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New National Poll Shows Americans Want A Different Youth Justice System

Posted in 2016, Voices Thursday, 03 March 2016

By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Fellow

The Youth First Initiative   just released a national poll showing that across the polictical spectrum, Americans believe that the youth justice system is in need of  reform.  Ninety-two percent agree that what is most important is that the youth system does a better job of making sure youth get back on track so that they are less likely to commit another offense. The results also show that the majority of American people favor investing in community-based programs rather than in incarceration; and furthermore that they would like states to address the racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system.

Once again, this new poll demonstrates that our current youth  justice system does not reflect what most Americans believe is working and how they would like their own children to be treated if they were in the system.

The Youth First Initiative also released a juvenile prison inventory of the nation’s largest and oldest youth prisons, calling for the closure of 80 of the nation’s oldest and largest youth prisons.  This would reduce the youth incarceration rate in half by 2020. Among many findings, this inventory shows that 54,000 kids are incarcerated in the U.S. juvenile justice system on any given day, and that African-American youth are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts.

Governors from three states, including Connecticut, Illinois, and Virginia are calling to shut down youth prisons in favor of more effective, community based programs that help set children on the path to a brighter future.