Giving Compass' Take:
- A Marshall Project investigation identified cruel and alarming conditions and significant racial disparities within juvenile detention centers across the U.S.
- How can donors respond to calls for action to address youth incarceration?
- Learn more about the concern over youth prisons.
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Earlier this year, a Marshall Project investigation revealed that dozens of young people had been held under brutal conditions of isolation and deprivation at a quietly-opened facility in St. Martinville, Louisiana. The reporting led to a new state law limiting the solitary confinement of youth.
In a deep historical dive for The Advocate, Jacqueline DeRobertis explains how Louisiana’s system got here, laying most of the blame on the half-hearted implementation of a long-promised therapeutic model for juvenile justice. “There’s still a part of the culture that thinks when kids get in trouble, they need to be locked up,” said a former state supreme court judge.
Louisiana incarcerates far fewer young people than it used to, down six-fold from 2001 to 2020, but those who are locked up remain disproportionately Black. It’s a nationwide trend, and it persists in places with large Black populations, like Louisiana, and in places with much smaller ones, like Iowa’s Scott County. The Nation has this report on how racial disparities in that county’s youth incarceration are driving some of the debate on whether the town should use federal COVID-19 relief money to build a new juvenile detention center. Black youth there are 8.7 times more likely to be incarcerated than their White peers. In Louisiana, it’s about six times more, and nationwide about four times, all according to data from The Sentencing Project.
Meanwhile, as of this summer, there are no girls incarcerated in the state of Hawaii. The number of boys incarcerated in the state is also down significantly. Officials there pin the milestone on a commitment to the kind of therapeutic approach that Louisiana failed to embrace. Still, racial disparities — in this case, the overrepresentation of native Hawaiians — persist amid the reductions.
Lastly, just because vulnerable young people are not being held in a detention center is no guarantee that they are receiving appropriate care. In Detroit last month, a residential treatment center for youth was closed after reports of abuse, including that “a young patient was bitten, choked and taunted to kill herself,” according to documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press. The facility, which was privately operated by a Tennessee company, housed youth “who might otherwise end up in juvenile detention.”
Read the full article about juvenile detention by Jamiles Lartey at The Marshall Project.