In a recent report, nine states were commended for their leadership in finding alternatives to incarceration of youth, who have committed serious and violent offenses between 2001 and 2011.
To accomplish these reductions, according to the report by National Juvenile Justice, the nine states:
- Required intake procedures to reduce the use of secure detention
- Closed or downsized secure facilities
Reduced reliance on law enforcement to address behavior issues in schools
- Prevented incarceration for minor offenses
- Restructured finances and responsibilities among states and counties
“States that adopted four or more of these policies included, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Significantly, these states not only reduced youth incarceration over the time, but also achieved reduction in youth crime, as measured by substantial declines in youth arrests,” the report shows.
In the report, “a group of states that have not experienced reduction in their reliance on youth incarceration include Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.” However, they have adopted significant incarceration-reducing policies in recent years.
The causes of the decline identified in the report were “the fall in youth crime and arrests; a shift in the political climate for juvenile justice issues; the fiscal crises faced by state and county governments; statewide policy changes that reduced reliance on confinement; the research on adolescent brain development and increased acceptance of treatment-based alternatives to youth incarceration.”
To concentrate on future reductions, the report recommended states evaluate the high costs to taxpayers of confining youth. The report also looks at disruptions of the normal development patterns that would enable youth to grow out of delinquency.
Other factors examined in the report were:
- The affect of future offending
- Lost lifetime earnings of confined youth and lost tax revenue resulting from their reduced incomes
- The financial and emotional toll on the families of incarcerated youth
- Sexual victimization and assaults on confined youth by their peers and facility staff.