National KIDS COUNT Report Shows Decrease in Youth Incarceration in the United States and Maine

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According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s (AECF) new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot: Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States, the rate of young people in correctional facilities in Maine on a single day fell to 142 per 100,000 youth in 2010, down from 219 per 100,000 in 1997.

The decline in youth confinement over the past decade has occurred in states in every region of the country. In fact, 44 states and the District of Columbia experienced a decline in the rate of young people confined since 1997 (see Figure 1). Still, the United States incarcerates far too many youth, leading the industrialized world in the rate at which we lock up young people.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s work-including the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and their recent publication, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration– recommends approaches that can improve the chances of success for young people who become involved with the justice system. These include investing in alternatives that effectively supervise, sanction and treat youth in their homes and communities.

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The decline in youth incarceration has not led to a surge in crime. On the contrary, juvenile crime has fallen sharply during the same time period that youth incarceration has dropped. In 1997, 12,741 Maine youth ages 10 to 17 were arrested, a rate of of 88.2 arrests per 1,000 youth. In 2010, 6,492 Maine youth ages 10 to 17 were arrested, a rate of 49.6 arrests per 1,000 youth.

By limiting incarceration to youth who pose a demonstrable risk, youth are treated more humanely, the government saves money, and the public is actually safer.

In Maine, the 2012 to 2014 Comprehensive Three Year Plan for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention guides the priorities of Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG). The plan provides the framework for JJAG’s course of action in terms of funding priorities, research directions, and legislative policy. For example, in an effort to facilitate the diversion of juveniles out of the criminal justice system, the JJAG three-year plan supports the implementation of restorative practices, which consist of the accountability and reintegration of the juvenile offender, is victim focused, and repairs the harm done. The JJAG report also states that reduced funding will affect delinquency prevention and school programs.

To access the youth incarceration report and related materials, please visit MCA’s National KIDS COUNT web page.


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