CWRU study shows juvenile justice diversion programs keep youth from repeating crimes

A study conducted right here in Cleveland and the first of its kind is proving there is a way to keep young adults from repeating their mistakes, improve safety on our streets, take a burden off of local jails and save money.

"Once they turn 18, are they returning to a life of crime," said Jeff Kretschmar, a researcher for Case Western Reserve University.

Why this happens is a question that's been unanswered until now.

"This is the first time we've actually had access to the data," Kretschmar said.

That data shows what happens to children who complete a juvenile justice diversion program.

"Instead of locking them up, these diversion programs are providing treatment," Kretschmar said. "For most of them who complete successfully, they avoid the adult system."

Kretschmar said the findings prove most participants do not fall back into old habits.

"We found that youth who did not complete the program were 60 percent more likely to have an adult charge, an early adult charge, than kids who did complete the program successfully."

Sharyna Cloud, who works with the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, is familiar with the issues facing troubled youth today.

"Certain subsets of our juvenile population are forgotten. They, many times, feel they have no hope," Cloud said.

Cloud wants better access to diversion programs to break the cycle of crime.

"The money is an issue, is always going to be an issue, but hopefully as we invest in our human capital, they will continue to see that as a very strong investment in our future,” Cloud said.

According to Kretschmar, the programs cost less than what it would cost to incarcerate these children.

"So, not only do the kids and families receive significant benefits in terms of their mental health, substance use, trauma symptom reduction, but it's a significant saving to the taxpayers as well," Kretschmar said.

That saving is now shown to carry over into adulthood.

"If we have more of these programs, more kids going through and completing successfully, the adult jail population would see a benefit from that," Kretschmar said.

Kretschmar said that should prompt counties and states to take stock in these youth programs.

Since releasing their findings, the staff at the Begun Center at Case Western have heard from a number of counties and states asking for information on how to replicate the success of the diversion program they studied in Dayton.

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