Building a Better Path to Juvenile Justice Reform
Chief Buckner of Little Rock, AR weighs in on alternatives to detention
By Chief Kenton Buckner, Little Rock Police Department
Over the past few decades, our country has made a lot of progress in how to best address and deal with juvenile delinquency. As the Little Rock Chief of Police, my mission is to protect my community and its citizens. That means taking steps whenever possible to ensure that juvenile offenders don’t reoffend or cause further harm. That is why I am excited to see the introduction of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) right here in Pulaski County.
JDAI helps participating jurisdictions safely reduce the number of juveniles who are in detention. It provides resources and training that are designed to handle youthful offenders more effectively and, most importantly, prevent them from reoffending in the future. This program has already been implemented in Benton and Washington counties, as well as a growing number of sites across the country. JDAI has an impressive track record for reducing both juvenile and overall detention populations.
JDAI provides resources and training that are designed to handle youthful offenders more effectively and, most importantly, prevent them from reoffending in the future.
Chief Kenton Buckner, Little Rock Police Department
Many youth who are detained are not guilty of criminal acts. Instead, they have committed status offenses such as truancy or curfew violations. There is extensive research that shows that detaining these youth exposes them to additional harms that make them significantly more likely to reoffend later on than had they not been detained. But as a law enforcement leader, how do I ensure that these youth are dealt with appropriately while avoiding an overreliance on costly and harmful detention?
JDAI addresses that dilemma. The program draws on deep expertise across decades of research and focuses on providing resources to communities and law enforcement. Its purpose is to work to identify youth who do not belong in juvenile detention and to funnel them into cheaper, more effective community based programs. This makes it a prime example of what community based alternatives to juvenile detention should look like.
There is a lot of work to be done to ensure smart and effective juvenile justice reform happens in Arkansas and around the country. On the national level, historically bipartisan and successful legislation like the Juvenile Justice Detention and Prevention Act (JJDPA) encourages states to use interventions that have been proven to reduce recidivism. JJDPA is in need of reauthorization, which would update it to reflect new research and fund programs that can prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult criminals. Slightly different versions of the bill have already passed in the U.S. House and Senate. Now, it just needs to be merged for final passage and sent to the President’s desk for signing.
On both the federal level and the local level, we have a roadmap to reduce juvenile detention and help get troubled youth back on the right track, all while serving our bottom line: protecting our communities. These programs are proven, effective models for change and that save taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent on less effective and more costly incarceration.
Bringing JDAI to Pulaski County is an exciting step toward achieving this goal. I hope that Congress finalizes work on reauthorizing JJPDA so that we can continue to see its benefits here in Arkansas, and across the country.
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