|Editorial: Save money and cut crime by investing in community programs to reform youths|
|Wednesday, 16 May 2012 11:14|
By Benny Napoleon, David Leyton, Catherine Garcia-Lindstrom and Gerald Cliff for The Detroit Free-Press
How can we remain tough on crime without busting state and county budgets?
One clear option is to reform Michigan’s juvenile justice system and pass the In-Home Care incentive. The proposal currently before the state legislature offers the rare opportunity to redirect wayward youths toward productive lives, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars in the long-term.
This should be a no-brainer for our state policymakers.
Growing numbers of Michigan communities, lawmakers and law enforcement leaders are calling on the state to embrace a home-grown solution to youth crime that holds youth accountable in a home-like setting, where youth have to complete their treatment, job training and schooling. While some youths must be separated from society because of the nature of their offenses, the vast majority of youth involved in the state’s county-based juvenile justice system are far better served by treatment at-home, or in their home communities.
This is true by whatever measure you want to apply. For one thing, studies here and across the country consistently show that youngsters in community-based programs have far lower rates of additional criminal activity than if they are sent to residential juvenile facilities, often far from their home communities.
Moreover, it is far cheaper for taxpayers to put juvenile offenders who do not need to be incarcerated into community-based or in-home services.
That’s what the In-Home Care Incentive grant program currently under consideration in the Legislature would do: it would shift existing state funds to cash-strapped counties to provide more community-based services.
The program would provide incentives to allow counties to invest local taxpayers’ dollars on less expensive, more effective ways to treat, supervise, train, educate and hold youth accountable. Community-based programs are already far less expensive. It costs on average $189 per day to keep a juvenile incarcerated in Michigan, while costs for community based programming range from $10 a day for probation to $65 a day for more intensive intervention – the change will save the state and counties money.
Michigan lawmakers can apply lessons learned in neighboring Illinois and Ohio, which have reported lower costs and better public safety results from policies like these. We have also seen similar results in Michigan’s Berrien County, which transformed its juvenile justice system in 2001. The Berrien County Family Division trial court made far greater use of data-driven, research-based in-home services, including community-based and family-based services that monitor and work with juveniles to redirect them toward productive lives. The results are encouraging. While an average of 120 youths were removed from their homes and sent to residential settings in 2001, the number had dropped to 35 by 2010. And there was a huge drop in the number of youth rearrested in Berrien as a result of the shift in policy. Fully 82 percent of youths remained crime free in the year after they completed their court-ordered programs.
The savings witnessed by the Berrien County program were striking. The average cost of placing a youth in a residential facility was $87,000 a year. For in-home community-based monitoring and services, the annual cost is $5,100.
Lower costs and less youth crime have been found in other counties that have shifted away from placement in residential facilities toward the in-home community-based services, including Midland, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Ottawa, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
That is why Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan, an organization of more than 500 hundred sheriffs, prosecutors, other law enforcement professionals and the families of crime victims, have joined in arguing that getting tough on crime requires we be smart on crime as well.
The In-Home Care Incentive grant program has brought together leaders of both parties, across a broad spectrum of community and elected leaders. Saving kids and saving money is a win-win situation on which we can all agree.
Benny Napoleon is Wayne County Sheriff, David Leyton is Genesee County Prosecutor, Catherine Garcia-Lindstrom is Chief of Police of the city of Walker, Gerald Cliff is Saginaw Chief of Police.