Thursday, November 08, 2007

Well, I'll Be Hornswoggled

Well deserved praise for RI from the Christian Science Monitor for the state’s recent reversal of its erroneous decision to put more of its juveniles into the adult system on grounds of cost savings that turned into cost spendings.

Rarely does a state legislature so quickly correct itself. In June, Rhode Island passed a law that sent all 17-year-old defendants straight to adult court. But youth advocates howled at the idea of treating minors as adults. Last week, the legislature overturned the law. May other states follow.

The lawmakers learned that lowering the age in which a youth enters the world of adult courts, sentences, jails, and prisons will not save the state money – as the law originally intended.

But those opposed to the law voiced concerns beyond the cost issue. Since the 1990s, when virtually every state in the country made it easier to try juveniles as adults, research about this practice has revealed dangers: higher percentages of repeat offenses (and more violent ones) than for comparable youths who went through the juvenile justice system with its support and rehabilitation services.

Studies show minors in adult facilities may experience more emotional distress, physical abuse, and suicide. Even if they come away with only probation, their convictions stand as roadblocks to jobs.

In Rhode Island, youth advocates argued successfully that the law has monetary and social costs.

We do tend to get jaded and cynical about state ability to apply common sense and rely on reality rather than wishes and ideology when making corr sent policy. If we bash them when they conspicuously fail, which, yes, is the bulk of the time, then we should sing praise from the rooftops when they see those errors and correct them. So, indeed, maybe we can encourage that “may other states follow.”

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