Lucas County lauded as ‘bright spot’ in national juvenile justice reportWritten by Sanya Ali | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A national nonprofit focused on providing community-based alternatives for juvenile offenders recently highlighted Lucas County as one of its national “bright spots” for positive outcomes in a newly published report.
“Safely Home,” a report from Youth Advocate Program (YAP), highlights a number of cities, counties, states and agencies in which YAP has a major impact. Among those spotlighted are Lucas County, which was lauded for creating a “continuum of community-based services for all kids,” and Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan, which was praised for “black family development.”
The image of young adults in handcuffs before a judge is one that youth advocacy groups across the nation, including YAP, hope to omit from city landscapes.
The Safely Home Campaign, which was initiated by Youth Advocate Program (YAP) and launched June 25, is a program that will work alongside advocacy groups toward this goal.
Jeff Fleischer, CEO of YAP, said in a news release that he hopes to change the lives of troubled youth.
“We can redirect the precious dollars we are currently spending on youth prisons and create real opportunity for all young people – and help these youth steer clear of crime, and successfully transition to adulthood,” Fleischer said in a news release.
The number of minors committed to a juvenile facility in Lucas County has dropped from 300 in 1988 to just 17 so far this year since the end of May, according to the report.
Sherri Munn, director of Lucas County’s advocacy center, said the fact that the area is featured in the campaign is amazing because of the long hours YAP has spent on community outreach since 1975.
“Our goal is, first and foremost, to make sure our kids are not being placed in institutions and being served safely and appropriately in our communities,” Munn said.
Munn said Lucas County became a model because of the success of their community programs.
“There has been a lot of work that has been noticed nationally,” Munn said. “Over time, there has been a lot of talk about this kind of work and how it can be put into a campaign format.”
According to the report, this is expected to decrease even further as a direct result of Safely Home.
“I would say that we’re always thinking about community safety as we take responds to working with our kids,” Munn said. “We’re focusing on meeting kids and families where they are.”
The report goes on to state that eight of 10 youths were not arrested again and nine of 10 were at home after completing their YAP program. All these benefits come at a much lower cost to the state than trial and incarceration, Munn said.
“We look at the family as a whole unit and we’re also working on ways to transition them out of community based programs what the will be doing after,” she said.
The criteria for community-based programs under the Safely Home campaign includes no reject or eject policies, cultural competence and civic engagement, among others. Safely Home “promotes effective community-based alternatives rather than prison and out-of-home placements for youth,” according to the release.
“Some programs have a certain time frame in which kids receive services,” Munn said. “We want to maintain or retain them home we have to look at the community to be an active part in taking care of our kids.”