Juvenile Facilities Strive to Foster ‘Family Engagement’

Three states illustrate efforts to foster “family engagement,” which has become a buzzword in juvenile justice circles. It’s about building bridges between family members — or other key figures in youths’ lives — and the staff at juvenile facilities that house youngsters.

Experts, supported by a small but growing body of research, say fostering family engagement improves incarcerated youths’ behavior, helps families feel more connected, reduces disciplinary incidents and boosts the staff morale.

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Here’s a Reform Even the Koch Brothers and George Soros Can Agree On

The Koch brothers and George Soros might have been on opposite sides last Tuesday, but they were united on one issue—our system of mass incarceration needs urgent reform.

Do you like lists? Of course you do! It’s the Internet! So try this one:

  1. Koch Brothers
  2. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  3. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  4. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
  5. George Soros
  6. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
  7. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  8. Newt Gingrich
  9. American Civil Liberties Union
  10. Grover Norquist

Apart from a passionate certainty that either liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans (pick one) are a danger to the republic, what does this motley crew have in common?

Here’s what: They all agree that America’s practice of mass incarceration—unique in the world—is at worst a moral and practical failure or at best an outdated policy badly in need of adjustment.

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How One State Turned Around Its Juvenile Justice System

Fewer than 15 years ago, Connecticut’s network of contracted programs to rehabilitate juvenile offenders was in jeopardy. The programs were not producing good enough results to justify their cost. And yet, in the past five years, there has been a 40 percent decrease in arrests. So, how did Connecticut turn the tide?

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Youth Aid Panels offer chance at fresh start

In light of the kids-for-cash scandal in which a corrupt judge took cash while locking up juveniles, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office was looking for new ideas on how to give some offenders a fair shake.

Prosecutors didn’t want to create another stepping stone toward the adult criminal justice system and focused instead on diverting kids from the juvenile court system altogether.

The panels are made up of all citizen volunteers and cannot be elected officials, law enforcement personnel or anyone at schools in a disciplinary position. Volunteers go through criminal background checks and training sessions.

The panels are tailored to keep first-time, low-level, nonviolent offenders from stepping into the juvenile court system. Since it was formed in June 2011, about 300 juveniles have completed the program and have had their criminal records expunged, a success rate of about 82 percent…

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