Problems may plague states across the country as they race to develop specialized prisons for housing adults under the age of 25.
“Investing in new facilities draws scarce resources and attention away from reforms that work, including local, small-scale and community-driven alternatives to incarceration,” said Maureen Washburn of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE).
“Developing a separate prison system…for young adults … shortchange(s) meaningful progress toward improved public safety by expending political capital on prison improvements in place of investment in the communities hardest hit by mass incarceration.”
In January, California Gov. Jerry Brown included a recommendation in the state budget proposal to build a facility called the California Leadership Academy (CLA), which can house up to 250 18-to-25-year-old males.
“If approved, the CLA would increase California’s capacity for incarceration at a time when the state’s prison and jail populations are falling ….The CLA would establish a lasting incentive for incarcerating young people and create a new fiscal burden for the state,” the JJTE reported.
In addition to California, Connecticut, Maine and Pennsylvania are seeking to build or reopen facilities to house young adults, according to JJIE.
Past “efforts to redesign the architecture, restructure programming, introduce new leadership, and change the population did little to alter the daily reality of life in a congregate institution,” said Daniel Macallair, author of After the Doors Were Locked, which documents California’s Youth Authority scandals and abuses.
The report published in April by JJIE on specialized facility expansion urged law makers to “be wary of reform efforts that absolve (them) of the responsibility for instituting comprehensive reforms and risk increasing state reliance on lock-ups.”