New Research and Papers
Adoration of the Question: Reflections on the Failure to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System
Examining circumstances that continue to influence the juvenile justice system and outlining the early system's approach towards youth of color, DMC (Disproportionate Minority Confinement) and its perceived causes. The publications analyzes the well-intentioned federal mandates that have largely failed to reduce entrenched disparities in the system over the 20 years since Congress first mandated that states "address" DMC. The Burns Institute, December 2008.
Against All Odds: Prison Conditions for Youth Offenders Serving Life without Parole Sentences in the United States
January 3, 2012. Summary: The penalty [of life without parole] forswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal...For juvenile offenders, who are most in need of and receptive to rehabilitation, the absence of rehabilitative opportunities or treatment makes the disproportionality of the sentence all the more
evident. —Graham v. Florida, United States Supreme Court, 2010 (130 S. Ct. 2011, 2030 (2010))
Approximately 2,570 youth offenders are currently sentenced to die in prison in the United States—held without the possibility of parole for crimes committed while they were children. Most have been convicted of homicide offenses. Many of the crimes carried the ultimate price for victims and the perpetrators should be held accountable. The loss and suffering their victims have endured, however, does not lessen the need for society to hold youth accountable in a manner appropriate to their age and capacity for growth and change.
Youth offenders sentenced to life without parole enter prison while they are still growing up and deserve an opportunity to change. Brain science shows that youth are different from adults, their neurological systems still developing. Human rights law mandates that youth offenders be treated differently from adults and, to our knowledge, not a single youth offender is serving this sentence anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, federal and state legislators in the United States continue to turn their backs on the science and remain out of step with practice elsewhere, forcing youth offenders serving life without parole to forfeit whatever their future might have held in store for them.
This report—drawing on in-person interviews and correspondence with more than 500 youth offenders serving life without parole sentences in 11 states—describes the conditions that define the beginning, middle, and end of the lives of such youth offenders. In the different ways detailed here, those conditions can and often do constitute serious human rights violations.
Youth offenders—persons convicted of crimes committed while they were below the age of 18—enter adult jails and prisons while still children or, depending on how long their trials and court proceedings last, as the youngest of adults. Our research has found that youth offenders are among the inmates most susceptible to physical and sexual assault during their incarceration. Many are placed in isolated segregation to protect them or to punish them, some spending years without any but the most fleeting human contact. Because of their sentence, youth offenders serving life without parole face the additional burden of being classified in ways that deprive them of meaningful opportunities while in prison: many are denied access to educational and vocational programs available to other inmates. Finally, facing violence, stultifying conditions, and the prospect of lifelong separation from family and friends, many youth offenders experience depression and intense loneliness. Failed by prison mental health services, many contemplate and attempt suicide; some succeed.
Teens and young adults have developmental needs that must be met in order in order for them to fully mature into adulthood. For a youth offender in the middle of this essential developmental phase, denial of these opportunities for growth is devastating. Systematic failure to provide such opportunities and widespread violence and abuse in prison turns a life without parole sentence into a punishment of excessive cruelty. Despite this cruelty, many youth offenders serving life without parole persevere in their struggles to obtain rehabilitative opportunities and do, in fact, find ways to mature into adults capable of contributing to society if ever given the chance.
For years, Human Rights Watch has been calling for the abolition of juvenile life without parole sentences in the United States. In 2012 the US Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the sentence for homicide offenses. We believe that even in homicide cases the sentence is cruel and unusual, disproportionate, and violates international law. As this report shows, the many collateral consequences of prison conditions for youth offenders further stack the deck—making a life of humanity and dignity possible only against all odds.
Alternatives to the Secure Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders
Explores efforts underway in many states and counties
to provide alternative community-based supervision for
juveniles involved in the justice system. Many
jurisdictions are struggling with crowding in juvenile
detention facilities, yet recent data demonstrate that
up to one-third of juveniles populations are
potentially low-risk offenders detained for technical
parole violations. The report, sponsored by the US
Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs,
surveys programs in use from San Fransisco to Baltimore
which identify low-risk juveniles and divert them from
traditional detention facilities. These alternatives --
including intensive supervision, electronic monitoring,
diversion, skills training and residential programs --
often programs prove more cost-effective and result in
lower recidivism than incarceration. October 2005.
America's Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice
National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Campaign for Youth Justice. May 2009.
On any given day, close to 18,000 Latino youth are incarcerated in America. The majority of these youth are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Most Latino youth are held in juvenile detention facilities (41%) and juvenile long-term secure facilities (34%). However, one out of every four (24%) incarcerated Latino children is held in an adult prison or jail even though youth in adult facilities are in significant danger of suicide and rape.
