The American Correctional Association's recently completed study of the Nation's population of inmates under the age of 18 yielded information on the number of these inmates and the management policies of the facilities that house them; the results offer important data on this offender population and suggest strategies by which the needs of youths in adult prisons can be met more effectively.
A survey of the 50 departments of correction (DOCs) and four on-site interviews were conducted. The number of inmates in adult prisons who are under 18 years old is growing at an accelerating pace. From 2,600 in 1982, the population increased to 4,350 in 1991, an increase of 1,750 (67 percent) in 11 years. In the 4 years from 1991 to 1995, the number of prison inmates under 18 years old increased to 5,309, a 22-percent increase. The current study, which was conducted 2 years later in 1997 found that the number of inmates under the age of 18 had increased by 1,933 to a total of 7,242, a 36-percent increase (18 percent per year). Despite the increase reported in this study, inmates under 18 years of age represented less than 1 percent of those incarcerated in December 1997. The project found that 7,242 offenders under the age of 18 were housed in the Nation's adult prisons. The management approach used most often by the Nation's prison systems (59 percent of the jurisdictions) to deal with these inmates was to integrate them with the regular inmate population. This was especially true for those systems that had the largest proportion of inmates under the age of 18 in their offender populations. The 21 systems that separated the inmates under 18 years of age most often housed them in a separate unit at a facility that also housed regular inmates. Recommendations based on the data pertain to staff training, housing, education, counseling, life management, and program schedule. 2 tables and 13 references