Historically, when it comes to dealing with juvenile offenders, the United States has taken a tough love approach. Punishments for crimes committed by individuals under the age of 18 may include incarceration at a juvenile detention facility. For the kids who end up in these facilities, high school graduation rates drop by nearly 40 percent while rates of incarceration by age 25 increase 41 percent.
Based upon these statistics, it’s fairly obvious that the juvenile criminal justice system’s approach to criminal deterrence and punishment is not working. Not only does locking up kids and taking them out of school not work, but it also results in many giving up on getting an education and falling back into or developing behavioral patterns that frequently end in additional criminal charges and future incarceration.
In addition to the significant personal costs associated with juvenile incarceration, such policies also come with a hefty price tag to taxpayers. The U.S. spends an estimated $6 billion annually to operate juvenile corrections facilities with the cost of housing one juvenile estimated to be around $88,000 per year. In contrast, alternative sentencing options including community-based programs often cost a fraction of this and allow a teen to remain in school and gain the support he or she needs to develop life skills and make better choices.
For a juvenile who is facing criminal charges, the direction of his or her life often hinges on whether or not incarceration follows. It’s wise, therefore, that parents or other family members seek the advice and assistance of a criminal defense attorney who will work to get charges reduced or dismissed and, if necessary, also work with prosecutors and the courts to find an alternative sentencing option.
Source: Journalist’s Resource, “Juvenile incarceration and its impact on high school graduation rates and adult jail time,” Feb. 4, 2015
VOX CEPR’s Policy Portal, “What is the long-term impact of incarcerating juveniles?” Anna Aizer, Joseph Doyle, July 16, 2013