Juvenile justice reforms a 'good first step' to cut costs and counterproductive decisions, former official says

05/07/2014 06:20 PM

Hasan Davis, the former juvenile justice commissioner who left the department last month, said he expects the juvenile justice system reforms passed earlier this year to start cutting the costs and the unintended consequences of locking up non-violent youth offenders.

“The structure is in place for us to slow the process. It should be very rare for kids to come deep into the justice system because those front end systems will slow that possibility,” Davis said at 1:55 of the interview. “If they do get to us, we need to assess the need and target specific behavior. Get them back home and get them support so they can be successful at home.”

Davis said it costs between $92,000 and $100,000 per bed in juvenile detention centers.
And research showed that the average stay for a teen who committed a minor offense was nearly the same as a more serious offender.

In addition, some judges send young people who are chronically skipping school or running away from home into juvenile detention centers. They are called status offenders. And some lawmakers, like Sen. Whitney Westerfield and Rep. John Tilley, wanted to stop the practice of locking up status offenders.

Others, such as school administrators, objected.

“There was concern that without the ability to send children to the courts if they were habitually truant ..might create some chaos. If we look at the other options we have to intervene and support those students, it’s not as big of a deal as we thought. We can test that out now with Senate Bill 200,” Davis said at 2:15. “We can see if that intervention actually makes them successfully. I think we’ll be able to show that we have a process that will keep that fear that the schools have a losing control ..that we have a better process for it.”

Watch the interview with political reporter Nick Storm for more, including Davis’ personal story that prompted him to be involved in helping young people get on the right path:


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