Pew Charitable Trusts Release In-Depth Look at Poor Outcomes and High Price of Incarcerating Juveniles

249326_262741703751645_3185263_nA recently released report from Pew Charitable Trusts has emphasized the need for change in the juvenile justice system as it reveals that many current practices are high cost with poor outcomes.

The report highlights the growing body of research indicating that “lengthy out-of-home placements in secure corrections or other residential facilities fail to produce better outcomes than alternative sanctions” for many juvenile offenders.

Key findings:

  • Juvenile incarceration fails to reduce recidivism and can actually increase it in some cases.
  • Young people who were placed in confinement were more likely to drop out of high school and to be incarcerated as adults compared to offenders who were not incarcerated.
  • Teens at low risk to reoffend show better recidivism results when placed in community-based programs as opposed to out-of-home facilities.
  • Juvenile incarceration has proven expensive for taxpayers and gets a poor return on investment, specifically siting outcomes in four states.

The report also includes statistics reflecting public opinion on the issue:

  • Voters care less about length of juvenile incarceration than about preventing crime.
  • Nearly 90% of voters think juvenile correctional facilities should house only serious offenders, and policymakers should find lower-cost alternatives for minor offenders.
  • 75% of voters believe young offenders should have treatment, counseling and supervision, even if this means no time in a correctional facility.
  • Majority of voters support reducing overall number of low-level offenders who are sent to facilities and the length of time that youth spend in institutions.
  • Voters believe cost savings from reduced incarceration should be used to build a more robust probation system.

Overall, the report clearly suggests that both research and public opinion are in favor of using community-based programs that support rehabilitation over confinement for low-level offenders.

Read the full report and additional resources at

Updated: February 08 2018