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Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System Is a Model for Others

Oct. 8, 2017

People who are facing a first-time arrest usually aren't hardened criminals who deserve the proverbial book to be thrown at them. Instead, some of these people need to have someone redirect them back toward a productive life that isn't riddled with crime. This is true for young defendants, including those in the juvenile justice system.

The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to help rehabilitate the juvenile. This doesn't always happen. In fact, 91 percent of juveniles who are sentenced to detention won't have any form of rehabilitation while they are behind bars. For these juveniles, the system is actually failing them.

In 2014, Kentucky passed a law that saved taxpayers $24 million over the course of five years. This savings helped juveniles because it came from a reduction in the number of juveniles who were placed in detention facilities instead of being offered other services.

Instead of putting these youths into detention, the state used Functional Family Therapy, which has a cost of around $3,500 to $4,600 per youth per year, to help correct the underlying problems that were contributing to the criminal behavior. This program is said to cut crime by at least half of what occurs when youths are placed in groups with other juvenile offenders.

Any parent who has a child involved in the juvenile justice system should remember that the goal of the system is to help the juvenile. You do have to make sure that the child's rights are being respected so that you can take appropriate steps if they aren't. While the juvenile has to make decisions about the case, you have to be ready to participate in the process too.

Source: Lexington Herald Leader, "Reform federal law to give juveniles chances to improve their lives," Pat Melton, Oct. 06, 2017