Over the past decade, many states have made significant progress in reducing youth confinement in both youth and adult facilities. Still, tens of thousands of young people remain confined in facilities that expose young people to a high risk of violence and abuse, offer few educational resources, and put them at a higher risk for reoffense than youth who were not confined.
Recognizing that incarcerating youth is costly, ineffective, harmful, and counterproductive, many states are shifting away from the traditional model of large, prison-like youth facilities to local, non-residential programs that serve youth and their families in their own communities. This shift is saving states money and providing many youth with effective services and programming more tailored to their needs and the needs of their families.
However, not all deincarceration strategies are created equal. Despite significant reductions in the total number of incarcerated youth in the U.S. over the past decade, there remain alarming racial disparities for youth in lockup. Furthermore, simply diverting youth from confinement facilities is not enough--young people must be provided with the resources and support they need to thrive.
By and large, previous deincarceration efforts have inadequately addressed these problems. That's why NJJN's new policy platform, "Reducing Youth Confinement," lays out pathways to reduce the number of youth in confinement for all youth, while at the same time reducing justice system costs, increasing community investments, treating youth equitably, holding systems accountable, and increasing community safety.