Locking up juveniles before trial may make them more likely to commit crimes afterward, according to a new report by the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that seeks alternatives to incarceration. Young people in a San Francisco program to keep young people out of detention are half as likely to commit later crimes than those who stay in detention or the juvenile justice system, said the report by Barry Holman and Jason Ziedenberg.
“Detention centers do serve a role by temporarily supervising the most at-risk youth,” they wrote. “However, with 70 percent being held for nonviolent offenses, it is not clear whether the mass detention of youth is necessary.” Overall, they wrote, about 500,000 juveniles are held before trial each year. A study for the Wisconsin Legislature looked at four counties and found that 70 percent of the juveniles held before trial were arrested again within a year.