The Annie E. Casey Foundation today published its new report, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, which examines the United States' approach to combating youth crime, and finds that this has failed miserably. Instead of reducing crime, the report illustrates that locking up the youth actually increases crime.
The report found that in 2007, there were roughly 60,500 youths confined in correctional facilities or other residential programs each night on the order of a juvenile delinquency court.
Evidence suggests that an over-reliance on youth incarceration:
- Does not reduce offending by confined youth
- Provides no overall benefit to public safety
- Wastes taxpayers dollars
- Exposes youth to high levels of violence and abuse
The report further highlights that the prison-like correctional institutions used to detain youth are frequently:
- Wasteful, and
How ineffective these facilities are is highlighted by the fact that recidivism rates are uniformly high:
- 70-80% of youth released from correctional institutions are rearrested within 3 years of release.
- 38-58% of youth released from juvenile corrections facilities are found guilty of new offences (as a juvenile or an adult) within two years and 45-72% within three years.
- However, Missouri, where the detention centres were replaced with small treatment-oriented youth facilities, only saw a 16.2% three year re-incarceration rate.
Incarceration also depresses the young person's chances at future success in education and employment. The report found that those who were incarcerated aged 16 or younger had a 26% lower chance of graduating high school by age 19. It also went on to state that even 4 years after release, there was a 5% reduction in employment for those incarcerated, increasing to 9% for black youths. It has been found that even 15 years after release, those who were once incarcerated worked 10% fewer hours than those in a similar position who were not incarcerated.
Incarceration was found to be especially ineffective for less serious youth offenders.
Reducing youth incarceration would not only save thousands of dollars (the cost of the average 9-12 month stay of one youth is $66,000-$80,000), but evidence shows that States that reduced youth confinement rates also saw a greater reduction in the juvenile violent crime arrest rates, when compared to States that increased youth confinement rates during the same period.
It is hoped that this report will be the inspiration for bringing about change in the failing system for combating criminal behaviour by young people in the U.S. and hopefully direct America's young people towards a brighter future.