Program aims to get Kansas youth offenders on right track - KCTV5

Program aims to get Kansas youth offenders on right track

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Kansas is launching a program to prevent youthful offenders from becoming career criminals.

The program reportedly has seen success in communities across the country. One study showed a 75 percent decrease in violent offenders for youth who underwent this type of intensive intervention, felony arrests decreased by 36 percent and the number of days in adult prisons dropped by 33 percent.

The program uses intensive in-home therapy rather than jailing offenders or putting them into group homes or foster care. The idea has been around for more than two decades.

"These are not low-risk youth," said Terri Williams, acting commissioner for the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority. "The target is medium to high-risk youth so we are not picking the cream of the crop so to speak."

The goal is to change the justice system through the Multi-Systemic Therapy or MST program.

Previously, the focus was whether juvenile offenders received three meals a day, had a safe place to sleep and went to school, said Phillip Lockman, director of community corrections for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/KCK.

The juvenile justice system can't parent youth or take on their custody, Williams said.

"We can give families the tools to be more effective in their own role in that regard," she said.

Trained therapists will work with the offender, their parents and their siblings. It will be a whole family approach, and truancy and fights will be tackled.

"If things aren't right and we don't get it right, the same problems are going to crop up later whether it's in the juvenile justice system or later on in the adult system," Lockman said.

The program should make its Kansas debut in Wyandotte County in August. Williams said it costs half the amount of money to put three youth into this program as it does to put one youth in a group home.

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