Can Rehab Really Work on Repeat Juvenille Offenders?

If you treat jailed teenage criminals like their human, they just may start acting like humans. Or, as The Other Mike, who sent this over, put it: “Son of a gun…the system can work….”

Mo. tries new approach on teen offenders

The ratio of staff to kids is low: one-to-five. Wards, referred to as “clients,” are grouped in teams of 10, not unlike a scout troop. Barring outbursts, they’re rarely separated: They go to classes together, play basketball together, eat together, and bunk in communal “cottages.” Evenings, they attend therapy and counseling sessions as a group.

Missouri doesn’t set timetables for release; children stay until they demonstrate a fundamental shift in character — a policy that detainees say gives kids an added incentive to take the program seriously.

Those who are let out don’t go unwatched: College students or other volunteers who live in the released youths’ community track these youths for three years, helping with job placement, therapy referrals, school issues and drug or alcohol treatment.

The results?

_About 8.6 percent of teens who complete Missouri’s program are incarcerated in adult prisons within three years of release, according to 2006 figures. (In New York, 75 percent are re-arrested as adults, 42 percent for a violent felony. California’s rates are similar.)

_Last year, 7.3 percent of teen offenders released from Missouri’s youth facilities were recommitted to juvenile centers for new offenses. Texas, which spends about 20 percent more to keep a child in juvenile corrections, has a recidivism rate that tops 50 percent.

_No Missouri teens have committed suicide while in custody since 1983, when the state began overhauling its system. From 1995 to 1999 alone, at least 110 young people killed themselves in juvenile facilities nationwide, according to figures from the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

Does this qualify as being “tough on crime?” If not, can a politician get elected while proposing rational crime prevention solutions like this?

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