Wyoming is locking up fewer young people than it did nearly 15 years ago according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Foundation analyzed federal census data of incarcerated youth from 1995 to 2010. The results show a marked decrease of over 40% fewer youth in confinement across the country with no decrease in public safety. Wyoming’s rate is down by 12% since 1997.
KidsCount Director Marc Homer says while the new numbers are positive, the state is still lagging when it comes to implementing effective reform.
“In Wyoming, when we look at it, after South Dakota, we still have the second highest rate of incarceration of all the states in the nation, and we are in the nation with the highest rate of youth incarceration of all industrialized nations, says Homer.”
Homer says Wyoming should expand its restorative justice programs. He says it is less expensive, promises better outcomes for youth, and increases public safety by keeping youth within their own communities and giving them meaningful ways to better themselves.
“We’re talking about the average sundry youth offender who does some petty theft, who skips school, gets caught skateboarding, gets drunk and tips a cow over, that sort of thing,” says Homer, “These kids can be dealt with more effectively within their community. In fact, the states that showed the greatest improvement in the nation, they actually have had an increase in public safety.”
Homer says he wants to see more youth treated in their homes and communities and the creation of a system for evaluating the effectiveness of existing state-supported institutions.