By Ankita Joshi
BALTIMORE, MD – The Annie E. Casey Foundation presented an infographic this week that depicted trends in youth incarceration between 1995 and 2019, and recommendations for more effective responses than incarceration for youths.
Juvenile justice has been a highly contested topic within the criminal justice system, with all states having transfer laws in place where young offenders can be prosecuted as adults for more serious offenses, regardless of their age, noted the report.
Approximately 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated every year in the U.S., with 10,000 youth being detained or incarcerated in adult jails and prisons on any given day, the report adds.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that in 2019, there is still an overreliance on incarceration of youth, especially Black and Native American youth.
It was found that Black youth are 16 times more likely to be in custody in comparison to Asian and Pacific Islander youths, four times more likely than white youths, and three times more likely than Hispanic youths.
Negative trends that were found include that youth arrested and referred to the court face the same odds of confinement in 2019 as they did in 2005 – one in three, and revealed that public systems still confined more youth for relatively minor offenses than for serious ones
The infographic doesn’t include youth incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system. However, it was found that on a typical day in 2018, about 4,100 youth under age 18 were held in adult jails and prisons, based on federal data.
On the discovery of positive trends, it was discovered youth confinement rates were down 70 percent from 1995 to 2019, with almost every state having reduced youth confinement.
“Confinement separates young people from the support networks and guidance they need to thrive and grow into responsible adults,” the report maintained.
“The relatively small number of youth for whom confinement is justified need facilities that can provide a humane and developmentally appropriate setting in which their delinquent behavior can be treated effectively,” the foundation noted.
The foundation report made several recommendations for future improvement, including a reduction of all forms of out-of-home placement, making all strategies about race explicit, expanding the use of effective community responses, transforming probation into a relationship-based system, and promoting community-based guidance and support networks to offer youths positive role models and activities.
The report suggested all the recommendations would help build “a world where all young people are able to thrive and grow into responsible adults requires us to respond more effectively when young people push boundaries and go as far as to break the law.”