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Two programs designed to rehabilitate juvenile lawbreakers are saving the city money and may be serving children better too, according to a report released last week by New York City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO).

The programs, which work with juvenile lawbreakers at home through their families and communities, are partly responsible for saving the city $18 million from 2003 to 2005. They are aimed at not only saving money, but also providing better results and lowering recidivism rates, said Patricia Brennan, Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Operations for New York’s Department of Probation. Her department’s new Enhanced Supervision Program (ESP) allows juvenile lawbreakers to stay at home under close supervision by a probation officer, who works with their schools, families, and communities.

The other program is Esperanza, run by the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice through a contract with the Department of Probation, which is more intensive than ESP in some ways though the underlying principles are the same. Esperanza employs therapists who regularly work with the youths and their families in addition to working with officers from the Department of Probation. “A young person doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Esperanza Director Jenny Kronenfeld. “We want to address family situations, situations in the community.”

The city normally would send young offenders to rehab facilities run by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), or to private facilities under contract with OCFS. According to the IBO report, the city’s payment to OCFS fell from $54.2 million in 2003 to $36.1 million in 2005 partly through diverting young offenders to the ESP and Esperanza. The report also says that the city is likely to save up to $43 million as a result of these programs over the next four years.

Brennan said that although traditional OCFS facilities will still be an option for “a juvenile delinquent who is probably so damaged so as not to be able to respond” to other approaches, the new programs provide an important tool for dealing with many juvenile lawbreakers.

The report also notes that the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which spends about $80 million each year sending children to juvenile facilities, is preparing its own program along similar lines. [07/17/06]

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