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Research & Policy

Kids Count: Washington, D.C.’s Rate of Juvenile Incarceration the Highest in the Country

Thursday, 30 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

On Wednesday, July 29th, the Washington Post published an article “The states where children are most likely to be locked up, poor and hungry” discussing the well-being of children across the nation. This article utilized the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, a collection of statistics tracking the welfare of children on a state-by-state basis. 
Unfortunately, this article and report highlight a very sad figure: the District of Colombia has the highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the entire nation. With 618 out of every 100,000 children in D.C. incarcerated, this rate is more than twice that of every state in the nation, save three (Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska). 
While the JJDPA reauthorization, in the form of Senate Bill 1169, is seeing movement in the Senate with a voice vote out of the Judiciary Committee, the federal government alone cannot act to protect the youth in our nation’s capital. With about 1 out of every 150 children in DC incarcerated, the DC city council, with the help of the DC JOY Campaign, needs to act NOW to protect the children of DC and their futures. 

A Call to End the Placement and Poor Treatment of Children with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 01 July 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

The National Disability Rights Network released its alarming report on the needs of children and youth with disabilities who come in contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. “Orphanages, Training Schools, Reform Schools and Now This: Recommendations to Prevent the Disproportionate Placement and Inadequate Treatment of Children with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System” is an urgent call for action for Congress, juvenile justice administrators, and advocates.
The report reminds us that disparities in the treatment of youth in the juvenile and criminal justice systems is not limited to racial and ethnic disparities or gender—in fact, 65-70 percent of youth in the justice system meet the criteria for a disability, a rate that is three times higher than that of the general population.  Disabilities extend beyond children with mental health needs and learning disabilities and include youth with cognitive impairments, physical disabilities, the deaf and blind, and others. Summarizing practices in schools, juvenile justice and child welfare systems, the report consistently finds that despite what we know about brain development and the success of child-youth centered, family involved, community based services—we still consistently try to “discipline” the disability out of children, often by incarcerating them in inhumane conditions, without access to their families and the necessary services to get them connected and prepared to succeed as adults. 
Furthermore, the report shows how the failure of many other systems’ understanding of how to properly support youth with disabilities leads to an over-referral of these youth into the juvenile justice system (e.g. schools, law enforcement, mental health, child welfare). Once there, a lack of accommodation needs such as the need for sign language, courtroom accommodations, and an inability to accurately understanding his/her rights may lead the child to more severe outcomes, including being certified or direct filed into adult court. 
Several case studies demonstrating ways that Protection & Advocacy Agencies (P&A) can help with advocacy of youth in court and legislative change included several stories of youth charged as adults.  One case study in California outlined a young man with autism who stabbed his stepfather during a behavior episode. His stepfather was treated and released from the hospital the same night; the young man was charged as an adult and found not competent to stand trial.  The P&A was part of a team who advocated that this young man be held in a juvenile facility until proper placement could be identified. Advocacy efforts allowed him to be released from custody and placed into a community home where he could continue to maintain his close ties to his family, church and community, rather than to a regional developmental center, far away from his supports. 
Diane Smith Howard, author of the report states the importance of providing services to youth with disabilities so they aren’t ultimately fed into the adult system, “Research has clearly shown us that the adult system and adult methods of discipline used within that system, such as isolation, do not effectively rehabilitate youth with disabilities, nor are they effective for youth in general.  Yet we persist on using them.   One reason for this is the failure to provide effective and readily available community based services for youth with disabilities, which results in their referrals into the juvenile justice system, which then acts as a feeder for the adult system.  Or worse in some cases, feeds youth directly into the adult system.  In makes no sense to allocate additional funding for programs that are not research based and run contrary to what we know.”
Call to Action: The report makes key recommendations to Congress, the Administration and State Legislators to improve conditions for youth with disabilities.  Highlights include: 
  • Funding P&A for juvenile justice programs
  • Fund the statutes that provide services for this population including Medicaid community-based services, IDEA and PREA
  • Reauthorizing the JJDPA with language that eliminates the valid court order and prohibits the use of solitary confinement for all youth, including those housed in adult facilities. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Department of Justice (DOJ) should fully enforce all provisions of Title VI, Title IX, the ADA Section 504, and the IDEA, including all obligations under these statutes for youth in correctional facilities, so that education of youth in these settings is equal to that provided to students in other public schools.
  • ED and DOJ should expand the scope of their investigations to include youth in federal custody (Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration Detention and other federal programs).
  • States should develop and support programs that provide training in the following rights, laws and regulations: IDEA, ADA, and Section 504, Title VI and Title IX, disparate impact claims, harassment/hostile environment claims, Due Process rights applicable to all public school students, and state specific civil rights laws, to all stakeholders in the juvenile justice system.


