When it is untended—or over worked—it often grows into adult crime, and even doing nothing can sometimes work, as a major study from Los Angeles concluded some years ago, which we blogged on here.
This article from the Wall Street Journal focuses on the problems in New York, which, with a 90% recidivist rate among juvenile boys, is obviously doing something very wrong.
“What does $210,000 buy in New York State? These days, as two recent reports demonstrate, that's what it costs to lock up one child in a brutal juvenile justice system so dysfunctional that its reform-minded commissioner, Gladys Carrion, advises judges not to place children in her facilities.
“We could not do worse. But 10 years of research shows that we know how to do much better—incarcerate less, and use the latest research to treat delinquents in community-based programs.
“The Empire State runs one of the country's largest juvenile prison systems. At its height in 2005, it operated 31 facilities housing 2,500 children. Like many other states in the 1970s and '80s, New York responded to rising crime rates with a get-tough approach that included more punitive laws, more arrests, and more incarceration for both juveniles and adults. In an iconic moment in 1995, the state put razor wire fences around its juvenile facilities.
“This approach doesn't work: Almost every boy and girl (nine out of 10 boys and four out of five girls) who leaves state custody is rearrested before the age of 28 and, even within just three years, 75% are rearrested. And the costs are jaw-dropping. This year the operating budget for the juvenile facilities will top $220 million.”