During the 1990s—the era when many of our most punitive criminal justice policies were developed—49 states altered their laws to increase the number of minors being tried as adults. Roughly 210,000 minors nationwide are now prosecuted in adult courts and sent to adult prisons each year. Yet studies show that youth held in adult facilities are eight times more likely to commit suicide, five times more likely to report being a victim of rape, twice as likely to report being beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon. Youth sent to adult court also return to crime at a higher rate. Equally unacceptable is the fact that youth of color are over-represented in the ranks of juveniles being referred to adult court compared to white youth charged with the same category of offenses.
Principles of Reform
- Reduce Institutionalization
- Maximize Youth, Family and Community Participation
- Improve Aftercare and Reentry
- Create Smaller Rehabilitative Institutions
- Recognize and Serve Youth with Specialized Needs
- Create a Range of Community-Based Programs
- Ensure Access to Quality Counsel
- Reduce Racial Disparity
- Keep Youth Out of Adult Prisons
Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces the nine principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least one principle. These principles and the associated text are from “A Blueprint for Juvenile Justice Reform,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group.