In January 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown announced his plan to shut down all state prisons. By January of 2013, the California Division of Juvenile Justice will no longer accept new admissions and will phase out their entire youth prison system and move to strategies developed by the Missouri Division of Youth Services.
Professor Abrams chronicles the nineteenth century struggle for a special court to rehabilitate delinquent and dependent children and their families. The leaders were dedicated reformers- the “child savers” who sought to remove children from poorhouses, prisons and other harsh institutions that left little hope for productive adulthood. A Very Special Place in Life traces the twentieth century growth of Missouri’s juvenile courts. It discusses the profound changes wrought by the United States Supreme Court’s Gault decision, which triggered the “due process revolution” in the nation’s juvenile courts in 1967. The book examines efforts to reduce disparities between services available to rural and metropolitan children, and between treatment of minority children and others.
The Missouri approach is the subject of a significant case study done through the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University titled “Taking a Therapeutic Approach to Juvenile Offenders: The “Missouri Model”.
Instead of standard-fare correctional supervision, Missouri offers a demanding, carefully crafted, multi-layered treatment experience designed to challenge troubled teens and to help them make lasting behavioral changes and prepare for successful transitions back to the community.
The Missouri Department of Social Services’ Division of Youth Services (DYS) represents a complete overhaul of Missouri’s juvenile justice system. It began by doing nothing less than closing the Training School—predicated on the value of treatment and accountability over punishment and the belief that the both the public and the youth are better served by a system which addresses the root causes of misbehavior.