Missouri youth corrections system praised as model for nation

Missouri’s system for rehabilitating delinquent youths has been singled out again as a national model, this time being honored as “the guiding light for reform in juvenile justice” by a leading child advocacy group.

On Tuesday, the Annie E. Casey Foundation gave the Missouri Division of Youth Services its 2008 Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform. The award, administered by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, comes with $100,000 to be used to train other states to mimic Missouri’s programs.

Dubbed the “Missouri Model,” the state’s youth corrections system is known for focusing on rehabilitation, rather than punishment. In recent years, multiple states have sent officials to tour Missouri’s youth facilities.

“The fact that Missouri has been able to maintain this model while the rest of the country has become increasingly aggressive about incarcerating youth — in many cases in adult facilities — it’s a real testament,” said Julie Boatright Wilson of Harvard, the auditor of Missouri’s application for the award

Tim Decker, director of the Missouri Division of Youth Services, said in a prepared statement Tuesday that the state is eager to help other states repeat Missouri’s success.

Research by the Missouri Division of Youth Services suggests that over 90 percent of youths who leave the programs are crime-free after three years.

Comparing that figure to other states is difficult, given the varying policies for treating offenders as youths or adults. But the Casey Foundation says even with those differences, the Missouri system outshines those in other states.

Missouri’s youth services programs underwent a transformation beginning in the 1970s, after the state was singled out by the federal government for its prison-like youth facilities.

Since then, the state has moved to smaller residential programs, in which offenders are organized into groups of 10 to 12 and serve as role models for one another.
SOURCE; http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/missouristatenews/story/C26EB00BA123FE71862574C00012D778?OpenDocument

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