Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rehabilitate don't recidivate violence

In an interesting article an interesting quote: “…almost all bad behaviors are the result of anger…The last thing you want to do is add to that anger.” Quite the truism and it certainly could be used in so many contexts. In the case of the article that it came from, it referred to the need to change the way we treat juveniles in prison.

A fair amount of violence in our society/community is caused by youths who recidivate (i.e. who “relapse” into violent and/or illegal acts). The way youths are incarcerated in our state (and other places in this country) feeds their anger with lack of opportunity for positive change in a profoundly negative environment. As the article points out we need to totally change the culture of juvenile incarceration.

Illinois has about 1400 youths in incarceration at a cost of $70,000 per youth per year with a 48% recidivism rate, while neighbor Missouri has 1200 incarcerated youths at a cost of $57,169 per youth with a 7% recidivism rate. Missouri incarcerates youth in residential facilities with case management and rehabilitation. Illinois has their youth in stark prisons and razor wire and hopelessness.

The new Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is set to change that. They plan to improve the prisons, “beef up education and create a system of support and supervision after release” and “teach better behavior”. These youths will then return home after their sentence better off, better able to deal with life and supported in those efforts. They will be less likely to relapse into crime and violence. They will be less likely to die from violence and those who would have been their victims will also survive.

A way to decrease violence in our communities, a way to save lives, like this deserves our support. We need to return to rehabilitative incarceration (yes, we need preventative programs even more) and it will have a positive impact on our communities and society (and save a few bucks in the deal, to use for other important needs).

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