Professor Mike Nellis, a leading researcher and policy expert on electronic monitoring, advises using electronic monitors instead of jail time for youth. He was making this recommendation to the Scottish government which is investigating monitoring in light of the multimillion dollar electronic monitoring scandal involving G4S, the world’s largest security company. G4S admitted to over billing the government some $38 million on monitoring contracts.
Nellis said Scotland should follow the example of Scandinavian countries like Denmark where the assumption is that no youth should be jailed for a sentence of less than six months but should be placed on a monitor or other community sentencing option.
As I read this, I thought of a story which came out on January 16th about a John Howard Association study of Warrenville ‘ youth facility for girls in Illinois. It costs the taxpayers $177,000 a year to keep one girl there. The downstate facility is a long way from home for most of the youth who come from Chicago. Not surprisingly, 63% of the girls are African American, despite Blacks being only 15% of the state’s total population. Surely Illinois youth justice authorities should be considering options like monitoring under a fair regime rather than locking these girls away hundreds of miles away from home.
Professor Nellis’ urging the Scottish government to follow the example of the Scandinavian countries is advice that US authorities could well heed as well. These countries have lower crime rates than the US and incarcerate at a tenth of the rate of the United States. The criminal justice system is no place to be following the policy of American exceptionalism.
To read the story about Professor Nellis, click here.
To read the Warrenville report, click here.