The Minneapolis Star Tribune explores a growing trend: Troubled children who are not charged with a crime — whose only offenses might be running away from home or hitting a classmate — now account for one-fifth of the population in Minnesota’s county juvenile correctional facilities. Between 2009 and 2015, the amount of time that so-called “non-delinquent” children spent in state-licensed juvenile correctional facilities rose 28 percent, largely because county child protection workers and local judges have nowhere else to send them, say state officials.
Children’s advocates argue that such correctional facilities are often more punitive than therapeutic, and use disciplinary procedures no longer accepted in the mental health profession. At some facilities, young children can be handcuffed, shackled, restrained in chairs and isolated in their rooms for hours. Last year, restrictive procedures were used nearly 200 times at the Anoka County facility, records show. “We’re locking away far too many kids,” said state Rep. Joe Mullery. “Sending kids to incarceration, when they haven’t even committed a crime, has proved to end up making them hardened criminals.”