Reports: More Kids Are In Adult Prisons for Non-Violent Offenses

More and more kids are being locked up in adult jails. A new reports finds:

Despite a federal law that prohibits the incarceration of youth in adult correctional facilities, the number of young people held in jails across the country has exploded by 208 percent since the 1990s, according to a new report released today at the national press club by the Campaign for Youth Justice.

States exploit a loophole in federal law, which was designed to protect youth from the proven dangers of adult jails but only applies to youth in the juvenile justice system. Congress is considering the reauthorization of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) this year, and advocates are asking that all youth under 18 be protected from incarceration in adult facilities.

“Federal law exists to protect youth from being locked up in adult facilities, but too many youth are falling through the cracks,” said Campaign for Youth Justice executive director Liz Ryan. “We want Congress to close the loophole, and make sure every young person is treated the same. No youth under 18 should end up in an adult jail before they’ve even had a trial—it’s bad for youth and doesn’t protect communities.”

Bottom line:

Incarcerating youth as adults does not reduce crime and disproportionately impacts youth of color.

What's needed:

The report urges policy makers to take advantage of the shift in public opinion and new adolescent brain development research that inspired the Supreme Court to end the death penalty for minors. The report calls for a ban on the incarceration of youth in adult jails or prisons, and in the rare cases where the seriousness of a crime warrants consideration of prosecution in the adult system, a juvenile court judge should make the decision rather than prosecutors or state law.

In Florida, this particularly impacts black and hispanic kids. Andrea Robinson at the Miami Herald reported (sorry, no link)

Florida's policies to crack down in the 1990s on spiraling juvenile crime have disproportionately snared black and Hispanic youths, sending more of them to adult jails even though most of their alleged crimes involve nonviolent offenses, a new report by a youth advocacy group says. According to a report released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Youth Justice, as many as 200,000 young people nationally are prosecuted as adults each year. The number of juveniles held in adult jails and prisons, the report says, has increased by 208 percent since the 1990s.
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  • Display: Sort:
    Minority kids. (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 04:05:43 PM EST
    Since "Minority kids" is part of your headline it's odd that it's not in any part of the article you quoted.

    Anyway, here's the relevant para:

    The laws are not evenly applied, with youth of color and those without access to adequate legal counsel more likely to end up in adult correctional facilities.
    This very well may be true, but, also oddly, it is not supported by any of the (supposedly) supporting data:
    Nationwide, three out of four young people admitted to adult prison in 2002 were youth of color. In Florida, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, Illinois and North Carolina, youth of color represented nearly or more than 7 out of 10 youth in the adult justice system.
    This is a completely invalid apples-to-oranges comparison.

    The rates of minority incarceration of each individual state need to be compared to it's own rates of minorities in adult prison - not compare broad nation-wide minority incarceration rates to a specific state's rates of minorities in adult prison.

    Youth of color in Illinois make up just one-third of the general population, but in some jurisdictions make up 9 out of 10 young people in the adult system.
    Again comparing overall state rates to "some jurisdictions" is not an apples-to-apples comparison and makes one wonder why they didn't just do it right in the first place...

    Uh, OK (none / 0) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 04:07:18 PM EST
    you edited "Minority Kids" out of the headline while I was writing my comment...

    the part about the minority kids (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 04:13:23 PM EST
    pertained to Florida and I couldn't find an online link to the Miami Herald article written by Andrea Robinson, so I took it out of the headline but included the quote at the end.  Fast catch!

    Slow day at work today... (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 04:34:36 PM EST
    Anyway, while I support upholding the distiction between the juvie and adult systems, this jumped out at me:
    In one study comparing the recidivism of youth waived to criminal court in Florida with those retained in juvenile court, the research found that those in the "adultified" group were more likely to be re-arrested and to commit more serious new offenses; they also re-offended more quickly.
    There doesn't seem to be any proof of a causal link here - iow, maybe the reason those juveniles were waived to adult criminal court is because they were more repeat/violent/whatever than the ones left in juvie?

    And therefor (none / 0) (#5)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 04:35:33 PM EST
    more likely to be re-arrested and to commit more serious new offenses; they also re-offended more quickly.

    a word means what I want it to... (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 07:44:25 PM EST
    A youth sent to prison for a "nonviolent" crime might have been in the juvenile system for ten violent crimes before that; maybe that's how he or she got dumped into the adult system.  Maybe not, but who knows from this.
    Also, exactly what is a "nonviolent crime" for the purposes of this study?  Did the kid who stole gym crimes and was convicted of "armed robbery" have a bad lawyer or use a weapon?  Was the girl who spent 75 days in jail for violating probation by stealing a bicycle on probation for something violent?  Are these typical or isolated types of cases?
    I have worked in a county jail and have patients in juvenile detention centers.  In fact, it is the juvenile detention centers which are filled with criminal juvenile delinquents, peer pressure, and kiddie gangs and which are more likely to make kids into crooks.
    The trouble with letting juvenile judges decide what to do is that, at least around here, the middle class parents pull weight and get junior out of having any consequences for his actions by having a sealed juvenile record and token community service sentences.  This system doesn't help local youth of color, who regularly get sent to detention.