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The following is for informational purposes only

Juvenile Detention Centers

Juvenile Detention Centers

Among the landscape of incarceration institutions in the US, Juvenile detention centers exist to serve the needs of juveniles that get in trouble with the law. These types of detention centers can be quite different from prisons and jails that house adult inmates, and currently house just under 50,000 minors. The juvenile prison population in the US has been trending down dramatically, decreasing by 60% since 2000.

What are Juvenile Detention Centers?

What are Juvenile Detention Centers?

Juvenile detention centers are corrections institutions for those that are of a minor age. When individuals under the age of eighteen commit a crime or are arrested, they can end up serving time at a Juvenile Detention Center. It is possible for an offender under the age of eighteen to be charged as an adult, and thus be sent to regular prison for adults.

There are different types of Juvenile detention centers, including correctional facilities and residential ones:

Correctional:

  • Detention Centers: these are shorter term facilitieswith a physically restricting environment for juveniles awaiting court disposition, placement or transfer to another jurisdiction
  • Long-Term Secure Facilities: these facilities provide strict confinement for its residents and often include education programs

Residential:

  • Diagnostic Centers: these short-term facilitiesprovide screening to juveniles and assigns them to appropriate correctional facilities.
  • Residential Treatment Centers: these provide individually tailored treatment programs for youth. Residents are treated for substance abuse, sex offenses, mental health issues and other serious issues that caused them to get in trouble.
  • Group Homes / Halfway Houses: these long-term facilities allow residents extensive contact with the community, such as attending school or working at a job
  • Ranches / Wilderness Camps: these are long-term facilities for juveniles whose behavior does not require strict confinement or a secure facility. These also allow for greater contact with the community. Examples of these facilities include forestry camps, ranches, wilderness programs, and farms.
  • Boot camps: thesefunction like military basic training, with an emphasis on physical activityand manual labor. There is a military-style culture, which is meant to teach obedience and discipline.

Who Runs Juvenile Detention Centers?

Who Runs Juvenile Detention Centers?

Most juvenile detention centers are run by state agencies, but both private and public juvenile institutions exist. When a facility is public, it is run by the respective state agency. When it is private, the state contracts with a private corrections facility business, and pays the company to run the facilities. Currently, about 40% of incarcerated juveniles are in private facilities.

It is relatively rare to have juveniles in federal prisons, and there are no federal juvenile facilities. Federal prisons lack the developmental and educational services that minors need. In some cases, minors could end up in federal adult facilities, but then they are isolated from the general population for safety and proper accommodation of their needs.

Important Statistics about Juvenile Detention Centers

Below are key statistics about juvenile incarceration in the US:

Important Statistics about Juvenile Detention Centers
  • There are currently close to 43,000 juveniles in corrections and residential facilities.
    • Of these, 92% are in locked / secure facilities.
  • Fifty two percent of long-term secure facilities, 44% of detention centers, and 43% of diagnostic centers utilize mechanical restraints like handcuffs, leg cuffs, or straitjackets.
  • Forty percent of long-term secure facilities and detention centers isolate youth in locked rooms for four hours or more.
  • Most facilities for youth are large in size, with 81% housed in facilities with more than 21 residents.
  • Two-thirds of youth are held for longer than a month, just under a quarter are held over 6 months and roughly 8% are held for over a year.
  • 10% of youth are in adult jails or prisons.
  • Twenty percent of youth in juvenile facilities have not been found guilty or delinquent and are being held as they await trial.
  • Over 6,000 are detained awaiting sentencing or placement.
    • Most detained youth are held in detention centers, but nearly 1,000 are locked in long-term secure facilities without having been officially committed.
      • Of those minors, more than half are accused of non-violent offenses.

Concerns about Juvenile Incarceration in the US

Concerns about Juvenile Incarceration in the US

Serious concerns exist about the state of the US’s juvenile detention landscape. Because these systems serve minors, emphasis is placed on education and rehabilitation. Juvenile facilities must provide education that meets the standards for each grade level. It has been noted widely that there are racial disparities in juvenile detention centers, and certain jurisdictions struggle to provide appropriate placement for minors, with youth ending up in adult facilities. A high-profile legal case occurred in Pennsylvania, where a judge was found to give longer sentences to juveniles going to a private detention center in exchange for financial kickbacks.

Juvenile detention centers must meet standards that are different from those of adult institutions. The nuances of rehabilitating youth make the topic of juvenile detention a complicated one. In keeping the needs of minors in focus, the corrections systems in the US can improve the state of juvenile detention and allow young people the opportunity for a fresh start.

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