Youth Need Community-Based Treatment, Not Jails: Study

This piece originally appeared on the Crime Report.

Treating youth convicted of a crime within the community outweighs incarcerating them, a new report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) argues.

Researchers contend that convicted youth who are served in the community are significantly less likely to re-offend than if they are confined—regardless of their offense type—making everyone in the community safer.

Assigning young people to community-based supervision is also significantly more cost-effective than confinement, and it mitigates the disproportionate impact of confinement in the justice system on youth of color, authors wrote.

Researchers gathered data from young people directly impacted by the justice system, public defenders and prosecutors, advocates and policy-makers and paired with the the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) to explore how to build more effective approaches to serve youth involved in a violent crime in the community.

In the last two decades, largely in response to this body of research, there has been a seismic shift in the way confinement is used, the study noted.

According to federal data trends reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, since 1997, there has been a nearly 50 percent decline in the number of confined youth.

Today, communities are safer as a result, according to the authors.

However, the benefits of safely reducing the rate of incarcerated youth have not accrued equally. The reductions in the youth incarceration rate have been concentrated among nonviolent offenses—70 percent of the population decline.

In addition, despite plummeting numbers of youth in confinement, racial and ethnic disparities have actually increased.

Therefore, it “is clear that reducing the number of youth of color in confinement requires an intentional racial justice strategy that extends beyond simply changing policies and practices that drive confinement,” authors said.

The study made the following policy recommendations for states to reduce incarcerated youth and move them towards a safer, community approach to justice:

A full copy of the report can be found here.

This piece originally appeared on the Crime Report.