Despite significant reforms over the past decade to reduce youth incarceration and out-of-home placements, there are still far too many youth being locked up in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. Despite falling crime rates and a 45% decrease in youth arrests over the past decade, the United States still arrests more than 600,000 youth a year, the vast majority of whom could be more effectively treated in community-based settings. Each year, we incarcerate 55,000 children in state prisons, most who are there for non-violent crimes. An additional 250,000 youth are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system annually; and on any given night more than 6,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons.
With strong federal leadership, the pace of juvenile justice reforms can be accelerated. Research over the past 25 years has increased our understanding of what works and how to best approach juvenile delinquency and system reform. Many jurisdictions across the country are implementing promising reforms, and there is an increasingly clear path for moving toward community and evidence-based approaches to reducing adolescent crime.
In its final 18 months in office, the Administration has the opportunity and responsibility to support effective systems of justice for our youth and should begin by focusing on the following five priority areas: Restore Federal Leadership in Juvenile Justice Policy; Support and Prioritize Prevention, Early Intervention, and
Diversion Strategies; Ensure Safety and Fairness for Court-Involved Youth; Remove Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System; Support Youth Reentry.
In a moment of bi-partisan agreement that our juvenile and criminal justice systems are inhumane, ineffective and costly, it is time for the Administration to take action on behalf of our nation’s youth.