Helmut Schmidt, Published February 27 2013
Juvenile lockup rates drop significantlyFARGO – Incarceration rates for juveniles dropped significantly in North Dakota between 1997 and 2010, and even more drastically in Minnesota, a Kids Count report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows.
North Dakota’s juvenile incarceration rate dropped 23 percent per 100,000 population between 1997 and 2010. Minnesota’s rate dropped 39 percent.
Nationally, the incarceration rate dropped 37 percent, according the report, which uses Census Bureau one-day “snapshot” data.
In 1997, North Dakota had 273 juveniles in lockup on the survey day. That dropped to 168 in 2010. In Minnesota, 1,521 were in lockup in 1997, but that dipped to 912 in 2010, the report stated.
Both Minnesota and North Dakota screen juveniles to ensure they aren’t put into a lockup facility if they don’t have to be, officials said.
“Part of it is we know from research that simply securely detaining kids doesn’t change behavior,” said Karen Kringlie, director of juvenile court for 14 counties in the southeast part of North Dakota, including Cass County.
Cass County has a juvenile detention center for violent or higher-level offenses, but there’s also an attendant-care facility at the Cass County Annex that’s run by Youthworks.
“It’s a more friendly setting,” Kringlie said.
Juveniles may also be referred to counseling or classes, she said.
“We have a wide array of programs we use for kids,” Kringlie said.
Tim Tausend, a spokesman for the North Dakota Department of Corrections, said the state’s system improved with the creation of the Division of Juvenile Services in 1989. The division has done a better job of screening juveniles to put them in better care, he said.
Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said a mediation program knocks down truancy rates on the east side of the Red River.
There’s also a “restorative justice” program in which offenders learn “the impact that their crime has on the victim or the community at large,” Melton said.
First-time offenders for thefts or drug crimes are shunted to other programs, while violent offenders go to the West Central Region Juvenile Center in Moorhead, Melton said.
Several states had huge decreases in the percentage of juveniles locked up between 1997 and 2010.
Tennessee’s juvenile incarceration rate plummeted 66 percent; Connecticut, 65 percent; Arizona, 57 percent; Louisiana, 56 percent; Georgia, 52 percent; New Jersey 53 percent; Mississippi, 50 percent; California, 48 percent; and Nevada, 47 percent.
A few states increased their juvenile incarceration rates, the report stated.
South Dakota in 2010 had the nation’s highest rate of juvenile incarceration with 504 juveniles, or 575 per 100,000 population. It saw its rate rise 8 percent from 1997.
Idaho saw its juvenile incarceration rate rise 80 percent; West Virginia, 60 percent; Arkansas, 20 percent; Nebraska, 8 percent; and Pennsylvania, 7 percent.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583