Research and experience have shown that the youth prison model – placing delinquent youth into large, distant, prison like facilities – is fraught with high costs, poor outcomes, and endemic abuse. It has historically been resistant to reform. These negative impacts are not evenly distributed, but are disproportionately visited upon youth of color. The Future of Youth Justice should be grounded in communities, rather than institutions, and the youth prison model phased out in favor of community programming and small, rehabilitative facilities near youths’ home communities.
Over the last 15 years, institutionalization of youth has dropped by more than half and two-thirds of the youth prisons of over 200 beds have closed. Researchable examples of deinstitutionalization are springing up nationally, along with a cadre of youth correctional administrators committed to charting a new course for the future of youth justice.
The Justice Lab will convene juvenile justice administrators from around the country to form Juvenile Justice Administrators for Justice, dedicated to shaping a future of youth justice that no longer relies on youth prisons. Additionally, the Justice Lab will launch a series of case studies of state and local efforts to eliminate or downsize youth prisons.
Youth Justice Research by Justice Lab members
Justice Lab Members on Youth Justice in the News