Home Our Work Special Projects Ending For Profit Youth Prisons

Ending For Profit Youth Prisons

On May 1, 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick died after being restrained for throwing a sandwich at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, MI, which is run by a national for-profit company Sequel Youth and Family Services. Such egregious use of force and tragic loss of life is appalling.  Yet in conversation with NJJN members across the country, it became clear that Cornelius’ case was not an anomaly but instead a pattern and practice that surfaces in private youth justice facilities like Sequel.

Cornelius's death at a Sequel facility highlights the harms faced by youth at for-profit facilities.  Years of experience with for-profit juvenile and adult facilities shows privatization often leads to a variety of harmful outcomes, such as exceedingly dangerous conditions, incentives to incarcerate kids longer, and prioritizing profits over public safety.

Through robust advocacy, NJJN Member, Michigan Center for Youth Justice, and a coalition of advocates were successful in ending the state’s ties with Sequel Youth and Family Services in two Michigan facilities.  While we celebrate this tremendous victory, we know that children around the country continue to be shipped across state lines and placed in private, for-profit facilities with very little oversight. We at NJJN believe that we must continue to fight on Cornelius' name to end the warehousing of youth for profit. 

Our nation has a tumultuous history of profiting off the backs of black and brown youth and private youth justice facilities are just one of the latest tactics.  Until we as a society reckon with this history and deconstruct the prison industrial industry, we will continue to see children, especially youth of color, being treated as commodities.

In that vein, NJJN has compiled resources that proved successful in Michigan’s advocacy to close Sequel, research on the harms of for-profit facilities and specifically restraint practices that killed Cornelius, and work of states that continue to fight for Cornelius and youth like him across the country.  We will fight on to ban youth restraints, close dangerous facilities, and end profiteering on youth for you Cornelius. 


Policy Positions:

#JusticeForCornelius Campaign:

#StopSequel Campaign:

Fix Foster Care:

The National Juvenile Justice Network is joining Fix Foster Care, a consortium of leading nonprofits calling on President Biden to ban the use of for-profit foster care and youth justice placement companies. 

Cornelius Frederick's egregious death set off alarm bells about the dangers of for-profit facilities. We know from data and youth interviews, that the child welfare, foster care, and youth legal systems are inextricably linked. Like Cornelius, Black and Brown youth in foster care and youth legal systems disproportionately experience restrictive placements making them more vulnerable to unsafe conditions and abuse at the hands of for-profit companies across the country. As NJJN works to remove profit motives, and bring transformative change to youth serving systems, we are grateful to partner with foster care and child welfare advocates to prevent companies from profiteering off of youth in all these systems. 

To learn more about our joint effort, please visit fixfostercare.org and sign the petition urging the Biden administration to pass protections for our nation’s most vulnerable youth.

Sample Policies and Legislation

Unfortunately, there is no “model” legislation for prohibiting incidents like those that led to Corenlius’ death.  However, states have worked to pass legislation aimed at limiting contracts with private facilities that can serve as a model for legislation in the youth justice arena. In addition, we hope that new state policies might serve as an inspiration for state legislation as it relates to the use of restraints.

Legislation Pertaining to Private Facilities:

CA AB32 - Prevents the state from entering into or renewing contracts with for-profit prison companies after Jan. 1, 2020, and phase out such facilities by 2028.

NV AB183 - Prohibits certain correctional services from being provided by private entities.

Legislation Pertaining to Out-of-State Care:

OR SB1605 - Increases state standards for out-of-state residential facilities that are able to house Oregon foster children. The bill allows children who are sent for care out of state to access Oregon financial assistance for community college.

OR SB1515 - Changed how the Department of Human Services (DHS) regulates child-caring agencies (CCA) and responds to safety concerns and reports of child abuse or neglect. - overview.

Policies and Procedures as it Relates to Restraints:

Michigan Emergency Rule Prohibiting the Use of Prone Restraint