Give Kids Reentering Community a Chance

By Zach Schalk
September 16, 2010 2:42 PM EDT

When a kid is sent to a juvenile corrections facility, he is likely to already have fallen behind in both school work and social development.  While spending time away from home in a corrections facility may be good for some kids, it can also serve to further alienate many juveniles and cause them to fall even more behind.  This is why education programs in the facilities themselves are so important and why good reentry services and programs are necessary to make sure that kids are able to succeed when they return home.

These key points were outlined in a fall of 2009 report from the Youth Reentry Task Force of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition.   The report highlighted the need to limit the amount of long-term stays in juvenile facilities as well as the importance of individualized pre-release planning and community based programs to the reintegration of youth returning home.  Ensuring that students are successfully re-enrolled in school—by encouraging coordination between corrections facilities and school districts—is also a point of emphasis. 

All of these suggestions would benefit our nation’s juvenile corrections system and the youth who populate it.  However, many of the proposals made by the report are tied to reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which as previously discussed on this blog remains caught in the logjam of congress.     

Giving the youth caught up in the juvenile corrections system the tools they need to stay out of trouble upon returning home would undoubtedly be a boon to our society.  While no natonal rate of juvenile recidivism exists due to differences in state systems and measurements, the 2008 rate of juvenile recidivism for Indiana was calculated at 35.9% by the Indiana Department of Correction.  It may be impossible to eliminate that number completely but even keeping half the kids from returning to a juvenile facility would be a great improvement—and would translate into a more successful corrections system and a healthier society. 

The Department of Justice recently announced $97 million worth of grants to national organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Boys and Girls Club of America “to strengthen, expand and implement youth mentoring activities and youth development programming throughout the nation.”  This is a small but positive investment that will undoubtedly benefit troubled youths across the country.  But more could and should be done to give kids that are already caught up in the juvenile system the tools they need back on track: an education that won’t let them fall further behind and watchful mentorship upon returning to the community.

Posted on September 16, 2010 and filed under The Issues.