U.S. Youth Incarceration Rate Down 40 Percent Since 1995, Report Finds

The number of incarcerated youth in the United States fell more than 40 percent from 1995 to 2010, with no decline in public safety, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.

According to Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States (4 pages, PDF), the number of young people in correctional facilities on any given day in 2010 was 70,792, down from a high of 107,637 in 1995. Census Bureau data shows that in recent years the incarceration rate for juveniles has fallen steadily.

At the same time, new data show that youth of color are still more likely to be incarcerated than whites, with African Americans nearly five times more likely to be locked up than their white counterparts and Latinos and American Indians two to three times more likely. To address the disparities, the report suggests several ways to reduce the nation's reliance on incarceration and improve the odds for young people already in the justice system, including investments in alternatives in which youth are effectively supervised and treated in their homes and communities.

"Locking up young people has lifelong consequences, as incarcerated youth experience lower educational achievement, more unemployment, higher alcohol and substance abuse rates, and greater chances of run-ins with the law as adults," said Bart Lubow, director of the foundation's juvenile justice strategy group. "Our decreasing reliance on incarceration presents an exceptional opportunity to respond to juvenile delinquency in a more cost-effective and humane way — and to give these youth a real chance to turn themselves around."

"Youth Incarceration Sees Dramatic Drop in the United States." Annie E. Casey Foundation Press Release 02/27/2013.