Policy Reccomendations

The Campaign for Youth Justice has numerous recommendations for local, state, and federal policymakers, along with those working within or alongside the criminal justice system, to ameliorate these negative consequences of trying and incarcerating youth in the United States as adults.

State and local policymakers should move forward with the following reforms:

  • Ban the placement of all youth (under 18 years of age) in adult jails and prisons.
  • Remove or lessen the civil consequences of a youthful conviction, including voting, driver’s license, and employment restrictions.
  • Redirect resources towards those aimed at the development and rehabilitation of youth, especially mental health and substance abuse resources.
  • Abolish “Once an adult, always an adult” statutes that unnecessarily involve more youth in the criminal justice system.
  • Increase the collection of statistics surrounding youth incarcerated as adults and its consequences.

Federal policymakers should proceed with the following reforms: 

  • Pass the reauthorization and strengthening of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to reform federal prisons and incentivize states to remove youth from adult facilities, eliminate the incarceration of status offenders, protect youth in adult facilities with sight and sound separation, and decrease the amount of disproportionate minority contact throughout the criminal justice system. 

  • Restore PELL Grants to both the currently incarcerated and those previously convicted of a drug offense.

  • Strengthen the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Youthful Inmate Standard by encouraging state compliance and sunsetting state assurances.

Increase the collection of statistics surrounding youth incarcerated as adults and its consequences. Within the criminal justice system: 

  • Judges, prosecutors, and defense counselors should receive education regarding adolescent development and the consequences of incarcerating youth as adults. 
  • Defense counselors should, early in the process, discuss the potential outcomes of the case, along with the collateral consequences of an adult conviction, with the client and family to ensure the best plan of action is followed.

As it stands, the criminal justice system is hindering the futures of countless American youth – while also imposing a hefty cost on their families and society. Such reforms would decrease the harmful consequences of incarcerating youth as adults, benefiting youth, their families, and society as a whole.

Contact Us

Campaign for Youth Justice c/o Mindspace
1301 K Street NW, 300W
Washington, DC 20005