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Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released their newest publication, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration. It presents a fresh review of juvenile justice in America, and makes future recommendations for improving the system.

Highlights include:

~ Roughly 60,500 youths in America are confined in correctional facilities (according to a 2007 census, and not including youths confined temporarily in detention centers).

~ Two of every five confined youths are African-American and one-fifth is Hispanic.

~ Correctional institutions have never been found to reduce the criminality of troubled young people.

We now have overwhelming evidence showing that wholesale incarceration of juvenile offenders is a counterproductive public policy.

~ America’s youth prisons are dangerous, ineffective, unnecessary, obsolete, wasteful, and inadequate.

~ Systemic violence, abuse and excessive use of isolation have been documented in the youth prisons of 39 states since the 1970s.

~ Recidivism rates are uniformly high and incarceration significantly obstructs the youth’s future success in education and employment.

~ Most youth incarcerated in correctional facilities do not need to be there. Just 12% of confined youth are committed for serious violent offenses. 

~ Youth prisons have become a dumping ground for youth with mental health conditions.

~ Research has shown that best practices that consistently reduce juvenile recidivism are inconsistent with institutional incarceration.

~ Correctional institutions are expensive and a waste of taxpayer money. Despite high costs they fail to provide even minimum services for rehabilitation.

The data leaves little doubt. Substantially reducing juvenile incarceration rates has not proven to be a catalyst for more youth crime.

The publication recommends a thoughtful and detailed plan for moving away from America’s historic incarceration-focused approach to troubled youth, and implementation of an effective and coherent reform of the system. It concludes noting that while many states have reduced incarceration of youths in recent years, the primary cause for closures has been short-term fiscal crises and private class-action lawsuits. It cautions that this movement away from incarceration must be accompanied with a resilient evidence-driven model that emphasizes public safety, better use of tax dollars, and investment in the rehabilitation of young people involved in the juvenile system.

This is a must-read publication. Click here for the full report.