Treyvon’s case is emblematic of a quiet revolution in juvenile justice sweeping across the country. Driven by the high cost of incarceration and a growing understanding of adolescent behaviors, states and localities are launching initiatives to provide counseling, drug treatment, and other support for young offenders rather than locking them up. The idea is to save money ”“ and try to keep them from committing more crimes by addressing their problems at the roots.
Lucas County, which includes Toledo, is one of the leaders in this movement. Juvenile Court officials here do the “my kid” test with every case. They want to ensure all young people are being treated fairly, and they live by the mantra “The right kid in the right place at the right time” ”“ targeting services to their needs and taking care not to mix children who are unlikely to commit more crimes with high-risk youths.
But they also rely on research instead of just gut instinct. When it comes to deciding whether to lock up arrested youths ”“ while awaiting a hearing or even after they’ve been judged to have done something wrong ”“ they use standardized risk assessments.
As alternatives to lockup, they’ve built a “continuum of care” ”“ various treatment options and levels of court monitoring ”“ so most children can stay connected to family members, school staff, and community groups while reforming their ways.