The U.S.’ Broken Juvenile Justice System: Key Facts
- On any given day, approximately 50,000 youth in the United States are in youth prisons or other out-of-home confinement facilities.
- According to the U.S. Department of Justice, three quarters of the youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system are locked up for offenses that pose little to no threat to public safety, such as probation violations, status offenses (e.g. running away, skipping school), property and public order offenses, and drug offenses.
- Recidivism rates for youth in youth prisons are very high: within three years of release, around 75% of youth are rearrested and 45 to 72 percent are convicted of a new offense. These facilities also set kids up for incarceration in adult prisons – incarcerated youth are 60 percent more likely to be incarcerated as adults.
- Confining youth is astronomically expensive, costing over $5 billion a year nationwide. On average, states spend $150,000 per year to place a youth into a youth prison or other out-of-home confinement. In contrast, community-based programs cost a fraction of the cost to incarcerate a youth.
- Youth of color are disproportionately impacted: African-American youth are 4.6 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. Latino youth are 1.8 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. Native American youth are 3.2 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth. Even though total youth incarceration is going down, racial and ethnic disparities are increasing.
- Youth prisons aren’t safe. Rampant abuse at these facilities is well-documented in news reports, lawsuits, studies, and from incarcerated youth themselves. A new report documents locations where the number of abused youth has risen since 2000, from 22 states to 29 states.
 Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. (2013). Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
 Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. (2015) Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available at: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezacjrp/.
 No Place for Kids. (2011). Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 No Place for Kids (2011). Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 Sticker Shock (2014). Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.
 Safely Home. (2014). Washington, D.C.: Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.
 Unbalanced Juvenile Justice. (2015) Haywood Burns Institute. Oakland, CA. Available at: http://data.burnsinstitute.org/#comparison=2&placement=1&races=2,3,4,5,6&offenses=5,2,8,1,9,11,10&year=2011&view=map.
 Maltreatment in Youth in U.S. Correctional Facilities. (2015). Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation.