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John Jay College Releases Report on Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice

September 6, New York, NY – The Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice today released a report titled Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment: Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice. The authors, Jeffrey Butts, the Center's Director, and Douglas Evans, a research consultant with the Center, ask some important questions about the trend toward less confinement: Do these reforms represent a permanent shift in policy and practice, or are they merely a temporary reaction to tight budgets and low rates of violent crime? Will policymakers maintain the reforms if and when crime rises and budgets rebound?

The number of juvenile offenders being held in secure correctional institutions has been falling nationwide. Advocates in the juvenile justice field welcome this reform because reductions in the use of secure confinement allow state and local jurisdictions to intervene with young offenders in their own homes and communities, which is less costly and can be more effective than incarceration in reducing recidivism and preventing crime.

The researchers reviewed the most prominent juvenile correctional reform models from the past 40 years, and they conclude that some models of reform are likely to be more sustainable than others. Specifically, they recommend the "realignment" approach now being implemented in California and the realignment reforms established in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan since 2000. New York State is also considering a realignment model as recommended in 2010 by the Governor's Task Force on Juvenile Justice, chaired by President Jeremy Travis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Some of the reform models described in the report are well known to juvenile justice audiences, including RECLAIM Ohio and Redeploy Illinois. They created financial incentives for state and local officials to maintain an effective balance in their juvenile justice system so that secure confinement is used only for the most serious cases and does not consume a disproportionate share of budgets. Butts and Evans caution that the financial incentive approach to reform could be more easily reversed.

The report categorizes the various reform models into one of three types:

1. Resolution Models: Reforms are accomplished and maintained with managerial action and state leadership. Examples: Massachusetts, Missouri, and Utah.

2. Reinvestment Models: Reforms are accomplished and maintained using financial incentives to reduce the demand of local jurisdictions for state-operated confinement institutions. Examples: Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

3. Realignment Models: Reforms are achieved and sustained by reorganizing juvenile justice systems, reducing or eliminating state-level confinement and replacing it with local services and placement. Examples: California and Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan.

The study examines the effects of the reform models on trends in the utilization of juvenile corrections and their association with rates of serious crime. The authors acknowledge that any of the three models can be effective, but they recommend realignment as the approach most likely to be sustainable over time.

To review the full report, click here.

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Jeffrey A. Butts is director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Contact: jbutts@jjay.cuny.edu / 212.237.8486

Douglas N. Evans is a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University and a research consultant with the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

The Research and Evaluation Center (REC) is an applied research organization established in 1975 to provide members of the academic community of John Jay College with opportunities to respond to the research needs of justice practitioners in New York City, New York State, and the nation. The Center assists public and private agencies affiliated with the justice system by conducting research and evaluation studies of crime prevention strategies, the effectiveness of justice interventions on individual behavior, and efforts to improve the impact and efficiency of justice system operations.

Established in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York is an international leader in educating for justice. It offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu.