New Report Recommends Actions to Replace the Youth Prison Model

Posted October 21, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog actionstoreplaceyouthprisons 2016

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

Har­vard Kennedy School’s Pro­gram in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Pol­i­cy and Man­age­ment and the Nation­al Insti­tute of Jus­tice today released a new report with rec­om­men­da­tions for a com­mon-sense, bipar­ti­san approach to halt the heavy reliance on incar­cer­at­ing young peo­ple. The report, The Future of Youth Jus­tice: A Com­mu­ni­ty-Based Alter­na­tive to the Youth Prison Mod­el, doc­u­ments how con­clu­sive­ly youth pris­ons fail at pro­tect­ing the com­mu­ni­ty or turn­ing young lives around.

Rather than per­pet­u­at­ing a failed mod­el that is inher­ent­ly flawed, the authors argue that states and local­i­ties should adopt a dif­fer­ent approach, one that pro­tects pub­lic safe­ty and is more informed by what works. The authors con­clude that the youth prison mod­el should be replaced with a con­tin­u­um of com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams and, for the few youth who require secure con­fine­ment, small­er home­like facil­i­ties that pri­or­i­tize age-appro­pri­ate reha­bil­i­ta­tion. The report fea­tures sev­er­al states that have moved in this direc­tion to demon­strate that com­mu­ni­ty-based approach­es can reduce recidi­vism, con­trol costs and pro­mote pub­lic safety.

Patrick McCarthy, pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, is a co-author of the report, along with Miri­am Shark, a for­mer asso­ciate direc­tor at the Foun­da­tion, and Vin­cent Schi­ral­di, a senior fel­low at the Har­vard Kennedy School. Both McCarthy and Schi­ral­di were once youth cor­rec­tion­al administrators.

McCarthy and Schi­ral­di pre­sent­ed the report to stake­hold­ers and researchers in the juve­nile jus­tice field at an event in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. con­vened by the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice’s Office of Jus­tice Pro­grams. There, a pan­el of experts and gov­ern­ment offi­cials dis­cussed the effec­tive­ness of com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams that pri­or­i­tize age-appro­pri­ate reha­bil­i­ta­tion. Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al Karol V. Mason, Nation­al Insti­tute of Jus­tice Direc­tor Nan­cy Rodriguez and Office of Juve­nile Jus­tice and Delin­quen­cy Pre­ven­tion Admin­is­tra­tor Robert L. Lis­ten­bee were among the speakers.

The time has come to accom­plish what we’ve all known need­ed to hap­pen. We need to and we can close every last youth prison in the coun­try,” said McCarthy at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice con­ven­ing. To be sure, some kids need secure con­fine­ment but far, far few­er than today and for much short­er periods…it is time to replace our approach with a com­mu­ni­ty-based, youth devel­op­ment-ori­ent­ed sys­tem that does what it is meant to do – help kids who have come in con­tact with the law to get back on track.”

Schi­ral­di made the case for reori­ent­ing sys­tem by tak­ing four action steps that he dubbed the 4Rs” for reduce, reform, replace and rein­vest. Using exam­ples from Texas, Cal­i­for­nia, Ohio, Mis­souri and New York City, Schi­ral­di described how juris­dic­tions could pri­or­i­tize youth devel­op­ment and account­abil­i­ty over mind­less punishment.

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