Governor receives task force recommendations

Gov. Kay Ivey and other state leaders received a list of recommendations that were proposed by the Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force on Dec. 18.

According to a press release, the recommendations were aimed at protecting public safety, holding youthful offenders accountable and controlling costs with the goal of improving outcomes for youth, families and communities.

The task force was formed on April 25 following a resolution sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, who served as a co-chair with the group.

“At its first meeting, I asked the task force to examine our state’s data, gather input from Alabamians, and work together to develop a set of recommendations to make our communities safer and put youth back on the right track,” Ivey said. “These recommendations propose steps for reaching those important goals.”

Once the governor laid out her objectives for the task force, the group met five more times since late April.

During that time the task force examine the state of the juvenile justice system in Alabama through a series of discussion from hundreds of participants in a roundtable format.

Twenty members were included in the makeup of the task force, which had representation from both political parties as well as individuals, such as judges and teachers that work in close connection with the juvenile justice system.

After months of crunching the data, the task force came to the conclusion of approving three recommendations:

  • Keep youth who commit lower-level offenses from unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system through early interventions and swift, consistent responses.
  • Protect public safety and more effectively allocate taxpayer dollars by focusing system resources on youth who pose the greatest risk to public safety.
  • Improve public safety outcomes through increased system accountability and reinvestment into evidence-based programs in local communities.

“The task force worked diligently to fulfill our charge to find solutions that improve outcomes for our communities and for our youth,” Chief Justice Lyn Stuart said. “Our recommendations will strengthen the juvenile justice system by increasing the range of effective community-based options available to judges and juvenile probation officers across the state, while focusing judicial resources on the most serious threats to public safety.”

Each of the task force’s recommendations were the result of fundamental findings that were discovered during its research:

  • Youth who commit lower-level offenses make up the majority of the juvenile justice population, and two-thirds of youth in the custody of the Department of Youth Services are committed for non-felonies.
  • Judges and probation officers lack access to evidence-based services to hold youth accountable and strengthen families in their own communities.
  • Out-of-home beds cost taxpayers as much as $161,694 per youth per year despite research showing poor public-safety returns, especially for youth who commit lower-level offenses.

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