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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

KEEPING KIDS OUT OF ADULT PRISONS

A just recently released literature review from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJDDP) has studied the story of youths in adult prisons. According to the March 15 “PolicyNotes” from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) in Florida some of its findings were dramatic:


  • From 2000 to 2021 the number of youths in adult prisons decreased by 93%.

  • The number of youths incarcerated in all U.S. adult facilities peaked in 2008 when 10,420 youths were incarcerated in both adult jails and prisons.

  • By the end of 2021 fewer than 300 youths ages 17 and younger were in the custody of state prisons.

  • Southern states incarcerated the most youths in local jails in 2019.


Previously, the numbers had gotten so high, according to the ODJJP report in large part because, “during the 1980s and 1990s rising crime rates coincided with increased media attention on crime committed by youth, fueling fears of “juvenile superpredators”. The superpredator theory posited that a small but significant and increasing population of impulsive (often urban) youths were willing to commit violent crimes without remorse. Policymakers in most states responded by advocating for tougher sentences for youth.”



But that trend has been largely reversed, in part thanks to a decline in the number of crimes committed by youths and a number of reforms have been enacted that have decreased the number of juveniles transferred to adult court. For example: 


  • Illinois raised the maximum age from 17 to 18 for misdemeanor offenses instead of prosecuting 17 year olds in the adult system.

  • In the same state in 2015, “the state legislature of Illinois passed a bill . . . that eliminated automatic transfers to adult court for 15-year-olds and limits the transfer of juveniles ages 16 and 17 to only those who have committed the most serious crimes. 

  • Connecticut passed a law to raise the maximum age for juvenile facilities from 16 to 18

  • Three states (Michigan, New York, and Vermont) “have raised the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, meaning that young adults can remain under the purview of juvenile courts until they turn 19.”


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