Redirect juvenile jail funds to community-based youth programs

May 18, 2011

Spending $70 to $100 million dollars on a new juvenile jail in East Baltimore — or any new juvenile jail for that matter — is not the best, most cost-effective way to proceed ("Downsizing juvenile jail" May 13). In Baltimore and around the country, there is increasing evidence that community-based alternatives to secure detention are decreasing recidivism rates and improving the lives of juveniles and their families while saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Baltimore Youth Advocate Program (YAP) and other community-based programs are decreasing populations in juvenile detention and secure facilities while keeping communities safe. Juvenile crime has decreased in Baltimore over the past decade.

If redirected to the community, the $100 million planned for the juvenile jail could provide community- based alternatives for 10,000 to 15,000 youth and their families (estimating 6 months of service for each family). YAP, for example, could provide intensive supervision, neighborhood-based, and individualized services. YAP services would address the direct causes of their offending behavior and community people and resources would be involved in their treatment. Crisis intervention services would be available 24/7.

Through a longstanding partnership with the Department of Parole and Probation and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, YAP successfully provides innovative and cost-effective alternatives for juvenile offenders. Redirection of funds will help us and other community-based providers accomplish even more.

David L. White, Baltimore

The writer is president of Maryland Programs Youth Advocate Programs Inc.

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