Latino youth are overrepresented in the U.S. justice system and receive harsher treatment than white youth. In order of rising disparities, Latino youth are 4% more likely than white youth to be petitioned, 16% more likely than white youth to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely than white youth to be detained, 41% more likely than white youth to receive an out-of-home placement, 43% more likely than white youth to be waived to the adult system, and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison. States with the highest levels of disparity of Latino youth in adult prison (rates over 5 times that for white youth) were California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Nine out of ten (90%) Latino youth ages 10 to 17 live in states that permit pre-trial detention in adult jails for youth prosecuted in the adult system. According to a study of 40 large urban jurisdictions, Latino youth prosecuted in the adult system are routinely incarcerated in adult jails. Overall, a higher proportion of white youth are released pretrial (60%) than any other racial or ethnic categories. Most (54%) of Latino youth prosecuted in the adult system were detained pretrial; of the Latino youth detained pretrial, 72% were held in adult jails.
The National Council of La Raza is the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., working to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.
Amici Curiae in support of Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida.
On Nov. 9, the Supreme Court will hold oral argument in Sullivan vs. Florida and Graham vs. Florida, two cases that will determine whether it is constitutional to sentence a teenager to life in prison without parole for a crime that did not involve the taking of a life.
Petitioners in amici curiae include former "juvenile offenders including Former Senator Alan Simpson, Charles Dutton, R.Dwayne Betts, Ishmael Beah and others.
Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?
Authors: Daniel Losen, Cheri Hodson, Michael A. Keith II, Katrina Morrison, Shakti Belway
February 23, 2015. The Civil Rights Project. The main body of this report documents gross disparities in the use of out-of-school suspension experienced by students with disabilities and those from historically disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups. The egregious disparities revealed in the pages that follow transform concerns about educational policy that allows frequent disciplinary removal into a profound matter of civil rights and social justice. This implicates the potentially unlawful denial of educational opportunity and resultant disparate impact on students in numerous districts across the country.
Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts' Three Largest School Districts
May 2, 2012, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Massachusetts, Citizens for Juvenile Justice
By Robin L. Dahlberg
From the Executive Summary:
On October 23, 2007, a 14-year-old boy at the Kennedy Middle School in Springfield, Massachusetts, was arrested after he refused to walk with a teacher to her office and instead returned to his classroom. According to the police report, he yelled at the teacher, bounced a basketball in a school hallway, failed to respond to a police officer’s request to go with the teacher and slammed his classroom door shut. He was subsequently taken into police custody, handcuffed, transported to the police station and charged with "disturbing a lawful assembly."
This incident illustrates a matter of growing concern to educators, parents and advocates: the extent to which the permanent on-site presence of police officers in public schools results in the criminalization of disruptive behavior. While other research has focused on zero-tolerance policies and the overuse of out-of-school suspension and expulsion as significant factors in feeding the "School-to-Prison Pipeline," this report focuses on the additional problem of arrest, in particular the use of arrest to address behavior that would likely be handled in the school by school staff if not for the presence of on-site officers.
While all three districts appear to overuse "public order" offenses as a justification for arrests, Springfield had significantly more such arrests than Boston or Worcester, as well as a much higher overall arrest rate than either of the other two districts. Although the number of public order arrests fell during the three years covered by our study, they fell the least in Springfield and remain unacceptably high.
While there are undoubtedly many reasons why there are more public order arrests in Springfield than in Boston or Worcester, it appears that the manner in which Springfield deploys police officers in its public schools is a contributing factor. Springfield is the only district that has armed, uniformed police officers from the local police department stationed in selected schools for the entire duration of the school day. These officers report to the Chief of the Springfield Police Department, not the Springfield school district. Although Boston has officers stationed in selected schools, these officers are employed by the Boston Public Schools, are answerable to the Public Schools’ superintendent, and are unarmed. Worcester does not have any officers with arresting authority permanently stationed in its schools.
Youth with behavioral and learning disabilities were disproportionately affected by the policing practices in Boston and Springfield. The schools with the highest rates of arrest (arrests per 1000 students) in these districts were schools for students with diagnosed learning and behavioral disabilities, raising serious questions about the manner in which these schools are administered.
In all three districts, children as young as 11 or 12 were subject to arrest, often as the result of childish outbursts. In one case, an upset 11-year old was charged with assault and battery on a public employee, disorderly conduct, and disturbing a lawful assembly after he left his classroom, ran outside the school building, and threw a snowball at a teacher.
