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

Please comment on this blog post from TalkLeft about juvenile offenders in adult lock-up. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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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