Christian Science Monitor: Why juvenile incarceration reached its lowest rate in 38 years
The juvenile incarceration in the US rate has fallen 41 percent in the past 15 years, reaching the lowest level since 1975, a new study finds. What is behind the rapid decline?
Fewer young people are behind bars than at any point since 1975, due in part to lower rates of juvenile crime and a shift away from interventions focused on long-term incarceration.
The number of young people in a correction facility on a single day dropped from a high of 107,637 in 1995 to 70,792 in 2010, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that used data from the US Census Bureau. The incarceration rate – the number of young people confined per 100,000 youths – dropped by 41 percent in the same period.
The trend might be stronger than the data show, says Bart Lubow, director of the foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group. Some of the biggest decreases in youth incarceration in some states have occurred in the past two years, and those numbers are not included in the report. ...
The main reasons behind the declining numbers:
- A shift in thinking about the best ways to handle kids who break the law.
- A sustained period of decreasing juvenile crime.
- Fiscal pressures on state governments that have many people – including conservatives who in the past espoused tough-on-crime policies – clamoring for less-expensive alternatives to mass incarceration. ...
... “Even with the drops we’re describing in this report, the US, compared to similarly governed countries like those in Western Europe, has a much, much higher [youth] incarceration rate than any of those places,” he says.
America’s incarceration rate for juveniles is 18 times greater than that of France, and more than seven times greater than that of Great Britain. It’s hard to even compare it with the juvenile incarceration rates in places like Finland or Sweden, where young offenders are seldom locked up. ...