FACES OF AUSTERITY 2.0
How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure
CUTS HURT JUVENILE JUSTICE
Without Federal Dollars to Fund Interventions, Youth Face Costly Incarceration
Featuring: Matt Reed, Director YMCA of Greater Louisville, KY, and a Cassidy, a recipient of juvenile justice diversion services
Prepared by: Campaign for Youth Justice
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: Preventing Crime Among Youth
The federal government plays a critical role in reducing crime in communities across the nation. As part of these efforts, the Department of Justice supports several programs aimed at reducing crime among the nation’s high risk youth. Each year, Congress funds two grant programs that help state and local governments address and prevent juvenile crime:The federal government plays a critical role in reducing crime in communities across the nation. As part of these efforts, the Department of Justice supports several programs aimed at reducing crime among the nation’s high risk youth. Each year, Congress funds two grant programs that help state and local governments address and prevent juvenile crime:
Federal Funding for Juvenile Justice Programs
(in Millions of FY18 Dollars)
Source: Department of Justice FY20015-FY2018 Performance Budgets
Getting Out of Harm’s Way: Title II Funding Saves LIves
Through most of her childhood, Cassidy lived in a place most dare not call a home; a place more commonly known as a trap house—a haven for drug dealers, traffickers, and buyers. Upon returning home on days she actually attended school, Cassidy often was greeted by strangers there to buy or sell drugs. Sometimes transactions even occurred in Cassidy’s bedroom. This was Cassidy’s life through middle school until the end of her freshman year in high school. Cassidy would routinely miss 40-70 days of school per year. She missed 92 days of school her freshmen year and failed all but one of her classes.
The need to help Cassidy came to light after her home was raided. After being placed to live with a relative, Cassidy enrolled in the Opportunity Program’s truancy diversion program, supported by funding from the Title II State Formula Grant. Over the next two years, Cassidy’s dedication to working the program and working hard in school paid off and she dramatically transformed her life. Cassidy graduated from high school, and today she is enrolled in college and working full-time. A few years ago, during a speech Cassidy delivered to a packed house of YMCA constituents, she provided powerful testimony about her experience:
“What I don’t think many people quite understand about my life … and what honestly, is still very scary for me to think about now … is what you all MUST hear and try to understand right now … this place you all have … the staff here … these programs … they save my life … no really, I mean that … they literally saved my life … and then … these people … then they taught me how to save myself.”
Making Cassidy’s Story Possible for More Youth
For years, Kentucky’s response to children who had run away from home, skipped school, or broken curfew (known as status offenses) was to place them in juvenile detention centers. In 2014, informed by research and public safety outcomes, Kentucky changed its laws so that the primary response to youth who commit such status offenses is no longer detention but intervention.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), a federal /state partnership that provides states with federal support to monitor and comply with core protections for children who come in contact with the law, prioritizes the deinstitutionalization of status offenders. To support its state law change regarding status offenders, the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Advisory Board used federal Title II formula grant funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to help expand community-based programming that supports and intervenes with youth who commit status offenses.
The state provided $100,000 in federal funds to a branch of the YMCA of Greater Louisville – YMCA Safe Place Services – to expand its program for justice system-involved and at-risk youth. Matt Reid, the Center’s Director, and his team put this funding to work expanding the Opportunity Program by 50 percent, which now serves 500 youth per year and enhancing the continuum of juvenile justice alternatives provided by the YMCA of Greater Louisville.
The Opportunity Program (Title II federal funding expansion) is designed to serve youth who are first-time or non-serious juvenile offenders, with the goal to reduce rates of entry into the juvenile justice system. Matt and his team at the YMCA provide critical support for:
- Truancy Court Diversion: a 10-week evidenced informed, school-based intervention for students habitually truant; status or low-level charged and demonstrating at-risk behavior.
- Early Elementary School Intervention: a 10 week intensive after school program serving elementary school youth with an incarcerated parent.
- Middle School Transition: A Spring and Summer-time intervention providing enhanced support and access for at-risk 5th graders who will be entering 6th grade in the fall to participate in their new middle school’s summertime transition camp.
Success Does Not Always Breed Investment
Matt and his team made good use of the funding they received in their first year with federal funding. Overall, the Opportunity Program at YMCA Safe Place Services diverted 1,900 low-level juvenile offenders from being unnecessarily incarcerated. Further, the expanded programming – made possible by federal Title II funds – cut participant rates of reoffending by 90 percent; and truancy rates by 73 percent. However, as a result of federal cuts to Title II juvenile justice program funds, federal support for the Opportunity Program was cut by 25 percent in the following year.
While the YMCA of Greater Louisville remains the largest recipient of federal Title II dollars, this federal funding cut threatens the growth and sustainability of this effective local program that meets the needs of young people, the education system, and public safety. Crime prevention not only improves the lives and safety of youth and their communities, but also saves money in the budget. Matt explains,
“These federal funding cuts to crime prevention will hurt Kentucky’s budget in the long haul. The cost of incarcerating one young person in Kentucky for one year is $100,740. For the same cost, our team has been able to serve 500 young people living in their communities.”