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Report: Youth Prisons Should Close for Good

The new report notes there is evidence of systemic maltreatment in youth prison facilities in New Mexico since 2011. (Pixabay)
The new report notes there is evidence of systemic maltreatment in youth prison facilities in New Mexico since 2011. (Pixabay)
October 24, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. – Children should not be kept behind bars, according to a new report that examines the ineffectiveness of youth prisons in New Mexico and other states.

The research from The Annie E. Casey Foundation pulls together evidence of the failings of youth correctional facilities and recommends they all be closed.

Foundation president and CEO Patrick McCarthy says these prisons have high recidivism rates and do not improve long term outcomes for youths.

He calls them "factories of failure."

"These institutions fail at protecting the community, they fail at turning young lives around, they are unconscionably expensive, they are prone to abuse, they defy reform, and the bottom line is we have alternatives," he states.

McCarthy says many youths are sent to prison for low-risk offenses and often don't get the guidance and support they need to get back on track.

The report notes there is evidence of systemic maltreatment in youth prison facilities in New Mexico since 2011.

McCarthy notes there is an enormous financial toll for youth prisons. While costs vary state-to-state, states pay on average about $90,000 a year for every youth in a juvenile facility.

"The money that we are wasting now on these incredibly expensive as well as ineffective institutions, we've got to reinvest that money in things that work,” he states. “We don't have any magic solutions for juvenile crime, but we have many programs that have evidence of success that we need to invest our dollars in."

The report recommends a four R strategy: Reduce the pipeline of youths into youth facilities; reform the corrections culture that wrongly assumes locking up young people improves safety; replace youth prisons with rehabilitative services; and reinvest in evidence-based solutions.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NM