Addressing Fiscal Barriers to Juvenile Justice Reform in New York State

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Projects: Addressing Fiscal Barriers to Juvenile Justice Reform in New York State

As a critical step in New York State’s juvenile justice reform process, Vera assisted the Cuomo administration in examining and identifying strengths and weaknesses in the state’s juvenile justice funding structure. The aim was to create an effective funding system that will support and encourage best practices in juvenile justice on the ground, ensure positive outcomes for youth, families, and communities, and save money for both the state and counties.

New York State’s existing system for funding juvenile placement is complex and daunting to understand. Yet the need to make sense out of the state’s funding formulas has perhaps never mattered as much as it does today. At a time when budgets are dramatically shrinking, and research shows that a shift to community-based alternatives can lead to cost savings and a reduction in recidivism, it is critical for policy makers to understand how the state’s current funding formulas and fiscal structures either support or impede such a shift and what impact funding streams, and related governance roles, have on more comprehensive juvenile justice reform.

In the summer of 2011, staff from Vera’s Center on Youth Justice and Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit worked closely with New York state government officials to identify fiscal obstacles to wide-scale reform; interview local officials from a number of counties statewide; research national promising approaches for financing juvenile justice; and assist the state in working toward a set of fiscal- and related governance-reform options tailored to New York State’s challenges and needs.

Why this Work Matters

Since the Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice released its final report in December 2009, there has been significant momentum in New York State to move away from the use of institutional placement and toward a more therapeutic, community-based model of justice. Research has found that alternative programs are often better suited than placement to helping youth become productive citizens and are also less expensive. However, state juvenile justice fiscal structures often make it difficult to adequately reduce placement expenditures and provide incentives for programs that reflect best practice. Establishing a fiscal model that is aligned with these reform principles not only can help turn troubled youth toward productive lives; it can also save taxpayers a significant amount of money.

 For more information, contact Vidhya Ananthakrishnan.