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CT Follows Trend: 41 percent Drop in Youth Incarceration

PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows a major change in the number of young people behind bars.
PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows a major change in the number of young people behind bars.
February 27, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. - There's a new trend away from locking up juveniles, according to a new national report, and local advocates say Connecticut reflects that change.

Nationwide, the Annie E. Casey Foundation says the rate of youth incarceration dropped by 41 percent from 1995 through 2010.

The state closed a loophole in 2007 that means fewer runaways and other nonviolent offenders are in detention, said Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. She said it's a move that pays multiple dividends for the Nutmeg State.

“Because it's expensive, we know it doesn't work and it's probably going to just lead to the child having more run-ins with the law rather than less,” she said. “As we say, let's try to save the system for those kids who really, really need it.”

The Casey Foundation report finds America incarcerates 225 out of every 100,000 young people.

While the trend is away from detention, Laura Speer, the foundation’s associate director of policy and research, said the nation still has work to do on this issue.

“Compared to other countries that are similar to the United States, we still incarcerate our young people many times higher than other countries do,” she said. “So there's still a long way to go.”

The new report finds major disparities about who ends up in juvenile justice based on race. Anderson said it's unfortunate that Connecticut also is following that trend.

“In Connecticut, black children were four times more likely to be arrested in school than white children,” she said, “and Hispanic children were more than three times more likely to be arrested as white children.”

Overall, however, she said Connecticut has made great strides in the past five years. The state was only one of three in the nation that still housed 16- and 17-year-old offenders with adults. Now, she said, they are back in the juvenile justice system instead.

The report, “Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States,” is online at aecf.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT