An Ounce of Prevention…

April 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

Many are asking… Are life sentences inhumane for children who commit crimes?

In November 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases asking them to ban sentences of life in jail without parole for children who commit crimes less serious than murder.  The Supreme Court decision is likely to come out this Spring.  The cases argue that life sentences for children (anyone under age 18) is a violation of human rights, stating that the United States is the only country in the world using punishment this severe for minors.

“No matter what the crime, it makes no sense to declare anyone that young beyond hope of reform.
After all, the whole reason we have a separate system of juvenile justice is precisely because of the notion that young people can change.”
former Senator Alan Simpson

 The topic has sparked articles and recent blog posts.  Several states (including Texas) are working on their own to ban mandatory life sentences for juveniles.  As the Supreme Court debate continues, organizations such as Southwest Key Programs are doing what we’ve always done to prevent children from ever reaching jails in the first place.

Southwest Key asks… How can we prevent kids from ever reaching the courtroom?

Dr. Juan Sánchez founded Southwest Key Programs on the notion that every child who gets in trouble can be redeemed with the right resources.  For the past 23 years, we have been working across the country to do just that.  Southwest Key provides quality education, safe shelter, and alternatives to incarceration, impacting 6,000 youth and their families on a daily basis.

Best Practices
Earlier this year, our Family Keys, Persons In Need of Supervision Diversion program in Orange County, NY received a “Best Practices Award” from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  The program provides home-based intervention services to youth and families in crisis in order to keep children out of courtrooms and jails.  Between 2003 and 2008, 2,375 children and families received support services, including 24-7 crisis intervention and referrals to community-based resources.  According to Derek Miller, the Orange County probation director, the program is, “user-friendly, client-friendly, and leads to better outcomes for youth and families.”

Strong Outcomes
In another example, our Community Connections program that operates throughout New York and in Austin, TX has impressive outcomes for children who are already involved in the juvenile justice system.  It is a case management program tailored to a child’s individualized needs.  Services may include tracking, counseling, 24-hour crisis intervention, and community referrals.

In Orange County, NY:
· 91% of children were not rearrested while in the program
· 82% improved school attendance
· 93% of families were satisfied with services

In Erie County, NY:
· 97% of clients received immediate intervention (within 24 hours of referral)
· 93% completed the program without being placed in an institution

These are just a few examples of our impact and program outcomes around the country.

Strong Communities
Southwest Key offers a wide range of programs.  In 2008, we expanded to embrace an entire community – supporting at-risk children by strengthening their families and neighborhoods. The East Austin Community Development Center supports: the East Austin College Prep Academy; the East Austin Children’s Promise Initiative; and an upcoming Social Enterprise Complex.*

As the Supreme Court deliberates on the human rights of children, Southwest Key and its supporters will continue paving the way in excellent juvenile justice work and community transformation.

(*Save the date for our Groundbreaking Celebration and Family Fiesta – Saturday, May 1st at 6002 Jain Lane, Austin TX).

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Entry filed under: Juvenile Justice. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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