CRINMAIL 805 - Special Edition on Children in Conflict with the Law
10 August 2006. Contents: GUIDE: International Norms and Standards for Juvenile Justice; FACTS AND FIGURES: Children in the Criminal Justice System Around the World [fact sheet]; SOUTH AFRICA: Justice System Grapples to Deal with Children [news]; GOOD PRACTICE: Working with Children in Conflict with the Law; TURKEY: Children May Be Tried Under New Anti-Terror Law [news]; JUVENILE JUSTICE INDICATORS: Fifteen Indicators Developed to Increase Visibility and Protection for Children in Conflict with the Law; RESOURCES: Publications and Recommended Websites; EUROPE: Second International Conference on Juvenile Justice - A Frameworkfor Integration [conference]
California Department of Corrections' New 'Plan' for Juvenile Justice
The plan, however, was criticized by some juvenile justice advocacy groups and a top
legislative critic of the state's youth prison system who contend the proposed
reforms don't go far enough. "What we need is a detailed vision for moving this
department philosophically toward education and rehabilitation," said state Sen.
Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, "not just incarceration of youth." The reforms
would be implemented through at least the next five years, depending on funding,
and state officials contend they will lower recidivism rates, provide safer facilities
and better prepare youths to integrate into society. Lenore Anderson, director
of the activist group Books Not Bars in Oakland, had hoped the department would
close some facilities. The 2-year-old organization founded by San Francisco's
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has long been critical of the youth authority. "Any
plan that keeps abusive youth prisons run by prison guards open is a set-up for
failure," Anderson said. "The solutions have been obvious for a long time, and
we're disappointed that it doesn't call for closing any facilities." Under the
reforms, none of the current facilities are slated to be closed.
Capital City Correction
DC Lawyers for Youth and the Campaign for Youth Justice (May 2014). Advocates Want D.C. To End Pretrial Holding Of Minors In Adult Jails- In 2012, 59 percent of the 10,016 days spent by youths in Department of Corrections facilities were before a trial."541 individual youth were held in adult facilities with one unit designated for juveniles." All 541 minors — who were 98 percent male and 97 percent black — were held this way as a result of direct file, meaning federal prosecutors charge the case in the adult system without judicial review."
Catholic Bishops of the South: "Suffer the Little Children..." Juvenile Justice in the South
Part of a series of pastoral statements by Catholic Bishops of the South on the Criminal Justice process.
Common Ground: Lessons learned from five states that reduced juvenile confinement by more than half.
Justice Policy Institute. March 2013. Shed light on the pronounced trend toward reduced confinement of youth nationwide. Through a variety of methods, the reports find, Connecticut, Arizona, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Tennessee all reduced youth confinement by more than 50% between 2001 and 2010, with no resulting uptick in juvenile crime.
Conditions of Confinement: Findings From the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), May 2010.
The Survey of Youth in Residential Placement reviews its background, describes its design and methodology, discusses its strengths and limitations, and summarizes the questions it answers about the population of youth in custody. This survey is unique in that it is the only current national survey to obtain information about youth in custody by asking questions of the youth themselves.
The Consequences Aren't Minor: The Impact of Trying Youth as Adults and Strategies for Reform
Presents research, statuary analysis, and case studies to highlight the problems with the policies and practices that treat young people as adults in the justice system. The study examines the laws and data in seven key states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. An estimated two hundred thousand youth end up in the adult system each year, and 40 states allow or require the jailing of youth in adult facilities before they ever go to trial. About the Campaign for Youth Justice: The Campaign for Youth Justice (C4YJ) is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. Learn more at http://campaign4youthjustice.org.
The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Jailing and Joblessness of High School Drop Outs and the High Cost to Taxpayers
By Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University. October 2009.
"The report puts the collective cost to the nation over the working life of each high school dropout at $292,000. Mr. Sum said that figure took into account lost tax revenues, since dropouts earn less and therefore pay less in taxes than high school graduates. It also includes the costs of providing food stamps and other aid to dropouts and of incarcerating those who turn to crime."
"The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans, with nearly one in four young black male dropouts incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day, the study said. That compares with about one in 14 young, male, white, Asian or Hispanic dropouts." (NY Times)
Cost-Effective Youth Corrections: Rationalizing the fiscal architecture of juvenile justice systems
Summary: In most states, juvenile delinquency is handled at the county-level, with youth
being arrested by local police and processed in local courts. If they are adjudicated
delinquent and sentenced to options such as drug treatment, mental health counseling,
or community service, then the county must pay to provide these services. However,
if youth are sentenced to state secure confinement, they are sometimes sent to
there at little cost to the county. In Cost-Effective Youth Corrections: Rationalizing
the Fiscal Architecture of Juvenile Justice Systems, the Justice Policy Institute
profiles several states that have altered the fiscal architecture of their juvenile
justice systems to reduce the inefficient, ineffective and sometimes damaging
affect of fiscal incentives that make it cheaper to send youth to state secure
care. Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois have demonstrated
that, by rethinking how they fund their juvenile justice systems, states and localities
can succeed in keeping more youth at home, reduce the number of youth incarcerated,
and promote better outcomes for young people. March 2006.
