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New Brief Highlights State Efforts to Remove Youth from Adult Jails


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Aprill Turner
Communication Director
Campaign for Youth Justice
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New Brief Highlights State Efforts to Remove Youth from Adult Jails

Washington, D.C. (June 20, 2019) -  “Removing Youth from Adult Jails: A 50-State Scan of Pretrial Detention Laws for Youth Transferred to the Adult System,” a new brief by the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), highlights state readiness to remove children under age 18 from adult jails.

The brief was released in response to the passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 (JJRA), signed into law on December 21, 2018. The JJRA reauthorized the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) for the first time in sixteen years and, in addition to many other important reforms, the law will now require states to remove all youth, including those transferred to the adult system, from adult jails and lock-ups pretrial.

A scan of all 50 states revealed that many states have moved quicker than the federal government in calling for the removal of youth with adult charges from jails; with 70% of youth charged as adults already housed in youth facilities. The vast majority of states permit or require youth charged as adults to be held in juvenile facilities pre-trial, including states like Kentucky, New Mexico, and Ohio. Yet, with 1 in 10 youth still being housed in adult facilities pre-trial, the brief underscores the urgency of responding to these youth in a more age-appropriate manner. Unlike juvenile detention facilities, adult jails are not designed with a focus on rehabilitation, and staff receive little or no training on the social, emotional, or psychological needs of children, nor do they provide adjustments to physical techniques used to control older inmates.

The new brief includes excerpts from interviews conducted by CFYJ of young people who were transferred to the adult system and are currently detained in juvenile facilities. “While research has shown us just how harmful it is to house youth in adult facilities, our conversations with young people who were first housed in adult jails before being moved to juvenile facilities is very eye-opening,” said CFYJ Federal Policy Counsel Rachel Marshall. “The young people we spoke to emphasized the different approaches from staff and access to programming and education while in the youth facilities. They talked about being maced and locked-down in adult jails, but used words like “care” and “love” when describing staff in youth facilities.”

The report calls on states to take a multi-step approach to removing youth from adult jails and lock-ups, including:

  • Updating state statutes to prohibit the detention of youth in adult jails and lock-ups;
  • Urging members of Congress to fully fund the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that states have the assistance of federal dollars to make necessary changes to remove youth from adult jails and lock-ups;
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility; and
  • Limiting the pathways of transfer into the adult system.

Download the full report here.

View the statutes of all 50 states here.

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