Study Finds Flaws in How States Manage Juvenile-Justice System
Monday, April 4, 2022
America locked up almost a quarter-million children in 2019, according to the report, "Too Many Closed Doors," from The Sentencing Project.
The report found in the past, policymakers have relied on annual point-in-time counts, which end up being about five times lower.
Josh Rovner, senior advocacy associate for The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said states have been looking at the wrong numbers, and the difference is striking.
"As of one day in 2019, there were about 36,000 kids who were in youth facilities," Rovner reported. "And the actual number of kids who were in the facilities over the course of the year was closer to 240,000, and that is actually an undercount."
The research also called for improved data collection focusing on annual admissions rather than one-day counts, to paint a clearer picture of how many juveniles are detained, committed, jailed and imprisoned in a year.
Between 2016 and 2021, the average daily number of kids in Utah correctional facilities fell 65%, from 149 to 52, after intervention and diversion programs.
The report found kids who are detained have a hard time when they return to school or home, and are even more likely to be re-arrested in the future. Rovner added higher police presence in low-income neighborhoods of color leads to a disproportionate number of arrests and detentions for young people of color.
"Overall, one out of every four kids who are sent to court are detained at the outset," Rovner pointed out. "Now, for white youth, that's one out of every five. For Black and Latino youths, it's closer to 30%. And that is not connected to the seriousness of the offense."
The research also suggested states redirect juvenile-corrections funding toward detention alternatives including mental-health counseling, violence prevention and restorative justice.
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