NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Many Young Criminals Treated As Adults

December 16, 1999

A century after the first juvenile court system was established, one in ten juveniles incarcerated are in the adults system, and juvenile institutions make little effort at rehabilitation, according to a new study.

The study, by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, is mandated by federal law and examines the juvenile justice system in the U.S. The coalition represents state and local governments and other juvenile justice experts. The study found:

  • Ten percent of the 85,000 juveniles who are incarcerated on a given day are in adult facilities.
  • Of juveniles who are in detention facilities, 33 percent are there for violent offenses such as murder, rape, assault and robbery.
  • Some 75 percent are in overcrowded facilities.

According to the report's authors, John Hubner and Jill Wolfson:

  • The juvenile system got more punitive in response to the increase in violent juvenile crime in the late '80s and early '90s.
  • However, since 1993, arrests for violent juvenile crimes have been declining, but get-tough statutes are still being passed at the state level.
  • Juvenile correction facilities do not offer the necessary mental health, educational and rehabilitative programs and services.

The report recommends Congress set minimum guidelines for facilities and juvenile programs, and suggests local governments support legislation to alleviate overcrowding by funding alternatives to incarceration.

Source: Gary Fields, "Justice for Youths Found 'Lopsided,'" USA Today, December 16, 1999.


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