January 11, 2018

Nation Shifts Away From Costly, Unnecessary Confinement

Since 2007, the rate at which youth are placed in juvenile detention, correctional and residential facilities has steadily declined — falling 44% nationwide. During this same time frame, juvenile detention rates have dropped in every state as well as the District of Columbia, and the total number of youth residing in detention has also declined.

On a given day in 2015, 48,000 youth under the age of 21 were detained, incarcerated or living in residential facilities. This population count has fallen by 6,105 since 2013 and 57,012 in less than two decades.

Juvenile confinement rates and populations totals have also dropped across all racial and ethnic groups, though significant disparities between these groups exist. For instance: Compared to their white peers, African-American youth are five times more likely to be detained. This risk is also three times higher for American Indian youth.

Juvenile lock up is expensive, ineffective and — in many cases — unnecessary. Community- and home-based alternatives for juveniles can yield equal or better outcomes at a fraction of the cost, all while maintaining public safety, according to research.

Access juvenile justice data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center: