New Report Shows that Juvenile Incarceration is Ineffective

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation confirms what we in the adolescent health field already know: Locking kids up does more harm than good. According to the report, not only does juvenile incarceration not stem crime, it also puts many youth in dangerous situations where they can be abused by staff and other youth, and live in fear of physical assault.

States spend an average of $88,000 a year for EACH YOUTH who is incarcerated, yet 75% of youth who leave juvenile detention are re-arrested within three years. The report also found that states with lower levels of juvenile confinement from 1997 to 2007 saw a greater decline in juvenile arrests for violent crime than states with higher incarceration rates—showing that perhaps incarcerating youths is training them to be more criminal. In addition, incarceration exposes youth to further violence and abuse. According to reports released in 2010, one in eight confined youth have reported being sexually abused by staff or other youth, while 42 percent have feared physical attack.

The report contains several recommendations to juvenile justice officials, including policies that lock up only the most dangerous youth while finding non-residential solutions for most teen offenders, and adopting best practices for work with juveniles.

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