Georgia Has Over 50% Decline in Juvenile Out of Home Placement
The state of Georgia saw impressive declines in out-of-home placements of juvenile offenders during the first nine months of a statewide initiative that implemented evidence-based practices led by Gov. Nathan Deal. According to the “Report of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform 2015” released early this year, “Among the counties participating . . . felony commitments and placements . . . dropped more than 62% statewide over a nine-month period ending in October 2014, dramatically exceeding the 15% goal set when the grants were awarded.”
Since the passage of a bill in 2013 that called for a new juvenile-justice mandate “to preserve and strengthen family relationships in order to allow each child to live in safety and security,” the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) made $7 million available for counties to implement evidence-based interventions, including Multisystemic Therapy (MST), that met high standards of scientific testing.
Evidence-Based Associates (EBA), a national technical assistance and project management team, orchestrated the startup of programs in 10 grant-funded counties during the first year of the Georgia initiative. All these counties saw declines in placement rates—65.3 percent during the initial nine months. Non-EBA assisted counties only realized a 51-percent reduction.
Commitment Rates Plunge in Counties with MST and FFT
Community Solutions (CSI), a non-profit social-services organization that helps establish community-based programs for adults and youth, provided MST to four of the counties receiving grants during the first year. The counties that had Multisystemic Therapy saw significant declines in overall commitment rates—64.5 percent during year one. CSI also provided Family Functional Therapy (FFT) to three of the counties receiving grant funding. The counties with FFT services saw their commitment rates decline by 62.6 percent. Non-CSI counties realized a reduction of 53.5 percent during that first year.
Community-based, evidence-based programs cost far less than secure juvenile residential facilities, which in Georgia average $90,000 per youth per year, and are more effective. Youth released from Georgia’s secure commitments in 2010-12 had a recidivism rate of a disturbing 65 percent.
In 2013, the 20 Georgia counties with the highest number of commitments were awarded funds to implement high-quality, well-designed, evidence-based programs. Using 2012 data as a baseline, a first-year reduction target of 15 percent was established. Surprisingly, the participating counties attained an overall reduction of 62 percent during the first nine months.
Dan Edwards, Ph.D. is the president of Evidence Based Associates (EBA)