The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense
States spend about $5.7 billion each year imprisoning youth, even though the majority are held for nonviolent offenses. The brief concludes that most youth could be managed safely in the community through alternatives that cost substantially less than incarceration and could lower recidivism by up to 22 percent. These alternatives are also more cost-effective in reducing crime than incarceration, yielding up to $13 in benefits for every dollar spent. Justice Policy Institute: May 2009
Crime Rates and Youth Incarceration in Texas and California Compared: Public Safety or Public Waste?
By Mike Males, PhD, Christina Stahlkopf, PhD, and Daniel Macallair, MPA. May 2007. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in California. A look at juvenile crime and incarceration in Texas and California. Over the last decade, both states have seen a nearly identical drop in youth crime (as measured by arrest rates). Where California and Texas differ is their incarceration policy the last 10 years: From 1995 to 2006, Texas increased the number of youth that were incarcerated under the age of 18 by 48%. This was done through harsh sentencing practices that targeted non-violent, property and drug offenders. In contrast, during the same period, California drastically reduced the total number of juveniles incarcerated in youth prisons by 75% —an unprecedented decline—by imprisoning only the most violent offender.
Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13 and 14 Year Old Children In to Die in Prison
Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL. November 2007. American prisons are home to 73 inmates locked up for life for crimes they committed when they were 13 or 14. Bump that age limit up three years and we have 2,225 prisoners locked up for the rest of their lives for crimes they committed when they were 17 or younger.
Article 10 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, in part, "Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication," and, "The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status."
The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities
Rather than promoting public safety, detention - the
pretrial "jailing" of youth not yet found delinquent - may
contribute to future offenses. Studies from around the
country show that incarcerated youth have higher
recidivism rates than youth supervised in other kinds of
Data Points Part I: Who does the Massachusetts juvenile justice system serve?
December 2012. CfJJ continues its second year of Data∙Points publication, a report compiling the most current data from the juvenile justice in Massachusetts to support an informed dialogue among policymakers and the public about the state of our juvenile justice system - who it serves, where it is functioning best, and where it needs to improve. This year, Data∙Points will be released in a series. Part I, Who does the Massachusetts juvenile justice system serve?, provides a snapshot of the youth who come into contact with this system.
Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools
Justice Policy Institute, November 2011.
The report compiles information and data showing that school resource officers needlessly drive up arrests for behavior issues that can, and should, be dealt with inside the school. For example, in Birmingham, Alabama, 96 percent of juvenile court referrals for students were for misdemeanor offenses or minor violations. A study of sample schools with and without SROs found that schools with an SRO had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an SRO.
Education on Lockdown: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track
(2005). This report from the Advancement Project examines how zero tolerance policies in schools have profound impacts on childrens' future and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Also - visit the new quot;Schoolhouse to Jailhouse" website: http://www.stopschoolstojails.org.
Effective Investments in Public Safety
Educational attainment, in itself, does not predetermine whether an individual will engage in crime. However, there is evidence that suggests that education and graduation rates may relate to crime rates, and this new research comes at a time when education programs are receiving less and less funding, while more money is being spent on incarceration—a public safety policy that has not been proven to lower crime rates. Data from numerous sources, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that those people with the least education are often the ones who end up committing crimes and being imprisoned. Funding for more education services rather than corrections would have a significant positive effect on public safety. State by state information included in this document from the Justice Policy Institute, 2006.
Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult System
A study published by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led by a Task Force on
Community Preventive Services, released November 29, 2007 finds that
transferring youth to the adult criminal justice system significantly
increases crime and rather than improve public safety, produces the opposite
effect. Youth who have been previously tried as adults are, on average, 34%
more likely to commit crimes than youth retained in the juvenile justice
After an extensive review of published scientific evidence, the Task Force
on Community Preventive Services recommended "Against laws or policies
facilitating the transfer of juveniles from the juvenile to the adult
The CDC published the Task Force findings in their latest Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report - Reports and Recommendations. The study found that
violent outcomes associated with the transfer of youth to the adult system
an increase in pretrial violence,
victimization of juveniles in adult facilities, and
elevated suicide rates for juveniles incarcerated in adult facilities.
Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records
The first-ever comprehensive evaluation of state policies that govern the confidentiality and expungement of juvenile court and law enforcement records. No state earned the maximum five-star rating, with the national average coming in at three stars out of the possible five stars. Juvenile Law Center. November 2014.
FairTest testimony by Monty Neill
FairTest testimony by Monty Neill on how high-stakes connects testing with punitive discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline, to the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on ending the school-to-prison pipeline.
