Institutionalizing young people must be the choice of last resort, reserved only for those who pose such a serious threat that no other solution would protect public safety. Incarcerating youth disrupts their positive social development and exposes them to negative behaviors. Youth should never be placed in a facility solely because of their family situation or social service needs.
The overwhelming majority of justice-involved youth can be served, and the public kept safe, by community-based services that align with the best practices in the field. Jurisdictions can distinguish between youth who pose risks to public safety and those who can be placed in less-restrictive settings by using validated risk and needs assessments that measure risk to public safety and guide placement decisions; expedited case processing; and sentencing guidelines.
Placing youth in large group confinement facilities is not justified from the perspective of treatment effectiveness or the prevention of future recidivism. In those infrequent instances in which youth must be removed from their family and community, that removal should be for as short a time as possible, and only as a last resort. The facilities in which they are held should be:
- developmentally appropriate;
- culturally competent;
- geared towards positive youth outcomes;
- close to their families and neighborhoods;
- small; and
- home-like in orientation.
Principles of Reform
- Divert Youth from the Justice System
- Reduce Institutionalization
- Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities
- Ensure Access to Quality Counsel
- Create a Range of Effective Community-Based Programs
- Recognize and Serve Youth with Specialized Needs
- Improve Aftercare and Reentry
- Engage Youth, Family, and Community
- Keep Youth Out of Adult Courts, Jails, and Prisons
Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces these principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least two principles. These principles and the associated text are from “Juvenile Justice Reform: A Blueprint,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group.