As the head of the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office, I know that voters will always hold me most accountable for public safety. That’s a key reason why I’m among more than 1,200 sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors who’ve signed a letter urging Congress to support programs that prevent young people from turning to crime.
Our letter called on lawmakers to commit resources to ensure the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act lives up to its potential. This recently reauthorized landmark legislation supports several measures that have been proven by research to put troubled teens on track for productive lives.
One measure that’s especially important in New Hampshire — which ranks among the top five states for opioid-related deaths — is funding for programs that provide counseling and protection for at-risk juveniles who’ve been impacted by drug addiction. Other provisions of the act support mentoring and counseling to foster behavioral changes as an alternative to expensive and often-ineffective detention centers. Two types of counseling in particular — known to the experts as functional family therapy and multisystemic therapy — have demonstrated that recidivism can be reduced by more than 50 percent.
Law enforcement leaders throughout the nation know these efforts are far more effective and more fiscally responsible than incarceration, but we’re frustrated when our states don’t have the resources to implement them. That’s why our letter asks the House and Senate to provide enough funding through state formula grants, Youth PROMISE — Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education — grants and youth mentoring grants to ensure these options are available. Investment now, means not only better outcomes for our young people, but ultimately a savings of taxpayer dollars as well.
All of us are accustomed to managing budgets, so we understand the constraints and competing interests that impact federal funding decisions. Yet we’re confident in asking lawmakers to fund these programs because they’ve all had a proven positive impact. Although the president has signed legislation that will keep the government open through the middle of November, it doesn’t include the increased funding that will enable law enforcement to implement these programs effectively and steer more young people away from crime. That’s why we want Congress to pass a bill that guarantees the funding now, and for the president to sign it into law.
Simply put, getting “tough on crime” means being “smart on crime.” We can do that by ensuring young people develop the skills to combat the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic, and by helping youth who are involved in the criminal justice system get the help they need to avoid re-offending and become successful in life.