Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has announced the Office of Probation and Community Corrections has expanded its Juvenile Pre-trial Services with Curfew Monitoring, a program where probation officers perform in person random checks of juvenile offenders to ensure he or she is where they are supposed to be. This program helps prevent a juvenile offender from violating the terms of probation and potentially winding up in juvenile detention. The Curfew Monitoring program is just one of the juvenile services offered by Dutchess County Government that has resulted in a decrease of out-of-home detention placement numbers and has resulted in significant savings for taxpayers.
“Our goal is to reduce the number of days a youth spends in juvenile detention and to gain better outcomes for them while also saving taxpayer dollars. We have built a system of ‘alternatives to detention’ to achieve that goal,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Studies prove time and time again that kids who go into juvenile detention often become adults who are in the criminal justice system.”
The Curfew Monitoring program can be court mandated, or it can be requested by parents or probation officers if they believe the youth is at risk for violating the terms of their probation. The program is funded through a state grant through the Department of Social Services and involves the cooperation of Family Court Judges, County Attorneys, and the youths’ Law Guardians working with the families to approve a service plan as an alternative to detention or short term out of home placement. The Dutchess County Health & Human Services Cabinet, led by Director Betsy Brockway, spearheaded the coordination and collaboration among these agencies in order to obtain the state funding.
According to Probation Director Mary Ellen Still, “Over the past 10 years, we have greatly enhanced the number of community alternatives programs for youth under 18. Before, if the youth violated probation terms or was at risk of not showing up at court, then detention was the only option.” Dutchess County’s alternatives to detention services for youth also include electronic monitoring by Probation as well as the Mental Health Juvenile Justice and J-RISC programs which involve case management, evidence-based mental health therapy and additional supervision by probation officers. These programs have resulted in savings of $200,000 for taxpayers due to the reduced number of necessary detention beds.
In the early 2000s, the Probation department implemented an objective juvenile assessment tool called the Youth Assessment Screening Instrument (YASI), which has built the foundation for evaluating youth at low, medium or high risk to repeat criminal behavior. This objective assessment tool led the way for developing new programs and services based on the actual risks and strengths identified for our local youth population.
Health & Human Services Cabinet Director Betsy Brockway credited the use of the YASI assessment tool as well as the collaborative work process of the Health & Human Services Cabinet for the success in obtaining competitive state funding. “By working together across county departments and using the right tools such as YASI, we have been able to expand our juvenile services and continue to improve outcomes for youth,” said Ms. Brockway. “It is a true win-win situation when we can use our evidence based services to help our youth gain better outcomes AND save our taxpayers money.”