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Rightsizing Juvenile Justice

Over the past several years, many states across the country have dramatically reduced the number of youth held in secure facilities. Some states have achieved these reductions by downsizing existing populations in secure facilities; others have shuttered entire institutions. While the population reduction is noteworthy in and of itself, it has been accompanied by some additional powerful data.

Most states that have downsized or closed facilities have been able to save money and treat youth more appropriately, and still protect public safety. Incarceration is hugely expensive, especially as compared to many proven community-based alternatives. Additionally, there is evidence that these population reductions have not led to an increase in youth crime, as some may have predicted; in fact, crime rates have either remained steady or even declined, demonstrating an increase in public safety. This increase in public safety occurring in tandem with secure facility population reductions is supported by research indicating that community-based supervision is as effective as incarceration for youth who have committed serious offenses.  

The National Juvenile Justice Network strongly supports efforts by states to “rightsize” their juvenile justice systems, incarcerating youth only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. NJJN works with our members to achieve efficient and appropriate downsizing and facility closures, helping to ensure that youth receive the care and guidance they need, while keeping the public safe and saving taxpayers money.

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