A new report from the state shows the lock up rate for juveniles dropped by an average of 15% across the state. Paul Stageberg with the Criminal Juvenile and Justice Planning Division of the Department of Human Rights says the drop in the juvenile detention was over 20-percent in some counties. Stageberg says the rates have dropped with better evaluation of each case.
He says the juvenile courts have developed a new screening tool that helps them identify which kids present a risk and which kids don’t. Stageberg says the risk posed by each individual is key to whether they should be held. Stageberg says there are several factors involved in “risk” but he says when it comes to putting them in detention, there are two variables: whether they are a threat to themselves and others, and whether they are a risk to not appear at a trial. He says the courts also look at other factors such as what kind of problems they might present for supervision.
The increased evaluation was driven in part by an initiative to address the disparity in the number of minority kids being held. While the overall percentage of minority kids in detention did not drop, Stageberg says there was progress. He says you’ll frequently see a drop in non-minority kids in detention and not a drop in minority kids. “We’re pleased to see that the drop that we experienced in ’08 was shared uniformly by minority and non-minority kids. We’re hopeful that we can make further dents in the minority overrepresentation in future years,” Stageberg says.
Black Hawk, Polk and Woodbury received help from the Casey Foundation and that led to a 23% minority detention rate drop in Polk County, a 20% drop in Black Hawk, and a 5.2% drop in Woodbury County rates. Stageberg says the Casey Foundation provided technical assistance to the counties to help them do a better job of identifying the process that puts kids in detention, helping them develop alternatives to detention, and showing them how successful jurisdiction have developed alternatives to reduce the detention rates of juveniles.
Stageberg says the preliminary numbers for 2009 have shown the trend of reduced detention rates is continuing.