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Treatment Could Reduce Costs of Juvenile Crime

Current Systems Costs $14.4 Billion a Year

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Updated November 13, 2010

The CASA report, Criminal Neglect: Substance Abuse, Juvenile Justice and The Children Left Behind, is based on 2000 arrestee and juvenile court data, the most recent available in sufficient detail for this analysis. The report found that juvenile justice systems cost society $14.4 billion a year just in law enforcement, courts, detention, residential placement, incarceration, substance abuse treatment and federal block grants.

If other costs, such as those for probation, physical and mental health, child welfare and family services, school and victims are included; the price would more than double. A $5,000 investment in substance abuse treatment and getting other appropriate services for each juvenile who would otherwise be incarcerated would pay for itself in the first year if only 12 percent stayed in school and remained drug and crime free.

Moreover, the report found, if we could prevent crimes and incarceration of 12 percent of substance-involved adult inmates with juvenile records, we would have 60,480 fewer inmates and 5.9 million fewer crimes, and we would realize $18 billion in avoided criminal justice and health costs and in employment benefits.

Standards, Training Needed

The CASA report recommends:

  • Creating a model juvenile justice code to set a standard of practices and accountability for states in handling juvenile offenders.

  • Training all juvenile justice system staff, including juvenile judges, law enforcement and other court personnel how to recognize and deal with substance-involved offenders.

  • Extending to juveniles diversion programs such as drug courts.

  • Making available treatment, healthcare, education and job training programs to children in juvenile justice systems.

  • Expanding Federal grant programs for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention and conditioning such grants on reform of state systems.

  • Developing state and national data systems to judge progress in meeting the needs of these children.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society.

Part One: Most Juvenile Offenders Use Drugs

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