From Prison to Home: The Effect of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities Incarceration. Reentry, and Social Capital: Social Networks in the Balance
By Dina R. Rose and Todd R. Clear, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies
Written by Judith Greene and Kevin Pranis, undertakes an extensive review of the research literature on gangs to clarify persistent misconceptions and examine the effectiveness of common gang control strategies. According to the report, in cities like Los Angeles where gang activity is most prevalent, more police, more prisons and more punitive measures haven't stopped the cycle of gang violence. Most surprising are conclusions that gangs are responsible for a relatively small share of crime; gang activity has not grown in the U.S.; whites make up a large- if largely invisible- proportion of gang members; most gang-involved youth quit before reaching adulthood; and heavy-handed suppression tactics can increase gang cohesion while failing to reduce violence. Justice Policy Institute, July 2007.
A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools
School-to-Prison Pipeline Study, 12/11/2013. By
Jacob Kang-Brown, Jennifer Trone, Jennifer Fratello, and Tarika Daftary-Kapur.
Zero tolerance discipline policies that mandate suspension or expulsion of students for misconduct have gained tremendous momentum over the past 25 years while also inviting deep controversy. With A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice looks at existing research about whether zero tolerance discipline policies make schools more orderly or safe, if out-of-school suspension or expulsion leads to greater involvement in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems, and what effect these policies can have on a young person’s future. It concludes that, a generation after the rise of these policies and practices, neither schools nor young people have benefited. Fortunately, as described in the report, promising alternatives to zero tolerance can safely keep young people where they belong—in school.
Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States
By Human Rights Watch and the ACLU (October 2012), is based on research in both US jails and prisons in five states – Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania – and correspondence with young people in 14 others. The isolation of solitary confinement causes anguish, provokes serious mental and physical health problems, and works against rehabilitation for teenagers, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found.
Healing Invisible Wounds: Why Investing in Trauma-Informed Care for Children Makes Sense
Justice Policy Institute, July 2010. Examines the relationship between childhood trauma and justice system involvement for youth. Of the more than 93,000 children that are currently incarcerated in the United States, between 75 and 93 percent have experienced at least one traumatic experience, including sexual abuse, war, community violence, neglect and maltreatment.
Research points to long term effects of childhood trauma, including emotional problems and negative impacts on youth brain development. The brief notes that while holding youth who engage in delinquent behavior accountable is important, it is critical that trauma exposure be considered in placement decisions, as youth who receive treatment in the community have better outcomes than those placed in correctional facilities.
I Got Arrested! Now What?: A Guide to the Juvenile Justice System
The Youth Justice Board, is an after-school youth development program overseen by the Center for Court Innovation, a public/private partnership that seeks to promote public confidence in justice. In June, 2010, the Board released a new comic book-inspired resource for youths. The comic will be given out to young people who were recently arrested during probation intake, the first step in the juvenile justice process. Board members produced the comic through a year-long collaboration with the New York City Department of Probation, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and designer Danica Novgodoroff.
Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America
The Campaign for Youth Justice. The report provides a summary of the risks that youth face when incarcerated in adult jails, facts and figures about how many youth are incarcerated in jails nationwide, and a review of the limited federal and state laws protecting youth in jails. Released: November 15, 2007.
A Just Alternative to Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole
Issue brief co-authored by Beth Colgan, Managing Attorney of the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services, and Jody Kent, Director of the National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. Published March 2010 by the American Constitution Society. The issue brief looks closely at our country's deeply flawed practice of sentencing youth to die in prison. It highlights how this United States practice disregards scientific research, is implemented unfairly, and undermines America's moral standing.
Juvenile Injustice website
In late 2009, Mariame Kaba of Project NIA and Lisa Lee of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum decided to partner on a project to create a series of zines about juvenile justice issues. The zine series was developed in conjunction with an exhibition called "Unfinished Business - Juvenile Justice," a community-curated show that links the founding of the nation's first juvenile court in 1899 with the pressing contemporary issues of juvenile justice and prison reform.
Four juvenile justice zines were created by teaching artists, Rachel Marie-Crane Williams and Elgin-Bokari T. Smith; and youth at the Chicago Freedom School and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. The zines feature the voices of those affected by the criminal legal system and also tackle the issues that affect all of our communities: the
History of Juvenile Justice in Illinois,
Girls in the System,
Youth Stories (of the Incarcerated), and the
School-to-Prison Pipeline (links are to the actual PDFs).
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana Report: Teenagers Held in Detention During Hurricane Katrina Endured Horrific Conditions
About 150 teenagers held in detention during Hurricane Katrina endured horrific conditions in the storm's aftermath, including standing for hours in filthy floodwater, having nothing to eat and drink for three to five days, and being forced to drink sewage-filled water as a result, according to "Treated Like Trash: Juvenile Detention in New Orleans Before, During, and After Hurricane Katrina". The report was prepared by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a group that has long advocated changes in the state's troubled juvenile system, and was based on interviews with more than 60 teenagers held at the Orleans Parish Prison during the storm, as well as with prison staff members.
Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report
(NCJ 212906) March 2006 Report, 260 page(s) Snyder, H., and Sickmund, M. Presents comprehensive information on juvenile crime, violence, and victimization and on the juvenile justice system.
