• For youth awaiting "trial" after an arrest: Less expensive and more supportive alternatives also exist for youth held in detention. Instead of spending $460 a day to hold juveniles until their case can be heard, many are better served in the community by such programs as evening reporting centers. These centers make sure youth appear for their "trial" and in the interim help them connect to community services and opportunities. At $44 per day, not only are youth better served by these centers but so too is our city when the accrued savings from detention are invested in less damaging and more positive activities.
• For youth apprehended and not charged: Lastly and most importantly, resources can be available to young people at the first sign of trouble. Approximately 500 young people are brought to the Baltimore City Juvenile Detention Center each month and released without charges or services. Our current overburdened juvenile justice system can rarely provide the opportunity for these young people to learn how their actions affect others. These youth are the first-timers — many of whom, if nothing or no one comes to their rescue, will get in trouble again. Among the successful interventions to support youth at this point is community conferencing, a diversion program that allows the young person and his or her victims to be a part of resolving the crime or conflict.
The impact is significant. In Baltimore, 98 percent of the community conferences have resulted in a written agreement created by all participants, with over 95 percent compliance. Through this experience, the young person has the chance to take responsibility for his or her actions, make good and receive supports to get connected to real opportunities. This program costs $900 per youth and is but one example of effective interventions and supports among the many current highly successful programs operating in Baltimore that are desperate for funding to expand.
There is no doubt that all children and youth in Baltimore are capable of success, and it is up to the elected officials who control how our tax dollars are spent to ensure fair and affirmative opportunity to all. A civil society invests its resources in services and opportunities for the common good, and a just society ensures that no one is excluded from access. I believe that Baltimore can be both, if those elected to represent all Baltimoreans fund a leveraged investment strategy to rebalance the allocation of our tax dollars in favor of opportunity for all.
Hathaway Ferebee is executive director of the Safe and Sound Campaign. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.