Many state juvenile justice policies remain stunningly simple, says The American Prospect in a special report on the subject: “Get young offenders into court, ?nd them guilty, then lock 'em up.” On a typical day, more than 120,000 minors are in detention across the nation. In Texas, second only to California in youth detentions, locking up adolescents is a growth business: Juvenile-detention beds more than doubled in the past decade, from about 1,600 to more than 4,200.
Public defenders, criminologists, and some outspoken judges are increasingly questioning the traditional belief that a community needs to ship off wayward kids to exact punishment and protect itself. The Prospect reports “a new way of thinking: Kids should stay in the community and the services should come to them.” Critics argue that most youthful offenders are not guilty of violent crimes that warrant incarceration. They note that the system ensnares a disproportionate number of minorities and declare that the juvenile corrections system essentially doesn't work.