Residential Facilities for Incarcerated Youth Have Decreased: Study

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Photo courtesy Campaign for Youth Justice

The number of residential facilities holding incarcerated youth has significantly decreased– largely because fewer juveniles are being arrested–according to newly released data from the Juvenile Residential Facility Census Databook.

The databook found that the number of residential facilities holding youth in custody within the juvenile justice system fell 42 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2016.

“The decline comes in large part because of the significant reduction in the number of youth in custody,” wrote Dana Shoenberg, senior manager of the Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Erinn Broadus, a criminal justice research associate, who reported on the data.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number in residential placement dropped 58 percent, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ PSPP  described a growing body of research showing that the costly practice of confining juveniles is generally no more likely to reduce recidivism than is keeping them in their own homes for treatment and that confinement can actually increase the likelihood of certain youth re-offending.

However, evidence-based, in-home treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have been shown to produce substantial reductions in recidivism, said authors.

The study also found that in recent years, some states have found ways to make more effective use of resources once dedicated to residential juvenile facilities.

For example, Kansas policymakers determined that group homes in that state had failed to improve outcomes for youth in their care and that those adjudicated delinquent for misdemeanors made up too large a share of out-of-home placements.

As a result, Kansas has closed one of its two remaining correctional facilities and more than 90 percent of its group home beds. That allowed the state to shift millions of dollars annually to community-based services for youth remaining at home.

In addition, falling crime rates and reductions in residential placement may have contributed to recent facility closures.

Those factors can also be catalysts for further change, increasing the resources available for reinvestment in a continuum of evidence-based supervision and services, Shoenberg and Broadus concluded.

“When carried out in ways that support youth, families, staff, and communities, closures can be an important component of state and local juvenile justice reform strategies.”

A full copy of the report can be found here. 

This summary was prepared by Megan Hadley, senior staff reporter for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

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