This OJJDP National Report brings together the latest available statistics from a variety of sources and includes numerous tables, graphs, and maps, accompanied
by analyses in clear, nontechnical language.
Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency?
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice. August 2008
Research by the OJJDP found that transfer laws have
little or no deterrent effect on juvenile crime. The
report, also mentions that recidivism rates have
increased, because of the transfer laws. Key findings
from OJJDP report: Laws to make it easier to transfer
youth to the adult criminal court system have little or
no general deterrent effect, meaning they do not
prevent youth from engaging in criminal behavior; Youth
transferred to the adult system are more likely to be
rearrested and to reoffend than youth who committed
similar crimes, but were retained in the juvenile
justice system; Higher recidivism rates are due to a
number of factors including the youth's:
- Stigmatization/negative labeling effects of being labeled as a convicted felon;
- Sense of resentment and injustice about being tried as an adult;
- Learning of criminal mores and behavior while incarcerated with adults;
- Decreased access to rehabilitation and family support in the adult system;
- Decreased employment and community integration opportunities due to a felony conviction.
Keeping Kids in School and out of Court: Report and Recommendations
May 2013. NYC School-Justice Partnership Taskforce created by Judge Judith Kaye. The School-to-Prison Pipeline in NYC is a result of zero-tolerance policies implemented in schools, which increase the number of suspensions and school-related court involvement among students for minor offenses. NYC minority students had the highest rate of being suspended and arrested for school-based incidents than their white students. For arrests, black students were shockingly 14 times more likely to be arrested than white students despite the similarity in incidents. Findings from the Task Force indicated that expelling, arresting, and suspending these youth does not make schools safer; instead, it significantly impacts the lives of thousands of students. Students that are suspended and arrested are much more likely to have negative outcomes over the life course because of early on exposure to the justice system. Report includes emerging reforms in school districts around the country. Recommendations for change in NY.
Know Your Rights: A Guide to Young People's Rights in Juvenile Delinquency Court
(May 2007) The booklet is designed to teach young people their basic constitutional rights as it applies to the law. According to the Know Your Rights booklet in 2003: 2.2 million arrests were made of persons under the age of 18; 136,500 of these arrests were for violating curfew and loitering laws; Black youth account for 27% of all juvenile arrests, even though they only make up 16% of the youth population; and Girls account for 29% of all juvenile arrests, which represents a 45% increase in arrests of girls over a period of approximately twenty years Additionally, the booklet cites in recent years, reports of abuse and mistreatment in youth correctional facilities have increased. For example, in 2004 there were 2,821 reports of sexual violence against youth and 26 deaths of youth in facilities.
The Lives of Juvenile Lifers
Ashley Nellis, The Sentencing Project, Feb 2012. A comprehensive look that offers new perspectives on people who committed crimes before the age of 18, and some as young as 13. More than 2,500 people are currently serving these sentences in the United States.
The Lives of Juvenile Lifers survey draws a portrait of the severe disadvantage experienced by those serving life sentences without parole:
- Juvenile lifers, especially girls, suffered high rates of abuse---nearly half (46.9%) of lifers experienced physical abuse, including 79.5 % among girls.
- Juvenile lifers were exposed to high levels of violence in their homes (79%) and their communities (54.1%).
- African American youth constitute 43.4% of life without parole sentences for a murder with a white victim, nearly twice the rate at which they are arrested for such crimes, 23.7%.
Mass incarceration and children's outcomes: Criminal justice policy is education policy
Report by: Leila Morsey and Richard R. Othstein. December 2016. Economic Policy Institute
Summary: Parental incarceration leads to an array of cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes known to affect children ’s performance in school. Therefore, the discriminatory incarceration of African American parents makes an important contribution to the racial achievement gap. Educators hoping to narrow the achievement gap should make criminal justice reform a policy priority.
Media Images of (Youthful) Offenders: A Comparative Analysis of Race, Class, Gender in Germany and the United States of America
Comparing media representations of (youthful) offenders
in Germany and the U.S., this paper looks at the
lessons of electoral campaigns for penal abolitionists.
In a recent election campaign in Germany, a
"law-and-order" discourse by a conservative party seems
to have backfired, whereas in the US such "homeland
security" discourse of fear usually brings about
positive election results. Election campaigns in the
Global North often use media images of "super-predator"
youth to shore up a moral panic among voters who may
already be concerned about various behavior patterns
attributed to marginalized people such as immigrants,
especially from the Global South, or naturalized people
of color. In the post 9/11 era the deviant Other is a
Muslim, preferably a young male immigrant from the
Middle East who perhaps supplants the stereotype of
angry black male. How do we respond to these
stereotypical representations in advertising campaigns?
