Keeping juveniles out of prisons

Ohioans ought to be proud their state is a national leader in keeping juvenile offenders out of prisons.

A national movement toward sending juvenile criminals into community-based programs rather than prison is paying off, according to a new study. It found that juvenile incarceration rates nationwide fell by 55 percent from 1997 to 2013.

Ohio did much better, with an 80 percent reduction. Slightly fewer than 500 juvenile offenders are incarcerated in the Buckeye State now, compared to more than 2,000 in 1997.

That is good news for several reasons. First is cost to taxpayers. Keeping young miscreants in cells costs about $561 a day. Community corrections programs cost an average of $204.

And, freeing up some prison space formerly used for juveniles has helped the state cope with an upsurge in adult incarcerations, in part because of the drug abuse epidemic.

But what about results?

How well are community corrections programs working in steering juveniles away from lives of crime?

As a follow-up to the incarceration study, researchers should look at recidivism among youth offenders. The community corrections philosophy can be termed a success only if, in addition to diverting juvenile criminals from prison, it helps to keep them from going there as adults.