A new report from Pew Trusts has revealed that one of the keystones to reducing recidivism amongst young people is broken.

America’s predilection for jailing is having dangerous results for young people and the costs associated with out-of-home placements are not yielding positive results. Juvenile offenders held in correctional facilities are more likely to re-offend than those enrolled in treatment programs or surveillance programs in their own communities.

It stands to reason, given that the same premise holds true with adults: the stronger an inmate’s ties to their community while incarcerated, the less likely they are to re-offend. The importance of education is also reaffirmed for both young offenders and adults. Juveniles in detention are frequently already behind in school prior to incarceration. And with a lack of educational uniformity in facilities across the country, they are likely to fall further behind during their time there, if they stay in school at all (which many of them do not). With fewer opportunities as a result, they are far more likely to reoffend.

The report backs the recent efforts in a number of states (such as Texas, Hawaii, Ohio) to reduce the automatic institutionalization of juveniles and opt for a number of community-based alternatives instead.

The study also indicated high degrees of support for adopting a more rehabilitative approach to juvenile corrections amongst the population. This included the provision supportive mechanisms to improve social, physical and mental well-being. Across all demographics (including law enforcement) there was an extremely high level of support (73-87%) for adopting an approach that focussed on reducing the likelihood of recidivism, rather than being strictly punitive.

It is hoped that this same analytical lens will also be applied to broadening our understanding of adult incarceration as well, as the stakes for everyone remain the same (especially since many who enter the system are mere days out of childhood).


About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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