WAYNE COUNTY-After garnering a reputation for decades as having one of the nation's most overburdened juvenile justice systems, Wayne County is experiencing a revolution at the hands of private social service agencies.
A system begun in February of 2000 by the Wayne County Department of Community Justice hands juvenile delinquency cases over to a host of private agencies, which are officially designated as Care Management Organizations. These CMOs are then given both positive and negative incentives - more pay if their charges stay off drugs and graduate from high school; penalties if kids who wind up in more trouble, for example - and then allowed to develop their own ways of integrating delinquents into their communities.
These methods include frequent tests for illegal drugs and alcohol, electronic tethering, mental health treatment and supervision by case managers, who are assisted by a squad of sheriff's deputies who track down kids who don't cooperate.
Even officials who were initially skeptical about the new program admit it has resulted in better treatment for juvenile offenders. Not only that, but it is saving money - fewer kids are being sent to public facilities like the W. J. Maxey Training School, where the cost of treating one child is $327 each day. That's about twice the cost of the community-based programs.
"The old system was kind of a revolving door," Westland Police Chief Emery Price told the Detroit Free Press. "As far as I am concerned, it's working much better than it did in the past," he added.