Progress Check: Youth Confinement in America Today

Posted February 12, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog youthconfinementinamerica 2016

The research is clear. Youth pris­ons and cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties are dan­ger­ous, inef­fec­tive and unnecessary.

But here’s some good news:

America’s youth con­fine­ment rate dropped across all racial and eth­nic groups dur­ing the last decade — and by 40% overall.

See how our reliance on con­fin­ing youth has decreased over time

While these num­bers are mov­ing in the right direc­tion, there’s clear room for improve­ment, accord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

In 2013, the last full year for which data is avail­able, Amer­i­ca still placed more than 54,000 youth in juve­nile deten­tion, cor­rec­tion­al and res­i­den­tial facilities.

Equal­ly impor­tant, our nation’s lock­up pat­tern is rife with racial inequities. Here’s what the data says:

  • In every state across the coun­try, black youth run a greater risk of being placed in con­fine­ment com­pared to their white peers.
  • Rel­a­tive to white kids, nation­al con­fine­ment rates are 
    • Near­ly twice as high for His­pan­ic youth.
    • Three times high­er for Amer­i­can Indi­an youth.
    • And about five times high­er for black youth.
  • The two racial groups with the high­est youth lock­up rates—blacks and Amer­i­can Indians—saw the small­est cuts to con­fine­ment over the last decade.
  • In six states, the con­fine­ment rate is more than 10 times high­er for black kids than it is for white kids. This inequal­i­ty is great­est in New Hamp­shire, where black youth are 36 times more like­ly to be locked up rel­a­tive to their white counterparts.

View youth con­fine­ment rates by race and ethnicity

See youth con­fine­ment rates by state

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