The value of prevention for juveniles

December 22, 2010

Thank you for publishing Hathaway Ferebee's insightful prescription for intervention rather than incarceration of juvenile offenders ("A prescription for juvenile justice," Dec. 17). As our grandparents often observed, an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure, a lesson our leaders often seem to forget If carefully selected from among evidence-based practices, intervention strategies for juvenile offenders do work, saving the taxpayers a great deal of money, reducing crime and improving public safety.

As an example, Baltimore's Project CRAFT (Community Restitution Apprenticeship Focused Training), funded by the Family League of Baltimore City, builds on the multi-systemic family therapy model cited by Ms. Ferebee. Project CRAFT trains young offenders in residential construction, helps them get their GEDs, and puts them to work on community service projects.

To date, not a single one of the 14 young men and women participating in Project CRAFT has been re-incarcerated. All have bank accounts and Maryland identification cards. All are progressing toward their GEDs and several will begin a computer-aided design and drafting program at Baltimore City Community College in the coming weeks.

The program's track record may not remain perfect in the long run, of course. However, if not for this program, these youth would be incarcerated at great expense, costing taxpayers far more than the entire price tag of Project CRAFT or similarly successful programs.

Certainly there are no magic solutions. Many well-intentioned initiatives fail. But others, backed by solid evaluation and years of experience, more than pay for themselves. These savings can be reinvested to help even more young people grow into successful adults.

Max Elsman, Washington

The writer is program manager of the Home Builders Institute.

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