Reducing Youth Incarceration

Building on the success of Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in detention reform, we are intensifying efforts to reduce the number of youth placed into correctional institutions and other residential facilities.

We all want a world where young peo­ple — no mat­ter their race, eth­nic­i­ty, gen­der or neigh­bor­hood — can real­ize their poten­tial, even when they make seri­ous mis­takes. Achiev­ing this vision requires us to move away from a cul­ture of pun­ish­ment and con­fine­ment and toward more effec­tive respons­es when young peo­ple vio­late the law.

Young peo­ple are most like­ly to thrive at home or in home-like set­tings in their own com­mu­ni­ties, with sta­ble con­nec­tions to pos­i­tive adults and oppor­tu­ni­ties. Com­mu­ni­ty-based respons­es are more like­ly to facil­i­tate healthy devel­op­ment and reduce recidi­vism than insti­tu­tion­al con­fine­ment is.

Incar­cer­a­tion sep­a­rates young peo­ple from the guid­ance, sup­port and ties they need to grow into respon­si­ble adults. Yet, in the Unit­ed States, the odds remain high that youth charged with a crime will be locked up — 36,000 young peo­ple are in cus­tody today. Gen­er­a­tions of struc­tur­al racism and dis­par­i­ties in how cas­es are han­dled mean that Black, Lati­no and Amer­i­can Indi­an males rep­re­sent a dis­pro­por­tion­ate major­i­ty of young peo­ple in youth pris­ons and oth­er place­ments away from their homes and families.

To ensure all young peo­ple can thrive, we need to safe­ly and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce youth incar­cer­a­tion, espe­cial­ly for youth of col­or. Even as we pre­pare for that future, we also need to ele­vate the stan­dard of care for youth who are locked up now.

From the Blog

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Ways to Reduce Youth Incarceration

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Leading With Race to Reimagine Youth Justice

This report explores Casey's Deep-end initiative, which has demonstrated that juvenile justice jurisdictions can safely and significantly reduce youth confinement — especially for young people of color.

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Transforming Juvenile Probation

The Casey Foundation shares its vision for transforming juvenile probation into a focused intervention that promotes personal growth, positive behavior change and long-term success for at-risk youth.

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Eight Principles to Transform Care

This issue brief identifies eight principles that every juvenile justice system should embrace to transform care for youth in custody.