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Relative Rate of Death in Juvenile Facilities

NCJ Number
Howard N. Snyder; Melissa Sickmund
Date Published
March 2007
19 pages
Using data from the National Vital Statistics System to determine annual rates of fatal injuries and its components (unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide) for various demographic groups, this study determined whether juveniles are at greater risk of death when they enter juvenile custodial facilities.
The analysis found that overall fatal injury deaths in juvenile facilities were two-thirds less than would be expected for a similar group of youth living in the United States. Youth in juvenile facilities had about 80 percent fewer unintentional injury deaths and 80 percent fewer homicides in juvenile facilities than would be expected based on national averages for this population. The study also found that suicides occurred in juvenile facilities at a slightly greater incidence than would be expected for a demographically similar group of American youth not living in juvenile facilities; however, after taking into account the significantly higher rates of mental health problems for juvenile offenders compared with juveniles in general, it is likely that placing juveniles in custody reduces their suicide risk compared to mentally ill youth in the general population. This study developed annual rates of fatal injuries and its components (unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide) for 140 demographic groups. The size and demographic characteristics of the average daily population (ADP) of juvenile facilities were developed by using data from the 1999, 2001, and 2003 Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Annual fatal injury estimates were then calculated for a sample of youth in the U.S. resident population with a demographic profile identical to each annual ADP of juvenile facilities. These estimates were then compared with the data on fatal injury deaths in juvenile facilities reported in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 Juvenile Residential Facility Census. 1 table and a 9-item bibliography