New Report Documents Continuing Rampant Maltreatment of Incarcerated Youth

Posted June 24, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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In its 2011 report, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reduc­ing Juve­nile Incar­cer­a­tion, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion showed that heavy reliance on cor­rec­tion­al con­fine­ment fre­quent­ly expos­es youth to severe mal­treat­ment. Casey uncov­ered clear evi­dence of recur­ring or sys­temic mal­treat­ment of incar­cer­at­ed youth in the vast major­i­ty of states since 1970 — and in 22 states plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia since 2000.

In a new report released on Wednes­day, the same day as Casey CEO Patrick McCarthy deliv­ered a pow­er­ful TEDx­Penn­syl­va­ni­aAv­enue talk on juve­nile incar­cer­a­tion, the Foun­da­tion has updat­ed those findings.

The news is not good. 

In the near­ly four years since No Place for Kids was pub­lished, new rev­e­la­tions have emerged in America’s juve­nile cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties doc­u­ment­ing con­tin­ued wide­spread phys­i­cal abuse and exces­sive use of force by facil­i­ty staff; an epi­dem­ic of sex­u­al abuse; ram­pant over­re­liance on iso­la­tion and restraints; unchecked youth-on-youth vio­lence; and fre­quent vio­lence against staff. 

All told, Mal­treat­ment of Youth in U.S. Juve­nile Cor­rec­tions Facil­i­ties finds that sys­temic mal­treat­ment has now been doc­u­ment­ed in the state-fund­ed juve­nile cor­rec­tions insti­tu­tions states of 29 states since 2000 — a sub­stan­tial jump from the 22 iden­ti­fied in No Place for Kids. In addi­tion, wide­spread mal­treat­ment has con­tin­ued in many states where No Place for Kids had already doc­u­ment­ed recent maltreatment.

Learn about mal­treat­ment in your state

The new report also details the most recent evi­dence about the inci­dence of sex­u­al abuse in America’s youth facil­i­ties, and it doc­u­ments a grow­ing con­sen­sus that soli­tary con­fine­ment – still wide­ly employed in many juve­nile facil­i­ties – is dan­ger­ous, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and unsuit­ed for use with youth.

In con­clu­sion, the report argues that the con­tin­u­ing stream of mal­treat­ment rev­e­la­tions since 2011 should remove any remain­ing doubt that large con­ven­tion­al juve­nile cor­rec­tions facil­i­ties — or plain­ly stat­ed, youth pris­ons — are inher­ent­ly prone to abuse. Giv­en pub­lic offi­cials’ inabil­i­ty to pre­vent mal­treat­ment, or even to clean up youth pris­ons where inhu­mane con­di­tions are revealed, it seems dif­fi­cult to argue that con­fine­ment in these insti­tu­tions offers a safe approach for reha­bil­i­tat­ing delin­quent youth.”
 
Juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems nation­wide must make every effort to elim­i­nate inap­pro­pri­ate or unnec­es­sary reliance on con­fine­ment,” the report finds, and they must aban­don the large train­ing school mod­el [and] reform, rein­vent and/​or replace their facil­i­ties to ensure safe, healthy and ther­a­peu­tic care for the small seg­ment of the youth pop­u­la­tion who tru­ly require confinement.”

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