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Youth Incarceration Shows Decline in Miss.

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 20 Jun 2013 09:27am | comments

The number of youth confined in Mississippi  correctional facilities declined by 48 percent from 2001 to 2010. That's according to a newly released study by the National Juvenile Justice Network.  Key policy reforms are being praised for the turnaround.

"The Comeback States" report found that youth confinement in public facilities in Mississippi peaked at 787 in 2000. But by 2010, the states overall youth incarceration rate had dropped  to 211 for young people ages 10 to 17.  Mark Levin, Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation for Effective Justice explains what he believes is fueling the trend. 

"A lot of this involves evidence and technologies in some case like electronic monitoring and techniques like drug courts for example, things that didn't exist 20 or 30 years ago," explains Levin, 

Levin says the decline in youth confinement can also be attributed to a number of actions taken by the Mississippi lawmakers.

"It was a law enacted in Mississippi in 2005 that said they were going to establish community based alternatives to youth incarceration in every county of the state.  Then an intensive home based supervision program started in 2010 where you typically will have a juvenile probation officer and perhaps a therapist if there's a mental health issue, come into that home and help to strengthen parents' ability to provide discipline ans structure in that household," he continues.

Jody Owens managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi office embraces the alternatives to incarceration.

"Unfortunately, far too often we've found that if we only have one recipe, we'll keep cooking the same dish, but when we looked at the system and found that that these kids were nonviolent kids, these kids were skipping school, these kids were out past curfew, well those kids don't need to be in jail, the studies continue to show that if we incarcerate a kid, we increase the liklihood that they will find themselves in an adult detention or corrections department," explains Owens.       

While Incarceration is declining at youth detention facilities across the state, the Mississippi Department of Corrections is facing a federal lawsuit. It's over deplorable conditions and mistreatment of youth at its East Mississippi Correctional facility.  







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