No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration
The Annie E. Casey Foundation. October 2011. The report assembles a vast array of evidence to demonstrate that incarcerating kids doesn't work: Youth prisons do not reduce future offending, they waste taxpayer dollars, and they frequently expose youth to dangerous and abusive conditions. The report also shows that many states have substantially reduced their juvenile correctional facility populations in recent years, and it finds that these states have seen no resulting increase in juvenile crime or violence. Finally, the report highlights successful reform efforts from several states and provides recommendations for how states can reduce juvenile incarceration rates and redesign their juvenile correction systems to better serve young people and the public.
No Turning Back: Promising Approaches to Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities Affecting Youth of Color in the Justice System
The Building Blocks for Youth initiative has released its final report. The report discusses the Casey Foundation's
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, and
campaigns in 12 cities, counties, and states to reduce disproportionate youth
of color contact within the justice system.
Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School
By Daniel J. Losen and Jonathan Gillespie, August 2012
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
"Students with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be suspended from school as nondisabled students, with the highest rates among black children with disabilities.According to a new analysis of Department of Education data, 13 percent of disabled students in kindergarten through 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-10 school year, compared with 7 percent of students without disabilities. Among black children with disabilities, which included those with learning difficulties, the rate was much higher: one out of every four was suspended at least once that school year."
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted the study of data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which originally released the raw statistics in March.
Pioneers of Youth Justice Reform: Achieving System Change Using Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment Strategies
By Douglas N. Evans, (2012).New York, NY: Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.
In the past three decades, state and local governments implemented a variety of reform strategies to reduce the youth justice system’s reliance on confinement facilities and to serve as many youth as possible in their own homes or at least in their own communities when removal from the home is warranted. The various reform strategies may be conceptualized as relying on three distinct but interrelated mechanisms: resolution, reinvestment, and realignment (Butts and Evans 2011). Resolution refers to the use of managerial authority and administrative directives to influence system change; reinvestment entails the use of financial incentives to encourage system change; and realignment employs organizational and structural modifications to create new systems. This report describes the history and implementation of the most well-known reform initiatives that draw upon one or more of these mechanisms to achieve system change and it considers their impact on juvenile confinement at the state and local level.
Real Impacts: the actual results of Rhode Island's new law that charges 17-year-olds as adults
"Real Impacts: the actual results of RI's new law that charges 17-year-olds as adults" documents what has happened since July, 2007 when the RI legislature adopted this new policy. The report found that the new policy is not only more costly, it unduly punishes juveniles, particularly juveniles from disadvantaged backgrounds and from communities of color. In fact, 17-year-olds of color are 28 times more likely to end up in adult prison than white 17-year-olds. The report recommends that the new long be reversed as soon as possible and that the records of those already affected be retroactively undone. Family Life Center, October 2007.
The Rest of Their Lives Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, October 2005. Includes state by state rankings of incarceration-for-life of children.
Risking Their Futures: Why Trying Non-violent 17-year-olds as Adults is Bad Policy for Wisconsin
Wisconsin Council on Children & Families (WCCF), explores the effects and trends of sending this age group through the adult system. WCCF looked at 1,000 17-year-olds brought before adult court between September, 2001 and September, 2007 to examine sentencing patterns, recidivism rates, educational opportunities available during incarceration, and racial components to sentencing. More than half of the group was sentenced to jail or prison, even though nearly 80% of trials were only for misdemeanor charges. Moreover, 70% of these 1000 juveniles sent through adult court were convicted of a new crime during the period studied, equally split between felonies and misdemeanors. This recidivism rate is nearly double that of similar age groups sent through the juvenile system. In addition, racial disparities emerged in the sentencing trends. When compared to Caucasian youth, African-American youth were far more likely to be incarcerated and far less likely to be returned to the community through deferred prosecution, fines, or probation. This trend held true for American Indians and Latinos as well.
A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform
2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book essay, "A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform" looks at the nearly 100,000 children confined to juvenile facilities on any given night in the United States and what can be done to reduce unnecessary and inappropriate detention and incarceration and increase opportunities for positive youth development and community safety. The essay is released in conjunction with the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book, an incredible resource which gives national and state-by-state profiles of the well-being of America's children through rankings on 10 key measures and information on the economic, health, education, and social conditions of America's children and families.
Saving Futures, Saving Dollars: The Impact of Education on Crime Reduction and Earnings
Source: The Alliance for Excellent Education.
"America's standard of living and international competitiveness will be
strengthened if its high schools are improved. Research indicates that about
75 percent of America's state prison inmates, almost 59 percent of federal
inmates, and 69 percent of jail inmates did not complete high school.
Additionally, the number of prison inmates without a high school diploma has
increased over time (Harlow, 2003). Reforming the nation's high schools
could potentially increase the number of graduates and, as a result,
significantly reduce the nation's crime-related costs and add billions of
dollars to the economy through the additional wages they would earn.
