM

In this era of extreme political contentiousness in the United States, it seems as if the conservatives are the conservatives, the liberals, the liberals and never the twain shall meet.

Except . . . there is one issue on which the two adversaries—or at least some of them—can agree. Criminal-justice reform.newt

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, juvenile justice, bipartisanship

“Burning Down the House” A chat with juvenile justice reform advocate Nell Bernstein

Posted by Dr. Gregorio Melendez

Jan 14, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Nell Bernstein is a passionate advocate for juvenile-justice reform, author of the widely praised “Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison” and journalist who was honored with a White House “Champion of Change.” Recently, she talked with MST about a number of topics, including the reaction to the book, the role of race in the juvenile-justice system and how MST and other evidenced-based programs can be part of a comprehensive solution that addresses and changes the behaviors of juvenile offenders.


Bernstein writes in an easy-to-read style that blends facts with first-person accounts that reveal the often brutal and deadly world behind bars. The stories that can be difficult to digest at times and beggar belief at others. It is, in short, a compelling argument in favor of completely rebuilding the juvenile-prison system. When I asked Bernstein if this argument was the purpose behind writing the book, she said she did not embark on the project with the preconceived notion that incarceration was inherently wrong and that “if I had seen something other than a completely counterproductive and destructive institution, then that is what I would have wrote.” But she added that she “had written about criminal justice for years and years, seen kids destroyed by it.”   

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, disproportionate minority contact, juvenile justice

South Dakota Recognizes Flaws in Juvenile Justice System: Sees EBPs as the Answer

Posted by Lori Cohen, MST Services

Dec 10, 2014 2:00:00 PM

The statistics told the story. When South Dakota government leaders read them, they knew there was a big problem. Here the state was ranking 46th in population, yet holding the dubious honor of having the second-highest commitment rate in the United States—385 per 100,000 youth. 


Was this high rate because more juveniles were being arrested for violent crimes than in other states? No, the state’s arrest rate was one‐third the national average in 2011. Locking up all these kids was a very expensive proposition. The state put the figure at 41,000 to $144,000 annually for each commitment. On top of that, after being released, 45 percent of the youth were back in confinement within three years.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform,, South Dakota,

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