KS: Brownback starts merger of Juvenile Justice Authority, Kansas Department of Corrections

From the article: “Gov. Sam Brownback announced Monday that he intends to merge Kansas’ juvenile justice agency with the adult Department of Corrections system, arguing that two critical legislative audits show the need to abandon ‘a failed social services approach” to handling young offenders.'”

So…this seems like a really bad idea.  Juvenile offenders do not need a corrections-based approach – they need intensive programming.  Juveniles are more apt to lower impulse control and lesser ability to evaluate consequences.  In the world of prisons, this tends to mean that juveniles are more likely to engage in assaultive behavior; exactly the type of behavior that will get them locked down in segregation and increase their likelihood to recidivate.

In Ohio, the juvenile justice system is separate from the adult system.  It has been far from perfect – in fact, it is just now coming out from under a several years long consent decree involving strict monitoring by a federal court.  However, the system that we have now is far better than the system that we would otherwise have under a disciplinary model.  Every youth receives close supervision from “youth specialists” (the title changed from “corrections officer” to better show the paradigm shift) and is required to be engaged in meaningful programs, such as cognitive-based therapy, for a large chunk of the day.  This is in direct contrast to our adult system, in which there is a high inmate-to-officer ratio in most prisons and a high level of inmate idleness.

The answer is not to give up on youth by placing them in a more restrictive environment, which is what seems likely here.  It is a short-sighted move with longterm negative effects.

Read more of the article on Kansas here.
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