The Iowa Department of Human Rights says a national program has helped cut the number of juveniles that’re being sent to county detention facilities. Human Rights Department spokesperson, Rachel Scott, says the program was started in 2007 with a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Scott says since that time, the overall rate of juvenile detention for the state has dropped by 34% and two counties, Black Hawk and Polk have seen around 50-percent drops. She says it’s significant to note that the drops have included “youth of color.” The average number of minority youth in detention statewide was 58 in 2007 and that has dropped to 41, or 29-percent with the new program.
Scott says the program tries to look at each youth case on an individual basis. Scott says it includes local partnerships among all the systems that serve the youth and they look at the disproportionate number of minority youths in detention and make sure they are put in the most appropriate setting based on their needs. She says getting the kids in the right place is the key to addressing their trouble.
“It’s important when you have low risk youth for instance, not to put them with high risk youth, because then those low risk youth are more likely to offend,” Scott explains. Scott says the system allows them to focus their attention in the right place. Scott says one of the other great things about seeing the detention numbers drop is that there has also not been an increase in juvenile crime, “so public safety has not been compromised.”
Scott says the program saves money overall as the cost for a juvenile to be in detention is around $250 or more a day, while a community-based violators program is less than $50 a day. Scott says research has shown the more that kids are involved in the detention system, the more they continued to be involved into the system, and that also translates into when they become adults. “So we’re hopeful that if we can catch some of these issues when kids are younger that over time we’re gonna see some impact on the adult correction system too,” Scott says.
The department says Black Hawk County saw its average daily youth detention population drop 48%, Polk County’s dropped 53%, and Woodbury County saw a drop of 18%.