A new national study of youth incarceration shows fewer juveniles are being locked up.
Youth advocates want that trend to continue in Utah, but fear that juvenile justice budget cuts might hinder that progress.
Juvenile Justice Services Director Susan Burke said the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s study, "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States," indicates that Utah’s juvenile justice policies are working. She said the rate for Utah youths in secure care incarceration has dropped about 31 percent since 2000.
But the declines in incarceration could be jeopardized by proposed legislative budget cuts.
Without proper funding for programs designed to keep youths out of the system, Burke warned, Utahns may see the trend begin to reverse.
Among programs potentially on the chopping block are the Cedar City and Blanding youth services and receiving centers, which are nonresidential facilities for minor offenders and youths in crisis. They need an estimated $750,000 to remain open. Statewide, about 250 youths and families receive services from the early-intervention centers each month.
Officials also are seeking $1.25 million so the Genesis Youth Work camp program can remain operational. The camp is for youths who have been ordered to complete restitution or community service by the court.
Utah juvenile justice specialist Reg Garff said the state is a leader nationally in using such facilities.
"[They have] really helped us keep kids out of jails and lockups," he said.
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