Truth show.4.24.11


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  • Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you a few minutes today about how the juvenile justice system in Arkansas is changing to save more of our kids and to guide them toward productive lives. All of these kids are our kids and we all need to be involved to give them a chance at a better future.
  • Over 8000 kids in Arkansas got in serious enough trouble that they were involved with the juvenile justice system. It’s not a surprise that many of them came from families who were experiencing problems. It’s troubling that minorities are over represented in the juvenile justice system. Even though African Americans constitute only about 17% of the state’s population, they account for over half of the kids involved with DYS. Most of the kids committed to DYS were found guilty of non-violent offenses, including misdemeanors. A surprisingly high percentage of incarcerated youth suffer from mental disorders and addiction.
  • It is very expensive to incarcerate youth, almost $131,000 per year. These costs rise when youth have to be sent out of state for specialized care or services. This cost is even more troubling when studies reveal that secure confinement can actually make youth crime problems worse. The lack of community services in many parts of the state gives judges few options rather than committing a kid to state custody to get help. If we can find more productive ways to get kids on the right path, and we can, it will save the state significant amounts of money, not just in the juvenile justice system, but also in adult corrections. It is staggering that every high risk child who we re-direct to a more productive life could save the state almost $2 million over that youth’s lifetime.
  • Just the numbers do not tell the entire story. Let me tell you about one real case of a young woman in the juvenile justice system in Arkansas, used by permission. We’ve changed only the name of the young woman. Nina is a 19-year-old originally from Indiana, where she was a good student who earned A’s and B’s in her classes, participated in after-school activities, and loved to read and play in the park. Her life changed in 2005 when she was 13 years old and moved to Arkansas. Within her first week at junior high school, she was transferred to the local alternative school, for threatening and taking another girl’s pen for her cousin, whom she was intent on impressing. Before attending the alternative school, Nina had never been in trouble with the law. While there, she was arrested and jailed 19 times.It was a combination of social support services for her and her family, support from caring adults, and self-realizations about the impact of her troubles on other people that rescued Nina from further decline. Ultimately, the social support services became most effective when she was handed the power to design them; her support team asked her what she wanted, and what worked and didn’t. “It was the first time anyone asked me to be in charge of my own services.” Although her alternative school suspended her during her senior year, Nina went on to earn her GED within a year. She was also elected to be the President of a local chapter of a statewide organization devoted to improving services and supports for Arkansas’ children and youth. She is now applying to attend college in the fall to study computer science.
  • The first truth of youth is that good kids will make bad choices, and that could be any of our kids.
  • If you can recall your teenage years, you probably remember that young brains don’t work like ours. Kids are more impulsive, and don’t always think through the long-term consequences of their actions. Because they feel bullet-proof they don’t think twice before engaging in thrill-seeking or risky behaviors. They are also much more vulnerable to peer pressure.
  • The law has traditionally treated youth differently because we recognize that criminal activity may not be the result of poor character in youth. Youth may not have the same judgment, and also have much more capability to change than adult criminals. We recognize that their decision making is not fully formed by public policies regarding military service, legal drinking age, voting rights and jury service.
  • The second truth of youth is that while change is hard for a kid who has grown up in a family without strong role models, it is not impossible. The same factors of brain development and hormonal changes that leads kids to make bad choices actually makes them more capable of change than adults.
  • The really good news about juvenile crime is that kids can change, especially if they are provided help like mentoring from caring adults, help for substance abuse, family support, and educational support. Studies have found that the vast majority of kids will stop committing crimes on their own as they mature.
  • The last Truth of Youth I’d like to talk about today is that community-based programs work for kids, and for their communities.
  • With a shortage of community-based programs, judges in Arkansas often have few options besides committing a youth to the Division of Youth Services, even when the youth doesn’t threaten public safety. Eventually, kids committed to DYS return to their communities – often as more of a risk than when they left. Incarcerating kids expose them to more serious criminals, interrupts their educational progress, and removes them from families and counseling. One study found that a youth sent to a lock-up is 37 times more likely to be arrested as an adult. It would be much better to develop effective community services to support and respond to youth and their families to prevent trouble before it happens.
  • There are a range of programs that have been proven effective in preventing youth crime ranging from simple to structured. Most involve community members taking an interest in youth by offering after-school programs, mentoring, or internships to youth. Community programs also involve families, realizing that strong families produce strong kids.
  • Studies nationally and in Arkansas have uniformly and consistently shown the advantage of community based services that support youth and their families and help build on a youth’s interests and strengths. Some pilot programs in Arkansas have shown dramatic results. One re-entry program involving 175 youth found only 12 who committed another crime. Community-based programs in Arkansas have been 93% successful in preventing future arrests.
  • Community-based multi-systemic therapy which offers professional help to youth and their families on a continuous basis has a 75% success rate. Truancy courts have reduced truancy by 90%.
  • Community-based multi-systemic therapy which offers professional help to youth and their families on a continuous basis has a 75% success rate. Truancy courts have reduced truancy by 90%.
