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Juvenile Justice: Institutions - The Reduced Use Of Institutions

massachusetts community programs youth

Massachusetts stands out as the state that dismantled all of its large reform schools in the early 1970s in favor of a variety of smaller, treatmentoriented programs, many of them operated by private, community-based agencies. Thirty years later, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) operates a balanced juvenile correctional system with a diverse network of small secure programs, group homes, outreach and tracking (intensive community supervision), and day and evening reporting centers. Each youth who is committed to DYS is assigned a case manager who will devise a treatment plan for the youth, based on clinical and educational evaluations, as well as on family history and the presenting offense. For youths initially placed in residential programs, the case manager arranges for the youth to participate in community services, such as drug and alcohol treatment and counseling, as a prerequisite of the conditions of his or her liberty. Studies have demonstrated that the recidivism rates for youths eased back into the community through a variety of residential and nonresidential community-based programs and services were below those of states that still rely solely on large, custodial institutions.

Only a few states, such as Utah, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Missouri, have followed Massachusetts' lead in either downsizing or replacing large institutions with a similar network of programs. These states as well as Massachusetts have added secure beds to their systems to deal with the rise in juvenile offender populations during the last decade but they continue to rely on small, secure treatment programs rather than return to large institutions.

Many states visited Massachusetts during the 1970s and 1980s to study and possibly replicate elements of the balanced approach but the changing picture of youth crime in the early 1990s and the media's overreaction derailed most of those plans. However, many states have developed some of the community-based alternatives, such as outreach and tracking and group homes pioneered in Massachusetts, for youths leaving the institution.

Juvenile Justice: Institutions - Effectiveness Of Institutions [next] [back] Juvenile Justice: Institutions - Distinguishing Juvenile Correctional Facilities From Adult Prisons

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