An Update on the Maltreatment of Youth in U.S. Juvenile Corrections Facilities

Samantha Goodman Friday, 26 June 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

On June 24, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released an update on the Maltreatment of Youth in U.S. Juvenile Corrections Facilities. The 40-page document is a follow-up to the Foundation’s 2011 report No Place for Kids, which demonstrated America’s need to reduce juvenile incarceration. In the four years since, a new wave of evidence on the maltreatment of youth confined in state-funded juvenile facilities has emerged.
“The troubling evidence presented in this report should remove any remaining doubt that large conventional juvenile corrections facilities — or plainly stated, youth prisons — are inherently prone to abuse,” wrote the AECF.
The update concludes with the AECF’s call for better and more cost-efficient alternatives to rehabilitating delinquent youth, including “community-based supervision, treatment and youth development programs,” and keeping children at home with their families. For those who do require confinement, the AECF urges juvenile corrections agencies to create healthier, safe and more therapeutic facilities. Regardless of the circumstances, the four years of findings show, youth should never be in dangerous, violent, or abusive situations.
To read or download the full report, click here

NEW REPORT: Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe under PREA

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

A new report, Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe under PREA: Alternative Strategies to the Use of Segregation in Prisons and Jails, was released this month by the Nation PREA Resource Center. The report serves as a guide that provides prison and jail administrators and staff with strategies for safely housing inmates at risk of sexual abuse without isolating them.

The Campaign for Youth Justice supports the specific recommendations with regard to the protection of youthful inmates in the criminal justice system because of the vulnerability of young people and the impacts of sexual abuse on their development and long-term well-being. We know youth in adult jails and prisons are at a higher rate of victimization and have a higher likelihood of being placed in solitary confinement. This report comes at a perfect time as states analyze their housing practices for their annual PREA compliance reporting.

Key ideas in the report on protecting youth in the system are as follows:

  • House youthful inmates in juvenile facilities until age 18
  • Create dedicated housing units with age-appropriate programming when youthful inmates are housed in adult facilities
  • Provide supervised opportunities for youthful inmates in adult facilities to participate in congregate activities

To learn more, tune in for the Keeping Vulnerable Populations Safe Under PREA: Alternative Strategies to the Use of Segregation Prisons and Jails webinarSegregation Prisons and Jails webinar on April 21, 2015 from 2:00-3:30 pm EDT.

Presenters will discuss the PREA standards that place restrictions on the use of involuntary protective custody and walk participants through a new implementation guide that provides strategies for prisons and jails on how to safely house inmates at risk of sexual abuse without isolating them. To register click here. For any questions regarding registration, please contact Priscilla Alabi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A Closer Look at Prison-Based Education

Kay Xiao Monday, 23 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By Kay Xiao 

Last Tuesday, I attended Justice in Focus: the Path Forward – a talk hosted by the Vera Institute at George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. At the event, a series of speakers with diverse experiences and perspectives on the criminal justice system covered a comprehensive range of issues including the economic and social benefits of reducing harsh punishments, the need for positive relationships between law enforcement and the community, and the overall status quo of the criminal justice system in the United States today.

I was particularly enlightened by the segment on firsthand experiences where Craig DeRoche, President of the Justice Fellowship, and Stanley Richards, Senior Vice President of the Fortune Society, shared insights based on their own personal experiences within the criminal justice system. Richards brought forth an issue that is often overlooked in the discourse on criminal justice reform – education. A formerly incarcerated beneficiary of prison-based education, Richard’s experience reflects the significance and efficacy of providing opportunities for former inmates to reintegrate into society.

Research demonstrates that prison-based education helps shape the social and economic outcomes of former inmates. Participants have a 43 percent lower chance of returning to prison in comparison to non-participants. Additionally, prisoners who participated in academic or vocational education programs have been shown to have better employment outcomes post-release.

Moreover, prison-based education is cost effective by virtue of its effect on recidivism reduction. According to a meta-analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation, reincarceration costs are $0.87 million to $0.97 million less for those who receive correctional education, which outweigh the costs of prison-based education.

As the research suggests, the logic is simple. Give people the skills to be productive members of society and the positive effects will transcend the individual to the community.

NEW REPORT: Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms

Thursday, 29 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Today, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a first-of-its-kind study regarding the results of Texas’ bipartisan effort to improve the state’s juvenile justice system.  The report, Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms, provides empirical support for the fact that secure correctional facilities are ‘no place for kids’.

The CSG study, which draws on an unprecedented dataset in Texas – 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, assembled from three state agencies – demonstrates highly effective investments by Texas policy-makers in community-based supervision and programming.

CFYJ commends CSG for this comprehensive report.

"CFYJ applauds Texas policy makers, families, and advocates for their smart and effective response to youth crime. It is clear from the CSG report released today that states can reduce the inappropriate incarceration of youth while building safer communities,” said Marcy Mistrett, CFYJ’s CEO. “The finding that youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than similar youth under community supervision, underscores the need to invest in developmentally appropriate, community-based responses for youth.  Texas could further their great impact by raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 years, so that thousands more youth could benefit from what we know works."

