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Alabama deserves a youth justice system that reflects biblical values and strengthens families

Alabama's youth justice system relies heavily on incarceration, even though this approach is costly and not beneficial for public safety. While youth crime has fallen 27 percent in the last five years, the number of youth removed from their homes and ...

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By Craig DeRoche, the senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at Prison Fellowship, and Chris Hodges, founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands. ExpensiveInconsistentFailing to transform young people or strengthen families. That's what the Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force, led by SenCam Ward, R-Alabaster, and RepJim Hill, R-StClair, concluded this week about the state's youth justice systemBut the Task Force also released good news--there are steps the legislature can take next term to restore young people to their potential, protect communities, and spend taxpayer dollars more wisely. Chris Hodgesc/o Chris Hodges  Right now, Alabama's youth justice system relies heavily on incarceration, even though this approach is costly and not beneficial for public safetyWhile youth crime has fallen 27 percent in the last five years, the number of youth removed from their homes and placed in state-funded facilities has increased, and the amount of time youth spend on probation has more than doubled since 2009. Placing a young person in a secure facility costs as much as $161,694 per year, or 91 times the cost of probation, yet research tells us it does not prevent them from committing another crime in the futureBeyond the immediate cost to taxpayers, the long-term social cost is staggeringYouth who spend time in secure, out-of-home facilities are less likely to graduate from high school by age 19, more likely to wind up unemployed, and less likely to work enough hours to support themselves. Guiding and protecting young people is one of our most morally significant obligations as a society, yet most of those we commit to state custody do not pose an imminent danger to the publicTwo-thirds of the youth committed to the Department of Youth Services were held not for felony offenses, but rather for misdemeanors or probation violations like missing curfew. As the Task Force recommends, it would be a far better use of taxpayers' money to make youth justice proportional to the offense and aimed at getting youth back on the right trackBed space in juvenile justice facilities should be reserved for those who pose a threat to community safetyWhenever possible, young people should be held accountable for their actions in ways that keep them connected to the positive influences in their communities, like churches, mentoring, and family-focused programs, and allow them to continue their educationThese alternatives to incarceration dramatically reduce recidivism, especially when families are involved. Keeping young people out of juvenile justice facilities is not only the right thing to do, it is both cheaper and more effectiveThe evidence clearly shows that locking up young people should be the last resort--not the first option. In 2018, the legislature will have a rare opportunity to reform the state's youth justice system and improve its outcomesWith data and recommendations from the Task Force in hand, members should give Alabama what it wants and needs--justice that reflects the God-given dignity and potential of its youngest citizens. window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'alternating-thumbnails-a', container: 'taboola-below-article-thumbnails', placement: 'Below Article Thumbnails', target_type: 'mix' }); if (pb_page_template == undefined) { var pb_page_template = 'article'; } if (pb_page_template != "index") { document.write('); } Down in Alabama News and life Daily briefing »'s Ike Morgan talks about what's going on in our stateListen on: iTunes Alexa Stitcher Google Play Soundcloud Columnists John Archibald Kyle Whitmire Roy SJohnson Most Read Active Discussions if (pb_page_template == "index") { document.write('); } else { document.write('); } /* */ resimg.resimf(); About Us About Alabama Media Group Jobs at Alabama Media Group Advertise with us News In Education Frequently Asked Questions About Contact Us Online Store Already a Subscriber? Manage your subscription Delivery feedback Place a vacation hold Make a payment Customer Service Place an ad Get home delivery Promote your event in our calendar Send us an email Submit a news tip Buy newspaper front pages, poster and more Sections News Business Sports High School Sports Entertainment Living Travel Opinion Obituaries Jobs Autos Real Estate Apartment Rentals Classifieds Local Businesses Your Regional News Pages Anniston/Gadsden Birmingham Huntsville Mobile Montgomery Tuscaloosa Gulf Coast Beaches On the Go Mobile Apps | Tablet Apps More on Videos Photos Interact with us Weather Post a job Post a free classified ad Sell your car Sell/rent your home Site Map & search Sponsor Content Become a Member The Birmingham News The Huntsville Times Press-Register Free newsletters Follow Us Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Pinterest | Instagram Advance Digital Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy

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