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Youth intervention is cheaper than incarceration

The Anne E. Casey Foundation has conducted research on how locking up juvenile offenders, which costs states an average of $88,000 per youth, does not work. They reported that within three years of release, roughly 75 percent of youth are rearrested and convicted of a new offense.

Nationwide, states are continuing to confine and house young offenders in incarceration facilities. This continues despite evidence showing that alternative in-home or community-based programs deliver equal or better results for a fraction of the cost.

In a 2007 landmark Social Return on Investment Report conducted in Minnesota, it was demonstrated that for every dollar spent on youth intervention in Minnesota, taxpayers receive a $4.89 return. In addition, it costs about $2,000 for community-based programs to intervene with youths versus $88,000 to lock them up. Data collected from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shows community-based youth intervention programs keeping youths from re-offending 80 percent of the time and the kids involved in these programs showing improvements in grades, attendance, and/or school behavior over 50 percent of the time.

The evidence makes our choice simple. We can continue to waste money on incarcerating our youth, or we can make the smarter and more responsible choice of supporting community based youth intervention programs.

Teresa Byland

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Rochester Regional Director

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