Missouri Offers a Model for Fixing Troubled Juvenile Prisons
USA Today recently reported on New York State’s troubled juvenile prisons, and on problems more generally with the juvenile justice system nationwide. The article notes that Missouri’s innovative juvenile justice system could offer a model for states hoping to implement less punitive, more rehabilitative programs for juvenile offenders:
Since 2000, the Justice Department has conducted at least 11 investigations into juvenile facilities in states including California, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland and Oklahoma. Its findings illustrate that the same problems persist: overreliance on physical restraint and insufficient mental health services.
Other states that have come under federal investigation, including Louisiana, have adopted practices pioneered in Missouri. There, the juvenile system converted to small facilities more like treatment centers than prisons, focused on counseling and stopped the use of restraints. Only 8.6% of youths released from custody are recommitted within three years, the Missouri Department of Youth Services says. In New York, the figure is 45%, the [New York juvenile justice] task force [appointed by Gov. David Paterson] says.
“In looking at the national picture, the old model is under serious change,” [head of New York task force Jeremy] Travis says. “You have places like New York saying, we want to follow (Missouri’s) lead and recognizing we’re very much stuck in an old corrective punitive model.”