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Major Strides in Detention Diversion for Juvenile Offenders in Maine

Maine is making major strides in dropping the number of youthful offenders held in detention thanks to a national program that aims to keep kids in school and not in jail. (J. Iwakiri/Twitter).
Maine is making major strides in dropping the number of youthful offenders held in detention thanks to a national program that aims to keep kids in school and not in jail. (J. Iwakiri/Twitter).
April 14, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – It's a dramatic drop since 2014; the number of juveniles being committed to detention in Maine is down by 36 percent.

Erica King is a justice policy associate with the University of Southern Maine. She says young people who are diverted from detention are more likely to stay in school, get a job and stay out of the criminal-justice system. King says the progress that has been made in Maine results from lots of cooperation.

"Folks working within the Department of Corrections, as well as their partner agencies, working to make sure that the right youths end up in the right place, for the right amount of time," she said.

King says the state has been able to close and repurpose one of its juvenile facilities; and the current count at the remaining facility, Long Creek, is 79 youths. She says that's a big improvement because the capacity for that facility is 163 young people and in the past was overcrowded.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative turns 25 next week. King says the Annie E. Casey Foundation started this effort and now is partnering with Maine in one of the latest JDAI outreach programs.

"Maine was selected as one of two states this year that they have brought their portable results-based leadership program; so we are shifting from not only looking at recidivism and the absence of crime, to ensuring that youths leave the system better than when they came in," she explained.

King says this national movement to reform juvenile justice has helped shift the focus to positive youth outcomes for all young people in Maine's juvenile-justice system. The Casey Foundation says its JDAI model affects about one-quarter of the U.S. youth population.

Mike Clifford/Veronica Carter, Public News Service - ME