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Policy Brief Reviews Dangers of Youth Detention

1/31/2007:   Pretrial detention of youth before they are found delinquent is widely misapplied and can contribute to future delinquent behavior, according to a new policy brief issued by the Justice Policy Institute.

Although detention facilities are meant to temporarily house those youth who are likely to reoffend before their trials or not appear in court at all, many of the youth in this country's 769 detention centers do not meet these criteria, according to the brief, The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities. Seventy percent of youth in detention are held for nonviolent charges, including property offenses and probation violations.

The policy brief pinpoints a number of negative factors related to youth detention, including:
  • Congregating delinquent youth together negatively affects their behavior and increases their chances of reoffending.
  • Detention pulls youth deeper into the juvenile and criminal justice system.
  • Detention can slow or interrupt the natural process of "aging out of delinquency."
  • Detention makes mentally ill youth worse.
  • Detained youth with special needs can fail to return to school.
  • Formerly detained youth have reduced success in the labor market.

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