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Report: Wrong Place for Bay State Kids is Behind Bars

A new report credits Massachusetts for being ahead of the curve in closing down many youth detention centers. (Juvenile In Justice).
A new report credits Massachusetts for being ahead of the curve in closing down many youth detention centers. (Juvenile In Justice).
October 25, 2016

BOSTON – Massachusetts is up to speed in following many of the recommendations set forth in a new report that recommends closing youth prisons in New England and the nation. The research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation pulls together evidence of the failings of youth-correctional facilities and recommends they all be closed.

Naoka Carey, the executive director of the advocacy group, Massachusetts Citizens for Juvenile Justice, said the Bay State started heading in this direction after discovering abuses at local youth prisons, more than three decades ago.

"Hundreds of kids in large prison-like facilities; and I think the report does a good job in highlighting that Massachusetts is one of the states that lead in moving away from that model back in the '70s," she said.

During the 1970s, the report notes the state closed eight youth prisons that held about 600 juveniles. According to the report, violent and abusive conditions were clearly documented in the Bay State after 1990 but reforms seem to be working since none has been documented since 2000.

Casey Foundation president and CEO Patrick 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 said. "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 children into youth facilities, reform the corrections culture that wrongly assumes locking up children improves safety, replace youth prisons with rehabilitative services, and reinvest in evidence-based solutions.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA