We did it, gang! Another chart-topping achievement! (And by “gang” I of course eschewed the colloquialism and meant “brooding collection of disaffected youth with a preponderance for crime due to a lack of adequate social services/quality schools.”)
From Kentucky Youth Advocates (bold emphasis mine):
A wide body of research shows that locking up young people for misconduct like skipping school, running away from home, or repeatedly not following the rules of their parents or school is ineffective and actually increases a youth’s chance of becoming involved in criminal activity as an adult. Yet, Kentucky continues to incarcerate such youth at the second highest rate in the country.
“We’re talking about status offenses – the kind of troubling activities that go along with being an adolescent, but are non-violent, non-criminal activities,” said Terry Brooks, Executive Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “Children who are charged with status offenses do not belong in a jail cell next to youth who have committed serious acts. These are children who need attention to the underlying problems that are causing them to act out, and need opportunities to learn from their mistakes so they can make a successful transition into adulthood.”
According to an updated issue brief jointly released today by Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Children’s Law Center, some 1,746 youth in Kentucky were locked up in 2009 for status offenses, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all youth incarcerated.
The report also says that Kentucky, Texas and Washington state alone account for 60 percent of the nation’s incarcerated youth, with the other 47 states in the union making up the difference. While you should probably read the issue brief (Warning: It’s a PDF), the report offers more than a suggestion as to why Kentucky ranks so high on such a terrible list. The answer? Money and priorities.
It is critical to ensure that alternatives to detention are available in all counties and that courts are aware of the options available in the area. Additionally, Kentucky can review the promising practices being used in other states to address The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice acknowledges that alternatives to detention are most appropriate for non- violent, low-level juvenile offenders, but over the years budget cuts have resulted in the elimination and capping of certain alternatives to detention.
Data culled by NECCO, a foster-care service serving Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Georgia, and the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice suggest that not only are alternatives to youth incarceration less expensive than incarceration itself — “The cost to a county is $94 per day for secure detention compared to $92.50 per day for emergency shelter care and $78 per day for a supervised foster care placement. For secure detention, the total cost … is estimated at $152 per …” — but that alternatives actually increase the likelihood of students exiting the juvenile justice system altogether and ostensibly becoming good, upstanding, consuming members of society.
But then, this is Kentucky, where dreams — and beards — go to die.