Texas and many other states have turned to free-market principles to increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of their juvenile justice systems. By prioritizing public safety in the expenditure of precious taxpayer dollars, free-market principles seek to keep streets safer and rehabilitate more juvenile offenders.
Virginia, too, is beginning to ask pointed questions about how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. As Mike Thompson points out in a recent issue of the Jefferson Policy Journal, the current tab for secure confinement of juveniles in Virginia stretches over $200 per day, per juvenile—almost $100,000 per year. And three-quarters of those youth are convicted of another offense within three years of release.
Virginia’s taxpayers deserve better. Thompson goes on to point out that prioritizing funding for programs proven to reduce delinquency in youths can result in substantial cost savings and lower crime rates. While secure confinement is necessary in some cases, most youth benefit far more from tailored, evidence-based programs that truly break the underlying delinquency cycles. And when those cycles are truncated at an early stage, Virginia’s taxpayers and citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries.