Tenet 9: End Use of Detention and Confinement

Detention and incarceration disrupt a youth’s development, exacerbate pre-existing trauma, and often expose young people to extreme physical and sexual violence, restraint and isolation.[i] Youth should never be subjected to such dangers. Most youth placed in justice facilities are there for non-violent offenses[ii] and would be better served in the community.[iii] Residential treatment away from the home should only be used as the last resort, if at all, for only the small number who pose a significant and persistent risk to public safety, as informed by a validated risk assessment, and not based solely upon the offense charged.[iv] In these cases, training schools should be prohibited and treatment programs should be small, therapeutic, and located close to the youth’s home so that family relationships can be repaired and strengthened and community supports can be provided during the treatment process. Length of stay should be no more than three to six months, given that longer stays can be harmful and show no reduction in recidivism.[v] To ensure accountability, there should be an independent entity that provides regular oversight of all placements and jurisdictions should regularly report data on youths’ safety and progress in treatment.

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[i] Mendel, R. No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, Baltimore, MD: The Annie E Casey Foundation, 2011 < http://www.aecf.org/resources/no-place-for-kids-full-report/>; Holman, B. and Ziedenberg, J. The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities, Washington, D.C.: Justice Policy Institute, 2010. < http://www.justicepolicy.org/research/1978>
[ii] Sickmund, M, Sladky, T. Kang, W. & Puzzanchera, C., Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement: 1997-2013, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
[iii] Justice Policy Institute, Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration, Washington, D.C., 2014.
[iv] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; Feierman, J., Mordecai, K., Schwartz, R., Ten Strategies to Reduce Juvenile Length of Stay, Philadelphia, PA, 2015 Ed Latessa…
[v] Mulvey, E., Highlights From Pathways to Desistance: A Longitudinal Study of Serious Adolescent Offenders, OJJDP Juvenile Justice Fact Sheet, March 2011, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2011; Feierman, J., Mordecai, K., Schwartz, R., Ten Strategies to Reduce Juvenile Length of Stay, Philadelphia, PA, 2015.