Recent successful juvenile justice and juvenile detention reforms have resulted in better and more meaningful public policy on the use of custody facilities and have triggered significant reductions in juvenile detention and corrections populations. However, a secondary-and perhaps unintended-consequence has been a parallel reduction in the resources available to continue providing much needed training and technical assistance to facilities that still must confine the most troublesome youth. As history continues to show, juvenile detention and corrections remain the “forgotten” elements of the juvenile justice system. We now must add adult facilities that are responsible for the care and custody of youthful offenders to this list of isolated elements.
In addition to enlightened thinking, reforms have been motivated by the high costs and poor outcomes associated with the operations of youth facilities, especially those using an adult corrections model. Reform thinking includes policies and strategies based on improved screening instruments for purposes of diversion, community-based alternatives that emphasize the least intrusive placement of at-risk youth who require some form of limited supervision and care, and an expansion of community-based programs that meet the needs of at-risk youth. The “new normal” in juvenile justice now means that only those youth that pose the greatest threat to public safety should be in juvenile custody facilities. However, youth that remain in custody are not only the ones who present the greatest risk of violence, they are the youth with the most serious needs-those who require additional specialized resources and services. It is a constant challenge to remind this nation’s juvenile justice leaders and experts that a critical role for juvenile facilities is to address the needs of these youth.
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