Public Willing to Pay More for Rehabilitation of Juvenile Offenders

Dec 11, 2007, 00:00 ET from MacArthur Foundation

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two new surveys
 supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation show strong
 public backing for the rehabilitation of youthful offenders and a greater
 willingness of taxpayers to pay for rehabilitative programs than for the
 incarceration of offenders in jail. These findings indicate support for an
 approach to juvenile justice that runs contrary to the increasingly
 punitive policies adopted across the country in the 1990s.
     Polling data released today by the Center for Children's Law and Policy
 (CCLP) show that more than 70 percent of the general public agree that
 incarcerating youthful offenders without rehabilitation is the same as
 giving up on them. The Center also reported that nine out of 10 people
 surveyed believe that "almost all youth who commit crimes have the
 potential to change." Separate research conducted by the MacArthur
 Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice
 (ADJJ) found that when given the choice, the public is more willing to pay
 for juvenile rehabilitation than incarceration.
     "Momentum is gathering across the nation to replace the harsh,
 ineffective measures enacted over the past two decades with programs that
 address the welfare of young people while preserving safe communities,"
 said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. "The public understands that
 youth in trouble with the law are not lost, and that working with them to
 solve problems is a better approach than just locking them up."
     -- Eight in 10 favor reallocating state government funds from
 incarceration to programs that provide help and skills to enable youth to
 become productive citizens (CCLP poll).
     -- More than eight in 10 said that providing community-based programs
 and services -- including education, job skills, mentoring, mental health
 treatment, counseling, and community service -- is an effective way to
 rehabilitate youth (CCLP poll).
     -- Those surveyed were more willing to pay additional taxes for
 rehabilitation than they are for incarceration (ADJJ research).
     -- The average amount in additional annual taxes that respondents are
 willing to pay for rehabilitation is almost 20% greater than it is for
 incarceration (ADJJ research).
     During the 1990s state legislatures across the country enacted statutes
 under which growing numbers of youths can be prosecuted in criminal courts
 and sentenced to prison. An assessment of public attitudes is important
 because policy makers often assume popular demand for such action. These
 new findings indicate a far greater desire for rehabilitation and more
 moderate reforms. Additional information about the studies is available on
     "Public sentiment is aligned with what the research shows are the most
 effective ways to deal with juvenile offenders," said Laurence Steinberg,
 director of the MacArthur Research Network. "Far too many political leaders
 at the national level are out of step with the public on these issues; many
 states are showing great leadership in creating the kind of juvenile
 justice systems that the public actually wants, and which are known to
     "It is remarkable that two entirely different ways of examining the
 public's views on juvenile justice came to essentially the same conclusion
 in terms of the public's willingness to redirect funds from incarceration
 to rehabilitation programs," said Mark Soler, Executive Director, Center
 for Children's Law and Policy. "In addition, the poll found that the public
 strongly favors keeping nonviolent juvenile offenders -- who are more than
 90% of youth arrested each year -- in community-based facilities or under
 community supervision."
     These two new reports were supported through the MacArthur Foundation's
 $120 million Models for Change initiative, a national effort to reform
 juvenile justice systems across the country. The initiative is gathering
 evidence about what works and funding model programs to illustrate the
 potential for reform.
     The Center for Children's Law and Policy's poll was carried out during
 the summer of 2007 by Belden Russonello and Stewart (BRS), a non-partisan
 public opinion research firm based in Washington, DC. To prepare the poll
 on America's attitudes about youth, race, and crime, BRS first conducted
 eight focus groups in Chicago, IL; Seattle, WA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Baton
 Rouge, LA - large cities in four of the states that are the focus of
 MacArthur's Models for Change initiative. In September, BRS surveyed 1700
 adults total, including 500 nationwide and 300 in each of the four Models
 for Change states.
     The research carried out by the MacArthur Research Network compared
 respondents' willingness to pay for incarceration versus rehabilitation of
 juvenile offenders who had committed serious violent crimes in the four
 states participating in the Models for Change initiative. Researchers
 conducted telephone interviews with a random selection of 500 households
 from each state.
     These new findings were released at a national juvenile justice reform
 conference held here by the MacArthur Foundation. At the conference,
 MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton also announced the addition of eight
 new states for participation in Models for Change "action networks" to
 improve mental health services and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in
 the juvenile justice system.
     Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, and Texas join the original Models for
 Change states of Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Washington to
 participate in the Mental Health Action Network, which will find new ways
 to identify and treat the 25 percent of youth involved in the juvenile
 justice system who have serious mental health needs. Kansas, Maryland,
 North Carolina, and Wisconsin, along with the four original states, will
 form the Disproportionate Minority Contact Action Network, which will work
 to eliminate systemic unfairness based on ethnicity or color. Fanton also
 said MacArthur will add a third action network next year that will focus on
 juvenile indigent defense, which will bring Models for Change to a total of
 16 states across the country.
     About Models for ChangeWith long-term funding and support from the John
 D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change seeks to
 accelerate progress toward a more rational, fair, effective, and
 developmentally appropriate juvenile justice system. Four states --
 Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington -- have been selected as
 core Models for Change sites. Twelve other states participate in action
 networks focused on three key issues: reducing racial and ethnic
 disparities, improving mental health services, and the quality of indigent
     About the MacArthur Foundation
     The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private,
 independent grantmaking institution helping to build a more just and
 sustainable world. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters
 the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens
 institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the
 public, primarily through support for public interest media. With assets of
 more than $6.4 billion, the Foundation makes approximately $260 million in
 grants annually. More information is available at

SOURCE MacArthur Foundation