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Connecticut setting the bar for juvenile justice system

The law often reflects traditional notions that the degree of punishment a criminal receives should be directly proportionate to the severity of the crime he or she committed. And while this approach to criminal justice may be affective in some instances, new evidence is coming to light proving that other methods can be even more successful in addressing and curbing juvenile crime. A recent study showcases the impressive progress being made in Connecticut to cut juvenile crime and incarceration rates.

Connecticut has taken several measures in recent years to update and re-imagine its juvenile criminal law system. One of the first steps taken was by the state's general assembly to make 18 the age at which juvenile offenders can be prosecuted as adults. Before 2007, 16- and 17-year-old kids could be tried as adults. Furthermore, state funding for adolescent treatment and family programs was substantially increased in conjunction with a steep decline in the number of juvenile prisoners in adult facilities. The number of juvenile detention centers was also cut by one third.

A recent study by the Justice Policy Institute confirms that these measures are having positive results on the juvenile law system. It highlights how instances of youth violence and crime have dropped sharply. The study also notes that the state's emphasis on using treatment programs instead of imprisonment to address juvenile crime has contributed greatly to the decline.

Proponents of these types of measures argue that Connecticut's progress proves that other states can profit from the same kind of changes to their own juvenile justice systems. In fact, such legislation reform may not even affect state budgets, they suggest.

These kinds of findings are extremely encouraging, as they offer a positive and practical alternative to incarcerating our kids.

Source: GreenwichTime.com, "Study: State a national model for juvenile justice reforms," Ken Dixon, Feb. 27, 2013

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