Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America
A November 2007 report from the Campaign for Youth Justice, “Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America,” provides a summary of the risks that youth face when incarcerated in adult jails and a review of the limited federal and state laws protecting them. Every day in America, an average of 7,500 youth are incarcerated in adult jails. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has protected children in the justice system for more than three decades. Under the “Jail Removal” core protection, youth cannot be detained in adult jails except in limited exceptions and in those narrow circumstances the “Sight and Sound Separation” core protection prohibits contact with adults. However these protections do not apply to youth being tried in the adult criminal system.
The report “Jailing Juveniles” shows how difficult is it to keep children safe in adult jails. They have the highest suicide rates of all inmates in jails, as they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Youth in adult jails are also at great risk of physical and sexual assault, as 21% and 13% of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005 and 2006 respectively, were youth under the age of 18 (surprisingly high since only 1% of jail inmates are juveniles). Congress could easily fix this problem by extending the protections of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) that disallow the placement of children in adult jails to protect all children, no matter what court they are in – juvenile or adult.