Former Incarcerated Youth Credits Community-Based Program for Successful Rehabilitation
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 8, 2015
The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss the juvenile justice system and federal, state, and local efforts to better serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders. Members learned from policy experts and those who have been directly involved in the juvenile justice system about effective strategies to prevent crime and set vulnerable children on the pathway to success.
“Keeping our communities safe and supporting at-risk youth requires more than an adjudication system and a detention facility,” Chairman Kline said. “It requires education, rehabilitation, and family participation—a joint effort by parents, teachers, community members, and civic leaders to prevent criminal behavior and support children who have engaged in illegal activity.”
Chairman Kline’s sentiments were reflected in Sloane Baxter’s testimony. As a previously incarcerated youth, Mr. Baxter shared with the committee his successful journey through the juvenile justice system. “I didn’t learn anything positive locked up at [the youth prison], but at Boys Town [a community-based, therapeutic residential program], I learned all kinds of skills that I still use today with my family and on my job,” he said. “I haven’t been rearrested, and I won’t be.”
Speaking from 26 years of experience serving at-risk youth, chief clinical officer for the home-based service provider Youth Villages, Dr. Tim Goldsmith, described how “many of these youths’ trajectories can be positively changed with intensive, family-focused, cost-effective, in-home services that allow the youth to safely remain in their communities with their families.”
“Research also suggests that confinement, as compared to community-based services, can lead to higher incarceration rates later in life and higher likelihood of dropping out of high school,” Dr. Goldsmith continued, noting, “Twelve months after discharge from our in-home programs, 75 percent of youth with prior legal involvement have not had any further involvement with the law.”
Derek Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, reaffirmed reforms that “prioritized community-based treatment alternatives to costly incarceration” appear to be making a difference in Texas. The number of imprisoned youth, he went on, decreased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2013 and resulted in “state expenditures on juvenile justice being the lowest it has been since before FY 2001.”
“I easily could have become a statistic,” Mr. Baxter said. “Instead, I’m a tax paying, contributing member of society. There is that same possibility in every other young person as long as you, me, all of us are willing to not give up on them before they even really get to start.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.republicans-edlabor.house.gov/hearings.
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