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  • The Narrative Project

CT Voices Offers Model for Reducing Justice System Involvement that Financially Benefits the State

Updated: Mar 22, 2021


November 5, 2020 Ashlee Niedospial


New Haven, CT – Connecticut Voices for Children announces release of new report, “Reduce, Reinvest, and Do Right: A Model to Estimate Savings from Reducing Connecticut’s Youth Detention, Invest in Nonprofit Community Organizations, and Help Communities Thrive,” that examines the marginal daily cost of keeping youth in detention and recommends ways for the state to reduce the use of detention and invest associated funds in nonprofit services that work to reduce youth crime rates. Despite laudable strides to reduce child and youth involvement in the carceral system, Black and Brown residents in Connecticut continue to be disproportionately arrested and incarcerated compared to white residents. “Our state has historically failed to adequately fund justice reform and youth throughout Connecticut are paying the price,” said Emily Byrne, Executive Director, Connecticut Voices for Children. “Black and Brown youth continue to face some of the harshest treatment in our criminal legal system as they deal with the racially-charged prejudices threaded throughout the process. The fact is we know what it takes to support youth and, through our research, it’s clear that the wisest investment to reduce justice system involvement in our state is in community resources and social services.” The report contains three key analyses:

  • The variable cost of keeping one youth in detention for one day

  • The statewide and within-city costs of operating nonprofit community organizations shown to reduce crime rates

  • Estimates of anticipated crime reduction for adding nonprofit community organizations in Connecticut’s five largest cities

“Our state has placed emphasis on investing in the wrong parts of the system for decades and the data shows that it’s not an effective strategy to support Connecticut youth,” said Lauren Ruth, Research and Policy Director, Connecticut Voices for Children. “It’s time we adopt best practices in crime reduction and prevention and allocate the appropriate funding to community organizations that focus on supporting families and expanding youth opportunities.” The report findings estimate that the marginal costs of keeping youth in detention ranges from $76.91 to $106.21 per child per day - an extremely conservative low-end estimate that does not include the cost of educating youth, the cost of detention center administration, or the cost of staffing. Meanwhile, the mean cost of running a nonprofit community organization in one of the large cities is $384,237 per year, but costs vary widely between $102 for early-stage nonprofits that operate exclusively using volunteers to millions of dollars for substance abuse and job training organizations that require skilled professionals providing research-based interventions.

  • Job training organizations, which tend to have larger crime reduction effects and are in short-supply in Connecticut, have a mean cost in cities of $198,370 annually, equating to the low end cost of 2,579 child-days. This would require a 17 percent reduction of detention use to fund.

  • Crime prevention programs in cities have a mean cost of about $383,215 per year, equaling 4,982 child-day costs, and requiring a reduction of detention use of about 33 percent to fund.

  • Waterbury has few nonprofit community organizations whose work reduces crimes, compared to Connecticut’s other large cities.

Over the years, the work of these nonprofit community organizations results in overall crime prevention effects for both children and adults. Added together with reductions through decreased re-offense due to detaining fewer children and youth, this model creates a cycle of arrest reductions and resulting fiscal benefits. “We set our young people up for failure when we don’t invest in providing them access to resources or opportunities to thrive,” said Jordyn Wilson, Community Connections Associate with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. “I have seen fantastic mentoring programs that establish trust and relationships with young people and then they’re cut. These programs work, we just have to fund them. Let’s fund them with the money we save when we stop locking up youth.” The report classifies its recommendations into three main areas:

  • To decrease the use of detention

  • To invest funding such that Connecticut reduces arrests and serves communities

  • To improve the transparency of justice costs

Read the full report here. Read the Just Facts here.

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About Connecticut Voices for Children Connecticut Voices for Children is a “think and do” tank working to ensure that Connecticut is a thriving and equitable state, and where all children achieve their full potential. In furtherance of its vision, Connecticut Voices for Children produces high-quality research and analysis, promotes citizen education, advocates for policy change at the state and local level, and works to develop the next generation of leaders.

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