Hawaii is so convinced it can lower recidivism, it’s already spending the money it thinks it’ll save


Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie in July.  (via Facebook)

Hawaii, where 75 percent of youths released from the state’s juvenile correctional facility are sentenced or convicted again within three years, is trying to crack down on recidivism.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill Thursday aimed at reducing the state’s juvenile facility population by over half in five years. HB2490 calls for justice system officials to write “reentry plans” before juveniles are released from correctional facilities and revises probation requirements.

Should the plan successfully lower recidivism rates, Hawaii could save  an estimated $11 million, the governor’s office said. The state is already betting on it, investing $1.26 million from its anticipated savings in “proven programs” like mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Juvenile arrests in Hawaii for violent and property offenses have fallen by 28 percent from 2002 to 2011, and the overall number of those admitted to the state’s youth correctional facility declined 41 percent as of 2013, according to the bill.

The legislation was the result of a working group that included Hawaii lawmakers, law enforcement, community service providers, and assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has committed to funding training, planning, and education in the implementation of the law.

“This legislation is the result of extensive research, collaboration and consensus by stakeholders and policymakers across Hawaii,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “By using our resources more effectively, we will be able to reduce juvenile crime and achieve better outcomes for youth, families and communities across our islands.”

Hunter Schwarz covers state and local politics and policy across the country for the Washington Post.
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Hunter Schwarz · July 10, 2014