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New BJS Report: A Closer Look at Youth in Connecticut

Posted in 2018, Research & Policy Monday, 05 March 2018

New BJS Report: A Closer Look at Youth in Connecticut

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

Recently, the US Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual bulletin of Prisoners for 2016. Trends shown in the report provide hope for the youth population and advocates, with results showing a 58% decline for the number of imprisoned youth between 2009 and 2016 – from 2,279 to 956. Policy changes at the state and federal levels have led to a decline in crime and arrest rates, which positions states to be able to progress with reducing their youth incarceration rates in adult facilities.

Reform at the state level that has led to a substantial decrease in imprisoned youth has been raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 in nine states. This disrupts a major passage for youth to be transferred to the adult system, and it is estimated that this has reduced the number of incarcerated youth by 100,000 per year.  While many states that have raised the age have reported few, if any, youth incarcerated in their adult prisons, Connecticut is the outlier. Connecticut, until recently, had numbers of youth incarcerated in adult systems similar to states that had yet to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction.

Connecticut has seen an 81% decrease (from 332 to 63) between 2009 and 2016 in youth under age 18 in its prisons. There are many reasons for the discrepancy in the number of incarcerated youth in states that have similar legislation due, in large part, to the continued use of juvenile discretionary, mandatory, and blended sentencing  that drives youth as young as 15 into the adult system.

While the trends around taking proper care of children within the justice system have improved, it is important to remain vigilant and remember that all youth, including the 63 remaining in the Connecticut Department of Corrections, should be placed in a rehabilitative, therapeutic setting that will aid these children in their futures, not in an adult facility.

For more, read the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report here.