On any given day, over 50,000 youth are placed out of home in a residential or correctional facility. One of the most harmful, ineffective and expensive forms of incarceration is the youth prison, the signature feature of nearly every state juvenile justice system. States devote the largest share of their juvenile justice resources to youth prisons at an estimated annual cost of over $5 billion per year.
Fortunately, states across the country are reexamining how they handle youth who come in contact with the law. Youth First partnered with Urban Institute to provide a synopsis on publicly available data on juvenile justice from five active campaign states:
Connecticut: Connecticut data sheet 2017
Kansas: Kansas data sheet 2017
New Jersey: New Jersey data sheet 2017
Virginia: Virginia data sheet 2017
Wisconsin: Wisconsin data sheet 2017
Here’s what we learned:
– Following national trends, each of the five states has seen the number of youth incarcerated in state facilities drop by more than a third over the past 10-15 years.
– In four of the five states – Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wisconsin – the youth incarceration population has fallen by more than 50 percent.
– Despite declines in youth incarceration, each of the five states still spends a considerable proportion of its budget on out of home placement.
– New Jersey and Kansas both spend roughly half of their annual budget on secure care facilities.
– Return on investment in youth incarceration is poor.
– In all four of highlighted states that report recidivism data – Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wisconsin – at least one in five and as many as half of kids released from secure facilities were reincarcerated within three years of their release
Racial and Ethnic Disparity
– All five states have high rates of racial and ethnic disparity.
– Three of the five states – New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin – are in the top 10 in the country for highest Black-White commitment rate disparity.