Recommendations by AL Juvenile Task Force could save state millions

Recommendations by AL Juvenile Task Force could save state millions

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Members of the Alabama Juvenile Justice Task force announcing plans to keep juveniles out of the justice system. Those recommendations were sent to Governor Kay Ivey.

Republican State Senator Cam Ward is a member of the task force and says the goal is to keep the younger generation from living a life of crime.

The task force conducted a thorough, months-long look into the state's juvenile justice system data.

They found that two-thirds of youth are in custody for non-felonies. Some of the task force's recommendations are setting up early intervention programs for addiction and other things. Another recommendation is creating programs that help youth deal with trauma and child abuse.

Senator Ward feels something needs to be done so that young people can grow up to be productive members of society.

"For a non-violent 14-year-old to be incarcerated in an adult-type setting it just doesn't work. Its proven to not work and we can do better at it to reduce juvenile crime in Alabama," Ward of District 14 said.

The 20-member Task Force included state leaders from both parties and all three branches of state government representing a wide range of groups, including legislators, judges, district attorney, sheriff, educators, and others.

The Task Force conducted months of data analysis, stakeholder outreach, and policy assessment before approving recommendations to:

Keep youth who commit lower-level offenses from unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system through early interventions and swift, consistent responses;

Protect public safety and more effectively allocate taxpayer dollars by focusing system resources on youth who pose the greatest risk to public safety; and

Improve public safety outcomes through increased system accountability and reinvestment into evidence-based programs in local communities.

"The Task Force worked diligently to fulfill our charge to find solutions that improve outcomes for our communities and for our youth," Chief Justice Stuart said. "Our recommendations will strengthen the juvenile justice system by increasing the range of effective community-based options available to judges and juvenile probation officers across the state while focusing judicial resources on the most serious threats to public safety."

Speaker McCutcheon said, "These data-driven recommendations provide an opportunity to align our system with effective practices and with the values we share as Alabamians. That means less crime, lower costs for taxpayers, and better outcomes for Alabama's youth and families."

The Task Force based its recommendations on the following key findings:

Youth who commit lower-level offenses make up the majority of the juvenile justice population, and two-thirds of youth in the custody of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) are committed for non-felonies;

Judges and probation officers lack access to evidence-based services to hold youth accountable and strengthen families in their own communities; and

Out-of-home beds cost taxpayers as much as $161,694 per youth per year despite research showing poor public-safety returns, especially for youth who commit lower-level offenses.

If the recommendations are adopted, Wards says it will save the state millions of dollars and hopefully reduce the chances of youth ending up back in the system.

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