The Comeback States: Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States by the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Texas Public Policy Foundation details how nine states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin — adopted at least four of six policies that decreased youth detention in county and state facilities.
The six key policy changes are:
- Increase the availability of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration,
- Require intake procedures that reduce use of secure detention facilities,
- Close or downsize youth confinement facilities,
- Reduce schools’ over-reliance on the justice system to address disciplinary issues,
- Disallow incarceration for minor offenses, and
- Restructure juvenile justice responsibilities and finances among states and counties.
In Indiana, there are ongoing challenges, especially in rural communities, with a lack of community-based alternatives to detention or wardship the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC). The most recent legislative session saw an expansion of education laws that could lead to more involvement in the juvenile justice system for disciplinary issues in the schools, including bullying and truancy. The IDOC has routinely reported that many children are made wards of IDOC for misdemeanor and status offenses. Finally, Indiana has failed to adopt a reallocation of funding model, such as Redeploy Illinois and Reclaim Ohio, that move monies allocated to IDOC to the local communities for services.
One positive in Indiana has been the closing of two IDOC facilities — South Bend and Northeastern — as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative has been embraced by some counties and less children have been made wards of IDOC.