Most states continue to house youth in adult prisons, putting them at risk for physical and sexual abuse, says the Campaign for Youth Justice. As the number of youth in both juvenile and adult facilities decrease, states have the chance to end the practice of housing youth in adult facilities entirely, said the group, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. “These populations are getting smaller and smaller and smaller, which raises the question 'Why are we housing youth in these adult prisons?'” said the group’s Carmen Daugherty.
The number of youth in the adult prison system has decreased 70 percent since 2000. On any given day at the end of 2013, states held 1,200 youth in adult prison, the campaign said in a report. Youth incarcerated with adults are likely at the highest risk for sexual abuse, said a federal commission created by the Prison Rape Elimination Act. In most cases, states say they're working to come into full compliance but need more time. In some cases, states are trying to reconcile state laws that consider 16- and 17-year-olds adults with federal laws that set the bar at age 18, Daugherty said.