The number of youths held in juvenile detention is declining in the United States.
The total number of youths in confinement declined 58 percent over the period of 2000 to 2016, while the number of facilities holding youths in custody dropped 42 percent in the same time period, according to “Juvenile Residential Facility Census Databook,” a 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The decline comes in large part because of significant reduction in the number of youth in custody,” reports Dana Shoenberg and Erinn Broadus of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The decline is partly due to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that confinement can be more harmful and doesn’t effectively address the issue of recidivism, according to the Pew.
Instead, evidence has shown that other options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are more effective at reforming and reducing recidivism, the Pew reported.
In 2016 in Kansas, policymakers passed Senate Bill (SB) 367, a measure that prohibits the use of group homes for most youth in the juvenile justice system. SB 367 allowed the state to shift millions of dollars annually to community-based services for keeping youths in their homes instead, according to Pew.
Other states like South Dakota echoed this focus, passing SB 73 to divert resources to community-based programs and closing its only remaining juvenile facility in 2016. Now, those accused of low-level offenses no longer end up in the juvenile justice system, while youths deemed the greatest threat to public safety can be placed in “out-of-home” facilities.
These reforms are also driven by falling crime and reductions in residential placement, Pew reports. The Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators released a report detailing guidelines for how to close facilities responsibly, emphasizing meeting the needs of youths, families and staff by reinvesting resources and improving care.