By Zach Schalk
November 3, 2010 3:02 PM
Two years into the Obama administration has produced few if any successes for the interests of juvenile justice. As discussed previously on this blog the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) remains overdue for reauthorization, the Federal government is cutting programs for juvenile justice in the President’s proposed budget and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention still lacks a chief administrator. States facing profound budget woes of their own have also made cuts to the juvenile justice system—though in many cases closing unused state wide facilities in favor of community based alternatives have been a positive step both monetarily and policy wise.
While tax payer funded juvenile justice programs may be shrinking, private organizations have stepped up to fill the void. The Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force is one of these organizations striving to make a difference. The non-profit corporation offers family support services, an in-home diversionary treatment and alternative for youths facing out of home placement, mentoring for kids who have returned home from juvie and programs to bolster job training and business skills in young people. While its programs obviously lack the sheer resources available to the State, they have proven to be effective. A 2004 study found that less than 25 percent of the kids who participated in the Task Force’s mentoring program returned to lock up within three years, compared to over 60 percent of those who did not participate in the program.
A recent study from UCLA confirmed the obvious: more often than not, kids released from juvenile lock up return to neighborhoods with high levels of per-capita violence and poverty, coupled with low levels of education and poor access to health services. The study paints a clear picture of the trap our society has developed which leads individuals in and out of lockup from youth through adulthood. With governments facing a tough time ahead, it’s even more important that groups like the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force continue to promote the well being of the kids that have been stuck in our corrections system. In order to make up for losses in government services, it’s more important than ever that communities take responsibility for their own positive changes.