Zero-Tolerance Policies in U.S. Schools are Ineffective and Unaffordable

Despite public concerns about youth crime, particularly in schools, research has shown that policies based on incapacitation theory have failed utterly to affect crime rates. In fact, while youth crime rates have fallen significantly over the last 30 years, they have continued to plummet despite recent trends towards community-based alternatives (e.g., the ‘Missouri Model’). The evidence suggests that not only do punitive disciplinary approaches often fail they are also unnecessary. It is particularly troubling, then, to consider the police presence and draconian disciplinary measures that have increasingly found their way into America’s schools. Schools typically have rules forbidding mobile phone use, profanity and the like.

States look at Missouri Model

States that are looking for ways to reduce the costs of keeping young offenders in prison are taking a fresh look at the Missouri Model. Missouri abandoned the traditional approach to prison in the 1980s.  The state adopted a system of small, regional treatment centers that provide education, job training and 24-hour counseling, aimed at helping kids turn their lives around.  As a result, Missouri has cut its recidivism rate for parolees down to 10%. A report from WBEZ radio in Chicago gives us a peak inside a youth prison that has adopted the Missouri Model. –Photo courtesy WBEZ radio and Rob Wildeboer