  • Let me share one more story. To protect the confidentiality of youth in the system, we’ve created a profile created from the actual stories of several youth committed to DYS containing details that are representative of many youth in the system.. Let me tell you about Eva. Eva, who is now 16, first got in trouble at age 13 when she and her 10-year-old sister were caught shoplifting clothes from Walmart. As one of eight children with a drug-addicted mother who was in and out of jail, Eva explained to the officer who arrested her that she had stolen the clothes because she had nothing to wear to school. When she got into a fight at school shortly after, she was placed on probation, with an ankle monitor to track her presence. Her grandfather later tried to molest her, so she cut off the ankle monitor and ran away. Eva was placed in the county detention center for violating the conditions of her probation and then committed to DYS and sent to the secure correctional facility at Alexander. The prison is too far away for her family to come visit her and Eva misses her younger sister, Paris, with whom she is very close. Despite her loneliness, Eva has been working hard. She came to DYS reading at a 3rd grade level and has been making a lot of progress in school. She also loves art and spends a lot of her time writing poetry.
  • I noted earlier how expensive it is to incarcerate kids. Other states who have taken a community-based and therapeutic approach to youth crime have seen significant savings, saving as much as $45 for every dollar invested in community programs. Florida saved $36 million and Texas saved over $100 million by strengthening community-based services.
  • All of us need to get involved – whether it be volunteering a few hours a week to mentor a youth or encouraging schools, churches and other groups to get involved with supporting youth in our community. Even though community-based programs save money over the long term, it takes some short-term investment to put community programs in place to give parents and judges more options for youth in trouble.
  • We’ve got to change our thinking from talking about “those kids” to realizing that they are all “our kids” and “our future.”
  • Truth show.4.24.11

    1. 1. A Vision to Serve Youth<br />
    2. 2. A few facts about the current system:<br />DYS served 8,249 Arkansas youth in 2009 through community-based providers. Of those, 636 were committed by a judge for residential treatment and confinement.<br />22% of youth committed to DYS in 2009 were found guilty of violent crimes; 36% of misdemeanor crimes.<br />86% of youth committed to DYS custody in 2010 were boys and 52% were African American. <br />
    3. 3. The costs of youth crime:<br />The total cost of confining a child in an Arkansas lockup is approximately $131,000 per year.<br />• Every high-risk child who is prevented from living a life of crime can save Arkansas tax-payers $1.7 million to $2.3 million.<br />
    4. 4. One face of juvenile justice<br />This is “Nina”<br />
    5. 5. Truth #1: Good kids will make bad choices<br />
    6. 6. Kids’ brains make them vulnerable to bad choices.<br />Brain systems that govern impulse control, planning, and thinking ahead don’t fully develop until mid-20s.<br />Youth are more vulnerable to thrill-seeking and peer pressure.<br />
    7. 7. The law treats youth differently.<br />According to the U.S. Supreme Court, youth are not as blameworthy as adults for their irresponsible behavior because their characters and capacity for judgment are not fully developed.<br />Adolescents aren’t eligible to serve in the military, sit on a jury, drink or vote because they are not fully responsible in their decision making.<br />
    8. 8. Truth #2: Change is hard but not impossible<br />
    9. 9. Youth can change.<br />As youth develop, their impulsivity, thrill-seeking behavior and vulnerability to peer pressure decline naturally.<br />• Studies have found that most youth stop committing crimes on their own as they mature.<br />
    10. 10. Truth #3: Community-based programs work for kids . . . and their communities!<br />
    11. 11. Locking youth up hurts them more than it helps. <br />Although locking up serious offenders is sometimes necessary, studies show that incarcerating most kids provides no benefit to the children or the community.<br />Incarceration is counterproductive for low-risk youth because interaction with other troubled youth reinforces past behaviors, worsens anti-social tendencies and allows them to acquire more delinquent skills.<br />
    12. 12. Examples of community-based programs and services:<br />After-school programs<br />Mentoring<br />Multi-systemic therapy offering intensive counseling to families on a 24/7 basis<br />Youth Advocacy Programs involving volunteers from the kids’ neighborhoods<br />Internships and supported work programs<br />Drug and alcohol treatment and support programs<br />Parent education programs<br />Community conferencing bringing offenders together with victims<br />
    13. 13. Community-based services work<br />One Arkansas community-based re-entry program has had outstanding results. Of 175 youth participating, only 12 have committed another crime.<br />Community-based programs in Arkansas have been 93% successful in preventing future arrests.<br />
    14. 14. More community-based results:<br />In one Arkansas community-based, multi-systemic therapy program, more than 75% of the youth who participated have been discharged from probation and now are engaged, contributing citizens.<br />
    15. 15. Local successes:<br />Insert your own local facts or case study.<br />• Additional information goes here.<br />
    16. 16. A juvenile case study<br />Meet “Eva”<br />
    17. 17. Questions about Eva<br />What could have been done to keep Eva from being committed to DYS custody?<br />What kind of community services and supports could help her and her family?<br />How does the story of Eva change your perceptions about the juvenile justice system?<br />
    18. 18. Community-based programs and services save money<br />In Florida, the state has saved taxpayers more than $36 million over 4 years by use of community-based treatment programs.<br />In Ohio, juvenile justice reform returned $45 for every $1 spent on community programs.<br />Texas saved $200 million by spending $100 million to strengthen community-based services.<br />
    19. 19. What can you do to help?<br />Volunteer to help mentor a youth or offer an internship or work experience for an adolescent.<br />Work with your local school, law enforcement or community or religious groups to develop after-school programs for youth, parent supports or other programs for youth and families.<br />Share information with your state and local government officials to educate them on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of community-based support and services for youth.<br />
    20. 20. They are our kids – and our future!<br />