Monday, April 13, 2009

CT Democrats’ Budget

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance Statement

The Democrats alternative budget preserves Connecticut’s commitments to children and families while being fiscally responsible. The budget supports the Raise the Age law, removing non-violent minors from adult prisons, and Family Support Centers, a successful model for delivering preventive services to struggling families.

The Raise the Age initiative, which has already been signed into law, can and should proceed. The Democrats’ proposal shows that including 16-year-olds in the juvenile justice system can be done with minimal impact on the state’s budget. We applaud them for carefully reviewing the true cost of the reform and finding a way to implement this important public safety policy.

Governor Rell signed Raise the Age into law in 2007 and said that her proposal to delay implementation was based on financial considerations alone. Likewise, all arguments against the bill have centered on cost -- not on any philosophical objection to treating minors as juveniles, which is already the practice in 47 other states. The budget proposal proves that we can begin raising the age without burdening taxpayers. Thus we expect that a broad coalition will emerge to support this common sense reform.

We regret that the proposal does not extend to 17-year-olds, and will continue to work with stakeholders to find a way to include these children in the juvenile justice system as quickly as possible.

Even in hard times, it is essential to invest in our state’s future. Each non-violent minor diverted from the adult system is far less likely to sink into a long-term criminal career and far more likely to become a productive and taxpaying citizen. Similarly, Family Support Centers are successful at helping youth before they need more costly interventions or become involved in the juvenile justice system.

The Alliance applauds the alternative budget's provisions for Family Support Centers. State law mandates that families in every community have access to Family Support Centers, a gateway to services like family mediation, educational advocacy, mentoring, crisis intervention, and intensive, in-home therapies. The centers have been enormously successful in early intervention and the prevention of involvement in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, they are currently available to only 130 of the state's 169 communities. This breaks faith with families who are denied services simply because of their addresses. It also breaks faith with taxpayers, as it limits the use of a model already proven to reduce costly delinquency.

For more information about Raise the Age and Family Support Centers, visit:

Colleen Shaddox
204 Davis St.
Hamden CT 06517

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