Increasing the graduation rate and college matriculation of male students by
only 5 percent could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $8
billion each year."
The School to Prison Pipeline and Criminalizing Youth: Costs, Consequences, and Alternatives
By Marsha Weissman in The Link, an online journal of the Child Welfare League, discusses the growing trend to criminalize adolescent behavior and the pathways that lead from school to prison. There are both direct links between school and prison evidenced by the growing presence of police in schools and the increase in numbers of young people arrested in school, and indirect links which are reflected by school suspensions and expulsions. Also highlighted Strategies for Success, a Center for Community Alternatives' program that has been in operation since 2000 and has reduced both suspensions and arrests of students who would otherwise be trapped in the school to prison pipeline.
Something is Wrong: Exploring the Roots of Youth Violence
Project NIA, The Chicago Freedom School and Teachers for Social Justice have partnered along with other volunteers to develop a curriculum guide in order to contribute to the ongoing efforts by young people and their adult allies to analyze the root causes of youth violence and to create local solutions.
Through this curriculum, they want to challenge youth to think about a) the roots of violence in their lives; b) the enforcers and victims of violence; c) the effects of violence on both victims and perpetrators; and d) how violence can ultimately be minimized through systemic changes.
At a time when frustration is running high and many are expressing a sense of powerlessness in the face of pervasive violence, this 350-page curriculum guide is an offering intended to make a positive contribution to the dialogue about violence in the lives of young people. In the words of historian and community activist Barbara Ransby, our goal is to help young people to constructively “channel their righteous rage” towards the actual sources of their oppression.
Sample Units Include:
1. Understanding Oppression
2. Understanding Root Causes (Mikva Challenge)
3. Roots of Heterosexism (Gender Just)
4. Power and Violence
5. Youth Homicide in Chicago
6. Media Violence (Beyondmedia Education)
7. Gangs and Violence: Historical Context & Root Causes
8. Police Violence: Fear & Loathing among Youth of Color
9. American Casino: Economic Violence in the U.S.
10. Exploring the Roots of and Community Responses to Violence: A Youth Action Research Project (All Stars Project of Chicago)
State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2010 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System
Campaign for Youth Justice. The first half of the report explains the dangers to youth, public safety, and the overall prosperity of our economy and future generations. The second half of the report examines 27 positive pieces of legislation enacted in 15 states during the last 5 years, as well as highlights active reform efforts underway in four categories.
* Trend 1: Four states (Colorado, Maine, Virginia and Pennsylvania) have passed laws limiting the ability to house youth in adult jails and prisons.
* Trend 2: Three states (Connecticut, Illinois and Mississippi) have expanded their juvenile court jurisdiction so that older youth who previously would be automatically tried as adults are not prosecuted in adult criminal court.
* Trend 3: Ten states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington) have changed their transfer laws making it more likely that youth will stay in the juvenile justice system.
* Trend 4: Four states (Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Washington) have changed their mandatory minimum sentencing laws to take into account the developmental differences between youth and adults.
The Supreme Court and the Transformation of Juvenile Sentencing
The report is a critical resource that translates Miller’s directive that specific factors be considered in making individualized sentencing decisions. It aims to guide courts and clinicians in structuring sentencing hearings that incorporate sound developmental research and other evidence supporting or negating mitigation.
Read the newly updated report
Published Sep 30, 2015, Elizabeth Scott, Thomas Grisso, Marsha Levick, and Laurence Steinberg. Models for Change.
Think Before You Plea: Juvenile Collateral Consequences in the United States (A guide to 50 states)
The Juvenile Collateral Consequences Project is an endeavor undertaken by the American Bar Association to document and analyze the significant hardships experienced by youth who have come in contact with the juvenile justice system. These hardships, known as collateral consequences affect youth who have successfully completed a sentence imposed by the court. The hardships include barriers to education, employment, and public benefits.
Until They Die A Natural Death: Youth Sentenced to Life Without Parole In Massachusetts
The report followed a two-year review of most of the cases in which children ages 14, 15, and 16 were tried in adult court and sentenced to life. Massachusetts has one of the harshest laws in the country for sentencing murderers as young as 14 to life in prison without parole, and many of the 57 people serving such mandatory sentences are first-time offenders. African Americans make up 47 percent of the juveniles sentenced to life without parole but account for less than 7 percent of children under 18 in Massachusetts, said the report.The Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts (September 2009)
When I die, that’s when they’ll send me home
Human Rights Watch. March 2012. The state of California has sentenced 301 youth to die in its prisons for crimes they committed under the age of 18.These youth have not been sentenced to death; in 2005 the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles. Instead these young people have been sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives with no opportunity for parole and no chance for release. It is a final, irrevocable judgment. Their crimes were committed when they were teenagers, yet they will die in prison.