By Mike Klein
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Anyone of a certain generation – yeah, that would be my generation – will recognize that famous line from “Cool Hand Luke,” the 1967 film about southern prison warden Strother Martin and his young prisoner Paul Newman. Eight little words strung together became one of the most famous lines ever spoken in American film history.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” could also describe the failure by thirteen states to measure juvenile recidivism, including three of Georgia’s southern neighbors. Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky do not measure and report juvenile recidivism rates. Therefore, they do not have cumulative data about how often juveniles re-appear in the juvenile system or enter the adult corrections system.
Georgia is among those states that have the very best record, according to “Measuring Juvenile Recidivism” published by the Public Safety Performance Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Georgia tracks juveniles at twelve, twenty-four and thirty-six month intervals. Georgia also monitors whether they enter the adult system. Georgia fully reports its results and the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform has given a high profile to measuring adult and juvenile risk assessment and results.
How do other southern states compare? North Carolina and Louisiana track juveniles for thirty-six months, Mississippi tracks only until they turn age 18, and Florida checks their status at six months and twelve months. South Carolina follow-up ends after twelve months and Arkansas tracks juveniles only while they are on parole on under state commitment.
The Pew survey found 33 states report annual, quarterly or monthly data, including Georgia. Five states report data only if there is a special request. Eleven state juvenile justice agencies share information with the executive and legislative branches of state government and just 28, barely more than half of all states, make their information available to the public.
Ten other states that do not measure and report juvenile recidivism are Hawaii, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut. Only Virginia and Maine received a positive check in all eleven categories reported by Pew. Georgia received positive check marks in nine of eleven categories. Click the link in this paragraph to read the entire table.
Georgia justice reform is all about reducing recidivism. The 2013 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform cited three-year recidivism rates for juveniles released from custody in 2007. The Council said 53 percent of all juveniles and 65 percent of those sentenced to a detention facility were adjudicated for a new juvenile crime or charged with an adult crime within three years. That is far worse than the adult system which has a 33 percent recidivism rate.
Pew worked closely with Georgia on 2011 adult and 2012 juvenile justice reforms that were enacted by the state Legislature. Pew had a smaller role during the past twelve months when the state focused attention on re-entry which is the transition of a released inmate to civilian life. The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators worked with Pew on the juvenile recidivism report.
The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)