What should be done?
- Youth prisons are obsolete and should be closed. Youth incarceration has dramatically decreased over the past decade, and some youth prisons are at 50 percent or less capacity. Closing these facilities would free up millions in funding for more effective community-based alternatives.
- Community-based alternatives to incarceration have been proven to work. The recent report Safely Home finds that more than 8 in 10 youth remained arrest free, and 9 in 10 continued living at home after completing their community-based program at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.
- Juvenile justice reform has bipartisan support, and several states have taken action to close youth prisons and reduce youth incarceration, and create incentives to invest in community-based alternatives.
- NY: Closed 21 facilities and started close-to-home alternatives to incarceration.
- CA: Passed SB 81, which restricts incarceration to those convicted of only serious felonies, while redirecting the savings to alternative solutions. Counties now have local control over juvenile justice systems.
- CT: The governor has committed to closing the state’s youth prison by July 2018.
- DC: Closed Oak Hill facility and funded community-based alternatives.
- KS: The Kansas Department of Corrections will be closing one of its facilities by March 2017, and the legislature has signed SB367, which will overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system.
- TX: Banned incarceration for misdemeanor offenses and is redirecting the cost savings toward alternative solutions. Counties now have local control over juvenile justice systems.
- Reducing youth incarceration is strongly favored by the public. Recent polls show:
- Strong support for rehabilitation and treatment-based approaches – such as counseling, education, treatment, and community service – over incarceration.
- Strong support for involving youths’ families in the treatment process, keeping youth close to home, and ensuring youth remain connected to their families.
- Support for requiring the juvenile justice system to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.
- Support for independent oversight to ensure youth are protected from abuse while in state or local custody.
 Safely Home. (2014). Washington, D.C.: Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.