A new study criticizes Pennsylvania for its treatment of juveniles charged with serious crimes, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Prosecuting juveniles in adult courts increases the odds of their abuse in jail or prison, and incarcerating them in adult prisons is more expensive than keeping them in the juvenile system, said Michele Deitch of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Research examining more than two decades of juvenile prosecutions in adult courts suggests youths held in adult jails and prisons are five times more likely to be sexually or physically abused than adults, and 36 times more likely to commit suicide. It costs an average $100,000 per year to house a juvenile in an adult facility, but about $43,000 to house them in a juvenile facility, the report says.
Pennsylvania has more juveniles sentenced to life in prison than any other state. According to an unrelated 2008 study published by the University of San Francisco’s Center for Law and Global Justice, nearly one-fifth of the nation’s 2,381 juvenile lifers were sentenced in Pennsylvania. The Texas study cites the case of Jordan Brown, 11, charged with killing his father’s girlfriend, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, and her unborn son. He could become the youngest person in U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison without parole, Deitch said.