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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Juvenile program 'a place of last resort,' not rehabilitation

Hennepin County is spending too much on residential treatment programs for juvenile offenders and could save money and get better results by leaving more young offenders with their families and placing them in daytime rehabilitation programs.

That's the finding of a study group made up of judges and corrections officials who recommend overhauling programs at the Hennepin County Home School.

Programs cost too much, last too long and do not address family issues once young people are released, the group said in a report to the Hennepin County Board.

"The home school has become ... a place of last resort for juveniles we don't know what to do with," Tom Merkel, county director of community corrections and rehabilitation, told the County Board this week.

Merkel said the study group "seriously considered" closing the home school, but decided it was ideal for new, shorter residence programs and day treatment for juvenile offenders.

County commissioners, whose concerns over the county home school spurred the study, expressed frustration at lack of progress on reshaping the school and reining in costs. For too long Hennepin has rested on its reputation as an innovator, some commissioners said. The report indicates counties such as Dakota, Ramsey and Washington have more effective programs for juvenile offenders. [Mark Godsey]

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