The New York Times Metro section took a look yesterday at the city’s Juvenile Justice Initiative, a promising alternative incarceration program that keeps medium-risk offenders at home and provides intensive therapy. “Until the Juvenile Justice Initiative, family court judges had few options for dealing with youngsters convicted of less-serious crimes,” the paper reports. “They could place them on probation and hope for the best, or send them to upstate residential centers. The decision would typically depend as much on the gravity of the crime as on the stability of the child’s family. Judges are more likely to send a child into state custody if the home situation is complicated or unsafe.”
In the program’s first year, the paper notes, “fewer than 35 percent of the 275 youths who have been through it have been rearrested or violated probation.” Costs, naturally, are lower than those associated with incarceration, as well. The program is off to a great start, an important piece in the comprehensive plan put forward by the state Office of Children and Family Services to shut down a batch of underused prisons upstate.