The Case for Rebuilding America’s Juvenile Justice System

Posted October 20, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Every day in America, youth are unfairly funneled into detention facilities that pull them deeper into the criminal justice system. It’s a broken and costly approach that’s in desperate need of reform.

And we know there’s a better way.

Liz Ryan directs Youth First, a national advocacy campaign to end the incarceration of young people by closing youth prisons and investing instead in community-based alternatives. The Foundation is supporting the Youth First national campaign and collaborating with other foundations and advocates throughout the country on this initiative.

Casey’s Lisa Hamilton recently spoke to Ryan about what’s wrong with America’s prevailing juvenile justice system, what a better system looks like, and how we can help states end their reliance on youth prisons and incarcerating kids.

A huge thank you to Ryan for chatting with us — and for continuing to push for detention alternatives that deliver safe, personalized and appropriate care for children in need.

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What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Characteristics that define a youth prison.
  • How youth prisons are dangerous, expensive and ineffective.
  • How the juvenile justice system profoundly and unjustly impacts young people of color.
  • Examples of community-based alternatives to incarceration.
  • The importance of tailoring programs and support services to meet the needs of each child.
  • Why it’s an exciting time to be advocating for juvenile justice reform.

Conversation Clips

In Liz Ryan’s own words…

“Youth prisons don't work. We know when we place a young person in one of these facilities, it substantially increases the likelihood that they will re-offend, and it dramatically increases the likelihood that they'll end up in the adult criminal justice system.”

“We've seen fierce advocacy in a number of states…where youth, families, advocates, and communities have come together to push for more community-based solutions over incarceration."

“Youth prisons are spending an enormous amount of our resources, roughly $5 billion a year, that could be freed up for other, more effective, community-based alternatives.”

Resources That Received a Shout-Out

About the Podcast

CaseyCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and hosted by its vice president of external affairs, Lisa Hamilton. Each episode features Hamilton talking with a new expert about how we can build a brighter future for kids, families and communities.

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