Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment: Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice

The scale of incarceration is not simply a reaction to crime. It is a policy choice. Some lawmakers invest heavily in youth confinement facilities. In their jurisdictions, incarceration is a key component of the youth justice system. Other lawmakers invest more in community-based programs. In their view, costly confinement should be reserved for chronic and seriously violent offenders. These choices are critical for budgets and for safety. If officials spend too much on incarceration, they will eventually lack the resources to operate a diversified and well-balanced justice system. Correctional institutions and the high costs associated with incarceration will begin to dominate fiscal and programmatic decision making. A number of states recognized this problem as early as the 1960s and 1970s. In California, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, legislators and administrators created innovative policies to reduce the demand for expensive state confinement and to supervise as many young offenders as possible in their own communities. During the 1990s, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon implemented similar reforms. This report reviews the history and development of these strategies and analyzes their impact on policy, practice, and public safety.