MISSOURI: WE'LL SHOW YOU
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL - With the prisons filled to bursting, state
governments are desperate for ways to keep more people from committing
crimes and ending up behind bars. Part of the problem lies in the
juvenile justice system, which is doing a frighteningly effective job of
turning nonviolent childhood offenders into mature, hardened criminals.
States that want to change that are increasingly looking to Missouri,
which has turned its juvenile justice system into a nationally
recognized model of how to deal effectively with troubled children. . .
Missouri has abandoned mass kiddie prisons in favor of small
community-based centers that stress therapy, not punishment. When
possible, young people are kept near their homes so their parents can
participate in rehabilitation that includes extensive family therapy. It
is the first stable, caring environment many of these young people have
ever known. Case managers typically handle 15 to 20 children. In other
state systems, the caseloads can get much higher.
The oversight does not end with the young person's release. The case
managers follow their charges closely for many months and often help
with job placement, therapy referrals, school issues and drug or alcohol
treatment. After completing the program, officials say, only about 10
percent of their detainees are recommitted to the system by the juvenile
A law-and-order state, Missouri was working against its own nature when
it embarked on this project about 25 years ago. But with favorable data
piling up, and thousands of young lives saved, the state is now showing
the way out of the juvenile justice crisis
MISSOURI also has seven prison gardens being used as part of a
restorative corrections program in which the inmates also meet their
victims and learn the harm they have caused. The program has a 200
inmate waiting list. There are now some 600 restorative justice programs
in the U.S.