A Dallas County detention bed costs $54,955 a year to operate. Nationally, two-thirds of youths in detention are held on allegations of non-violent offenses. Additionally, after controlling for offense severity and other factors, detained youths are three times more likely to enter costly long-term residential placement. Evidence suggests that, by mixing low-risk youths with more deviant peers and disrupting family life and schooling, detention actually increases re-offending. Moreover, detention does not help the victim obtain restitution.Dallas and Harris counties implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 2007. Since then, Dallas has reduced its detention population by 48 beds, resulting in annual savings of $1 million. Similarly, Harris County closed a detention center and reduced detention costs 25 percent. Some 95 percent of Houston youths diverted from detention show up for their court date.While JDAI sites receive support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Dallas probation director Mike Griffiths believes other Texas counties can use similar strategies to downsize detention and achieve net savings.A key element of JDAI is use of a risk assessment instrument—an inventory of factors proven to more accurately predict whether youths will miss their court hearing or re-offend than a purely subjective determination. Factors may include the most serious alleged offense, number of charges, prior adjudications, and any prior instances of failing to appear. The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission should provide a statewide detention screening instrument for the vast majority of probation departments that don’t have one.Another component of JDAI is alternatives to detention. Among those used in Dallas is a day reporting center, in-home probation officer visits, GPS monitoring, and home detention.Only 4.5 percent of Dallas youths in an alternative program have re-offended prior to adjudication, compared to 10 percent of youths not in a program. At the four original national JDAI sites, juvenile arrests fell between 37 and 54 percent following implementation.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Texas counties can unlock kids and savings
The headline of this post is the title of a new policy brief (pdf) from Marc Levin at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Here's a notable excerpt:
Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at 11:31 AM