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Real Costs and Benefits of Change: Finding Opportunities for Reform During Difficult Fiscal Times

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2010
22 pages
This paper guides juvenile justice reform advocates in reinforcing the value of progressive programming for juveniles, both in terms of dollars and substance.
The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) proposes two related core recommendations designed to prioritize cost-effective spending for juvenile justice reform. First, realign/reduce spending without sacrificing effective programs. In supporting this recommendation, the first section of this paper presents substantive strategies for realigning and/or reducing spending; examples are provided from several States that have been successful in this regard. This section also provides advocates with tactical strategies for achieving reform in a tight fiscal climate. The second recommendation is to use the current budget crisis as a means of leveraging deinstitutionalization. Reducing reliance on institutional placements while promoting facility closures can save money and encourage the development of effective community-based programming for youth. The second section of this paper describes the key research findings that support deinstitutionalization and the development of community-based alternatives. The research findings and arguments presented in this paper can assist reform advocates as they present their case to State legislatures and administrative offices. Policymakers must be educated about the expense and adverse effects of committing juveniles to institutions and also be informed about proven community-based alternatives that will cut costs while increasing public safety. 95 notes