Some of the reports findings include:

  • Youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21% more likely to be rearrested than youth who remain under supervision closer to home.
  • Youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth under community supervision.
  • Recidivism rates for youth under community supervision have remained consistent across community-based interventions.
  • Texas has seen a dramatic decrease in the state-secure population, with a 65% reduction between 2007 and 2012, cutting hundreds of millions in state spending and reinvesting a large portion of those savings into county-administered juvenile probation departments. During the same time period, juvenile arrests declined by 33%, a 30-year low.
  • Texas has closed 9 juvenile correctional facilities, demonstrating it is possible to lock up fewer youth while achieving reductions in crime.
  • African American and Latino youth did benefit from the policy changes in Texas, but are still incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their Caucasian counterparts who commit the same offenses.

Please visit this link to download, Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice.


SAMHSA and MacArthur Launch Initiative to Improve Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

States seeking to develop or improve policies and practices that improve outcomes for justice-involved youth with behavioral health disorders are encouraged to apply to the 2015-16 Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders: An Integrated Policy Academy Action Network Initiative. Up to four states will be selected to participate in this opportunity, which has proven very successful for the 12 previous Policy Academy participants.

Created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this initiative seeks to help states learn about effective interventions and the latest research, and work on similar innovations in policy and practice in a cross-site effort.

Throughout the initiative, special attention will be devoted to the following:

  • Integrated responses to co-occurring mental and substance use disorders
  • Research-based screening and assessment
  • Evidence-based and promising-practice approaches
  • Disparity in treatment of youth of color within the juvenile justice system
  • The role of trauma in lives of youth in contact with the juvenile justice system
  • Deliberate coordination among youth-serving systems to improve outcomes for youth with behavioral disorders who are involved in the juvenile justice system

This initiative is made possible by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and will be coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. For more information or an application, please contact Karli Keator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click here

New York: It's Time to Raise the Age

Carmen Daugherty Thursday, 22 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

"Our juvenile justice laws are outdated. Under New York State law, 16-and 17-year-olds can be tried and charged as adults...It's not right; it's not fair. We must raise the age."

Governor Cuomo, State of the State Address, Jan. 8, 2014

In April 2014, Gov. Cuomo established the Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to develop a plan to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction. The question was never "if" New York would raise the age, but "how". It was clear New York did not want to be the last state that automatically prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds in the adult system.

Finally, last Monday, on MLK Day, Governor Cuomo and the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice released their recommendations on how to accomplish this feat. The Commission agreed that this was the right time to "raise the age" for several reasons including extensive research on adolescent brain development and the significant impact on adolescents when incarcerated in jails and prisons. Additionally, data showing higher suicide rates and higher recidivism, and the disproportionality of young men of color charged as adults strongly influenced the Commission to make the following recommendations:

1. Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18: Juvenile jurisdiction should be expanded to include 16-year-olds in 2017 and 17-year-olds in 2018. This phase approach will allow for an initial infusion of the smaller population of 16-year-olds followed by full implementation. Youth charged with violent felonies will still originate in the criminal court.

2. Keeping youth out of adult jails and prisons: Prohibit confinement of any minor in an adult jail or prison and allow youth to remain in youth settings until age 21.

3. Diverting more cases before they reach the courts: Mandate diversion attempts for low-risk (per risk assessment) misdemeanor cases.

4. Establish family engagement specialists to facilitate diversion options: Support for family engagement specialists would strengthen capacity to engage youth and their families in targeted services and maximize the benefits.

5. Develop a continuum of effective community-based services at the local level to be used by probation: Community-based supervision provided to 16- and 17-year-olds should use evidence-based interventions individually tailored to reduce the risks and address the needs presented by the youth.

6. Create the capacity to seal one conviction from crimes committed under age 21: Allow for sealing after two years without a conviction for a misdemeanor conviction and five years for a felony conviction (excluding violent felonies, Class A felonies, homicides, and sex offenses).

In total, the Commission recommended 38 improvements to how youth are treated by New York's criminal justice system. The full report can be found here. These thoughtful recommendations should be uplifted, celebrated, and passed by the New York Assembly, quickly, and without debate. As the Commission and Governor have stated, the time is now, New York.


New Report: US Prison Populations Increase, Number of Youth in Prisons Declines

Courtney Thomas : CFYJ Intern Monday, 22 September 2014 Posted in 2014, Research & Policy

A recent report released by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), reveals that the U.S. prison population has increased for the first time since 2009. The report, “Prisoners in 2013” notes that state and federal prisons held approximately 1,574,700 prisoners on December 31, 2013, an increase of about 4,300 prisoners from year-end 2012.

This reversal in a three year trend of declining prison population rates is due to an increase in 2013 of 6,300 inmates in the state prison population. This is a significant change from a similar BJS report published about two years ago, “Prisoners in 2011,” which displayed a decline of 21,614 state prisoners at year-end 2011.

Law Enforcement's Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform: Actionable Recommendations for Practice & Policy

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 Posted in 2014, Research & Policy

New Resource:  Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform: Actionable Recommendations for Practice & Policy
 When a young person gets in trouble with the law, oftentimes arrest, court referral, and detention run counter to public safety by making it more likely that young person will reoffend.  IACP’s National Summit on Law Enforcement Leadership in Juvenile Justice drew attention to the often untapped potential of law enforcement executives to improve their agencies’ response to young people and to serve as credible voices for “smart on crime” juvenile justice reforms in their communities and beyond.
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