The increased and unnecessary use of secure detention exposes troubled young people to an environment that more closely resembles adult prisons and jails than the kinds of community and family-based interventions proven to be most effective.

Detained youth, who are frequently pre-adjudication and awaiting their court date, or sometimes waiting for their placement in another facility or community-based program, can spend anywhere from a few days to a few months in locked custody. At best, detained youth are physically and emotionally separated from the families and communities who are the most invested in their recovery and success.

A recent literature review of youth corrections shows that detention has a profoundly negative impact on young people’s mental and physical well-being, their education, and their employment.

More over, our society has moved closer and closer towards the criminalization of typical adolescent activity.  Without justice system involvement, most youth will naturally “age out” of their desire to engage in risk taking activity. Sadly, detention of youth in congregant care settings, and out of their home communities, families and schools, can instead do great harm to children and their natural development.

Crime rates by age.

Adolescents are not fully developed people, and the contrast become particularly stark when scientists look at the adolescent brain.  The frontal cortex, which controls executive decision making, is not fully functioning until the age of about 25 years old.  However, the amygdala, the area of the brain which controls emotions and instinctual reactions develops early.  Simply meaning that the two parts do not develop together, but instead emotion and instinct are better developed then logic and reason in a young person.

The Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) in Massachusetts works to ensure that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reasons.”

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.