A national poll commissioned by the Youth First Initiative and conducted by GBA Strategies in January 2016 shows that a majority of Americans, especially young people, believe that youth prisons should be closed and replaced with rehabilitation and prevention programs.
The poll, which also shows support for reform across the political spectrum, was conducted January 19-24, 2016 among 1000 adults in 50 states. You can review the poll memo here.
The poll results show:
- The vast majority of Americans (92%) believe that what is most important is that the juvenile justice system does a better job of making sure youth get back on track so that they are less likely to commit another offense.
- Americans favor (83%) providing financial incentives for states and municipalities to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration, such as intensive rehabilitation, education, job training, community services, and programs that provide youth the opportunity to repair harm to victims and communities.
- 73% of Americans agreed that youth can be taught to take responsibility for their actions without resorting to incarceration.
- A majority of Americans believe that youth prisons should be closed, and that the savings should be redirected to community based programs, including intensive ones for youth who pose a serious threat to public safety, and that number climbs to 67% with Americans age 18-29.
- 70% of Americans favor requiring states to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. Young people of color are much more likely to be incarcerated despite committing roughly the same level of juvenile crime as white youth. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Justice, African-American youth are 5 times, Native American youth are 3 times, and Latino youth are 2 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth.
- 89% of Americans prefer including a youth’s family in the design of rehabilitation services. Many of the youth prisons on the roster are located far from youths’ homes and communities, making family contact and engagement difficult. Most youth prisons do not include families in treatment plans for youth. Families are paying for the daily cost of incarceration as well as other fines and fees as every state allows, with most requiring, parents to be charged for the cost of their children’s incarceration.
Here are additional resources on the poll:
National Poll Memo: Youth First National Poll Memo Feb 2016
Power Point: National Polling Youth Incarceration 2016
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