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The State of Youth Justice

As Youth Incarceration Drops, Racial Disparities Persist

This milestone is a victory for reformers, largely fueled by a recognition of what researchers have long known: socially and scientifically, young people are not adults and criminal justice responses to their behavior haven’t improved outcomes.Joan McCord, Cathy Spatz Widom, and Nancy A. Crowell, editors, Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2001), 4-5. In 2017, the “raise the age” movement focused both the media and state legislatures on those under 18 years old who are charged and treated as adults.Teresa Wiltz, “Children Still Funneled through Adult Prisons, But States Are Moving Against It,” USA Today, June 17, 2017. Despite these advances, pervasive disparities continue to exist for youth of color at all points in the justice system.OJJDP, “National Disproportionate Minority Contact Databook,” accessed December 18, 2017.

Top Things to Know

  1. State and local governments are starting to limit when youth can be locked up.
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  2. A new model emerges for the treatment of young people behind bars.
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  3. Youth of color continue to disproportionately bear the burdens of incarceration.
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  4. The “Raise the Age” movement sees important gains.
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  5. Reform efforts begin to incorporate the voices of impacted youth and families.
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  1. The trend towards closing large youth prisons gains momentum.
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  2. Safeguarding the needs of LGBT youth proves challenging.
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  3. Girls’ issues come to the fore.
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Facts and Figures

On Our Radar

  • A landmark federal law is reauthorized by the House and Senate and awaits its fate.
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  • States begin to implement the 2016 Supreme Court ruling on juvenile life without parole—with uneven results.
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Discussion

Contributors

Vera Staff

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