Infographic Highlights Trends in Youth Incarceration Over Three Decades

Posted December 14, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Youth confinement rate per 100,000

A new info­graph­ic from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion lever­ages new­ly released fed­er­al data to present key trends in youth incar­cer­a­tion over the last three decades.

Some notable take­aways: Youth incar­cer­a­tion dropped 70% and the num­ber of juve­nile arrests plum­met­ed from 1995 to 2019. At the same time, harm­ful prac­tices have per­sist­ed, includ­ing an over­re­liance on incar­cer­a­tion once young peo­ple enter the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. This is espe­cial­ly for Black and Native Amer­i­can youth.

Down­load the infographic

Con­fine­ment sep­a­rates young peo­ple from the sup­port net­works and guid­ance they need to thrive and grow into respon­si­ble adults,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. While sys­tems have made progress in arrest­ing far few young peo­ple, those who do enter the sys­tem face the same odds of being con­fined and sep­a­rat­ed from those key ingre­di­ents for well-being and per­son­al growth.”

In dis­ag­gre­gat­ing data by race and eth­nic­i­ty, the info­graph­ic also under­scores a sober­ing real­i­ty: Black youth are 16 times as like­ly to be in cus­tody as their Asian and Pacif­ic Islander peers, four times as like­ly as white peers and three times as like­ly as His­pan­ic peers.

Beyond shar­ing the lat­est data, the info­graph­ic offers rec­om­men­da­tions for alter­na­tives to incar­cer­a­tion when young peo­ple break the law. This advice includes:

  • Reduce all forms of out-of-home place­ment fur­ther by keep­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly more young peo­ple safe­ly in their communities.
  • Make strate­gies explic­it about race to coun­ter­bal­ance gen­er­a­tions of struc­tur­al racism and over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of youth of col­or in the legal system.
  • Expand the use of effec­tive com­mu­ni­ty respons­es, includ­ing options that keep some kids away from the jus­tice sys­tem altogether.
  • Trans­form pro­ba­tion into a rela­tion­ship-based, time-lim­it­ed inter­ven­tion focused on pos­i­tive behav­ior change and long-term suc­cess for young peo­ple with seri­ous and repeat arrest histories. 
  • Pro­mote com­mu­ni­ty-based guid­ance and sup­port net­works that offer young peo­ple sta­ble con­nec­tions to pos­i­tive adults and activities.

Addi­tion­al Resources on Youth Incarceration

Learn about ele­vat­ing care for youth in custody

Read about a cam­paign by youth cor­rec­tion­al lead­ers to close youth prisons

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