A wide-ranging study of youth incarceration in California outlines what it calls the debilitating effects on the health of teens, their families and society when youthful offenders are tried and sentenced as adults, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. “Juvenile Injustice,” from Human Impact Partners, concludes that laws designed to try youth in adult courts not only fail to curtail recidivism but are so inherently flawed and biased that the entire approach should be scrapped. Researchers found that youth tried in adult courts are sentenced to prison twice as often as people 18 to 24 charged with similar offenses in adult court. Eighty-eight percent of all California juveniles tried as adults were people of color.
Youths in adult prison are more likely to contract communicable diseases, suffer chronic disease, have serious oral health problems, and are more likely to be assaulted. They also are 36 times as likely to commit suicide than youth held in juvenile facilities, the report said. “Youth in adult prison are twice as likely to be beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than youth in juvenile facilities,” the report said. They also experience severe trauma and stress that can damage their still-developing minds. Rather than deter crime, treating children as adults make them more likely to reoffend, damaging their families and communities, it concluded.