Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fewer young people behind bars

Fewer young people are behind bars than at any point since 1975, due in part to lower rates of juvenile crime and a shift away from interventions focused on long-term incarceration, reported the Christian Science Monitor.

The number of young people in a correction facility on a single day dropped from a high of 107,637 in 1995 to 70,792 in 2010, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that used data from the US Census Bureau.

The incarceration rate – the number of young people confined per 100,000 youths – dropped by 41 percent in the same period.

The trend might be stronger than the data show, says Bart Lubow, director of the foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group. Some of the biggest decreases in youth incarceration in some states have occurred in the past two years, and those numbers are not included in the report.

The main reasons behind the declining numbers:

• A shift in thinking about the best ways to handle kids who break the law.

• A sustained period of decreasing juvenile crime.

• Fiscal pressures on state governments that have many people – including conservatives who in the past espoused tough-on-crime policies – clamoring for less-expensive alternatives to mass incarceration.

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