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Youth Incarceration in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
2 pages
This report presents an overview of data on the incarceration of juveniles in the United States from 1975 through 2010, and suggestions are offered for further reducing juvenile incarceration.
The youth overall confinement rate in the United States rapidly declined from 1975 through 2010; however, the United States still leads the industrialized world in the rate at which youth are incarcerated. Youth confinement peaked in 1995 at 107,637 on a single day. Since 1995, the rate of confinement for youth has declined 41 percent. This decline in youth confinement has occurred across all of the five largest racial groups in the United States, with the largest decline occurring among Asian and Pacific Islander and Latino youth. Still, large disparities persist in youth confinement rates by race. Forty percent of juvenile commitments and detentions are due to technical violations of probation, drug possession, low-level property offenses, public-order offenses, and status offenses. Thus, most of the offenses of incarcerated youth do not pose a serious threat to public safety. Ways to further reduce youth incarceration are to limit eligibility for correctional confinement; to invest in promising alternatives to incarceration; to establish small, treatment-oriented facilities for youth requiring confinement; to adopt best practices for supervising delinquent youth in their communities; and to change policies that pose barriers to the greater use of community-based treatment for juvenile offenders. 4 figures