Putting a Price Tag on Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

TULSA (AP) -- The state Board of Juvenile Affairs is sending the Legislature two versions -- with far different price tags -- of a proposal for a new juvenile justice system.

One plan would save the state at least $5 million, but excludes 17-year-olds.

The other fully implements new federal law at a minimum cost of $20 million. Board member Robert Ravitz strongly objected to including the lower-cost option for implementing the Youthful Offender Act in the report to the Legislature. That option would funnel 17-year-olds into the adult corrections system, which Ravitz said was contrary to the original intent of the task force that recommended the legislation. Juvenile Affairs Director Ken Lackey agreed it would be better to include some 17-year-olds in the Youthful Offender Act, but feared the cost of doing so would cause the whole program to be scrapped. "I think if we start throwing big numbers like this out, we may sink the ship before it has a chance. You run the risk of having it put off another year," Lackey said. Ravitz then questioned whether including the 17-year-olds would actually increase the cost if other steps are taken. Juveniles put into the Department of Corrections system, he said, should be chosen on criteria other than age. …