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Surveying Youths in Custody

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 71 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2009 Pages: 92-94
Andrea J. Sedlak
Date Published
December 2009
3 pages
This article summarizes findings on a few of the topics covered by the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP), which is the only national survey to collect data directly from youths in juvenile justice placement.
One table presented shows the characteristics of youths in juvenile justice custody based on interviews conducted during the spring of 2003. The table presents the estimated number in custody nationwide, along with the numbers by sex, age, race/ethnicity, and living arrangement when taken into custody. Regarding offenses, only 5 percent of the youths in custody were true first-time offenders; 10 percent were previously in custody or on probation or parole; 85 percent had prior convictions; 57 percent had offended against persons. Forty-eight percent of the youths were below the grade level typical for their age. Regarding emotional and mental health problems, anger, depression, and anxiety were prevalent, and 30 percent had recent suicidal thoughts or feelings. Eighty-eight percent had used alcohol or drugs, compared to 61 percent of their age peers in the general population. Twenty percent lived in the same unit with other youth 3 or more years older than themselves. Most youths had future plans to find a job (84 percent); 80 percent will attend school; 68 percent aspire to go to college; and 73 percent expect to get married and have children (77 percent). In drawing implications from these findings, this article suggests improving the coverage of mental health services, improving substance abuse treatment, obtaining systematic information on youths' educational needs and services in placement, avoiding housing juveniles with significantly older youth, and developing programs that address youths' specific circumstances. The survey involved interviews of just over 7,000 youths between ages 10 and 20 in more than 200 facilities. 1 table and 11 notes