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
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 http://www.macfound.org.
SOURCE MacArthur Foundation