The United States imprisons more youths at a higher rate than any other nation. Incarceration can affect teens in many ways. Adolescents who are incarcerated are much less likely to return to school upon release. Of those who do receive an education while incarcerated and return to school after release, on average 16 percent drop out within five months. The combination of incarceration and lack of schooling also has a negative effect on an adolescent’s work potential. This causes long-term problems, such as homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and recidivism. In fact, recidivism rates are extremely high among adolescents that are incarcerated compared to adolescents who entered diversionary programs.
SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES AND REPORTS
“How Does Incarcerating Young People Affect Their Adult Health Outcomes?“ by Elizabeth S. Barnert, Rebecca Dudovitz, Bergen B. Nelson, Tumaini R. Coker, Christopher Biely, Ning Li, Paul J. Chung, Pediatrics (2017)
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Despite the widespread epidemic of mass incarceration in the US, relatively little literature exists examining the longitudinal relationship between youth incarceration and adult health outcomes. We sought to quantify the association of youth incarceration with subsequent adult health outcomes.
METHODS: We analyzed data from 14 344 adult participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. We used weighted multivariate logistic regressions to investigate the relationship between cumulative incarceration duration (none, <1 month, 1–12 months, and >1 year) before Wave IV (ages 24–34 years) and subsequent adult health outcomes (general health, functional limitations, depressive symptoms, and suicidal thoughts). Models controlled for Wave I (grades 7–12) baseline health, sociodemographics, and covariates associated with incarceration and health.
RESULTS: A total of 14.0% of adults reported being incarcerated between Waves I and IV. Of these, 50.3% reported a cumulative incarceration duration of <1 month, 34.8% reported 1 to 12 months, and 15.0% reported >1 year. Compared with no incarceration, incarceration duration of < 1 month predicted subsequent adult depressive symptoms (odds ratio [OR] = 1.41; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–1.80; P = .005). A duration of 1 to 12 months predicted worse subsequent adult general health (OR = 1.48; 95% CI, 1.12–1.96; P = .007). A duration of >1 year predicted subsequent adult functional limitations (OR = 2.92; 95% CI, 1.51–5.64; P = .002), adult depressive symptoms (OR = 4.18; 95% CI, 2.48–7.06; P < .001), and adult suicidal thoughts (OR = 2.34; 95% CI, 1.09–5.01; P = .029). CONCLUSIONS: Cumulative incarceration duration during adolescence and early adulthood is independently associated with worse physical and mental health later in adulthood. Potential mechanisms merit exploration.Read the full study.
“51 – Jurisdiction Survey of Juvenile Solitary Confinement Rules in Juvenile Justice Systems” by Natalie J. Kraner, Naomi D. Barrowclough, Catherine Weiss, and Jacob Fisch, Lowenstein Center for Public Interest (2016)
This report discusses the results of a nationwide survey of the laws and policies governing the use of solitary confinement in juvenile justice facilities. The report details how each state imposes solitary confinement, for what purposes, for what length of time, with which conditions, and whether there are due-process protections in place. Read the full report.
“Protecting America’s Children: Why an Executive Order Banning Juvenile Solitary Confinement Is Not Enough” by Carina Muir, Pepperdine Law Review (2016)
Abstract: Despite its devastating psychological, physical, and developmental effects on juveniles, solitary confinement is used in juvenile correctional facilities across the United States. This Comment posits that such treatment violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It likewise argues that that President Obama’s recent Executive Order banning juvenile solitary confinement is simply not a powerful enough remedy and discusses why it must be paired with Congressional legislation or Supreme Court jurisprudence if it is to have any lasting effect. Read the full article.
“Labeling Effects of First Juvenile Arrests: Secondary Deviance and Secondary Sanctioning” by Akiva M. Liberman, David S. Kirk, and KiDeuk Kim, Criminology (2014)
Abstract: A growing literature suggests that juvenile arrests perpetuate offending and increase the likelihood of future arrests. The effect on subsequent arrests is generally regarded to be a product of the perpetuation of criminal offending. However, increased rearrest may also reflect differential law enforcement behavior. Using longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) together with official arrest records, the current study estimates the effects of first arrests on both reoffending and rearrest. Propensity score methods were used to control differences between arrestees and non-arrestees and minimize selection bias. Among 1,249 PHDCN youth, 58 were first arrested during the study period; 43 of these arrestees were successfully matched to 126 control cases who were equivalent on a broad set of individual, family, peer, and neighborhood factors. We find that first arrests increased both the likelihood of subsequent offending and of subsequent arrest, through separate processes. The effects on rearrest are substantially larger and largely independent of the effects on reoffending, suggesting that labels trigger “secondary sanctioning” processes distinct from secondary deviance processes. Attempts to ameliorate deleterious labeling effects should include efforts to dampen their escalating punitive effects on societal responses. Read the full article.
“Alone and Afraid: Children Held in Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities” by the American Civil Liberties Union (2014)
Abstract: This report by the American Civil Liberties Union examines the negative impact on children held in solitary confinement and isolation while incarcerated in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. Solitary confinement involves the physical and social isolation in a cell for 22 to 24 hours per day and is the most extreme form of isolation. Research has shown that the use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in juvenile justice facilities can have serious negative consequences for incarcerated youth. Youth subjected to this treatment can suffer serious psychological, physical, and developmental harm, resulting in persistent mental health problems or even suicide. These problems are often magnified for incarcerated youth with histories of trauma and abuse or for those with disabilities. This report discusses the consequences resulting from the use of solitary confinement and isolation in juvenile detention and correctional facilities, explores why children are subjected to these conditions, and examines how solitary confinement and other isolation practices are currently regulated at the State and Federal levels. The report also provides information on U.S. and human rights laws that offer specific protections for young people involved with the criminal justice system, and suggests steps that should be taken to stop the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated youth. Read the full report.
“Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood” by David S. Kirk and Robert J. Sampson, American Sociological Association (2013)
Abstract: Official sanctioning of students by the criminal justice system is a long-hypothesized source of educational disadvantage, but its explanatory status remains unresolved. Few studies of the educational consequences of a criminal record account for alternative explanations such as low self-control, lack of parental supervision, deviant peers, and neighborhood disadvantage. Moreover, virtually no research on the effect of a criminal record has examined the ‘‘black box’’ of mediating mechanisms or the consequence of arrest for postsecondary educational attainment. Analyzing longitudinal data with multiple and independent assessments of theoretically relevant domains, the authors estimate the direct effect of arrest on later high school dropout and college enrollment for adolescents with otherwise equivalent neighborhood, school, family, peer, and individual characteristics as well as similar frequency of criminal offending. The authors present evidence that arrest has a substantively large and robust impact on dropping out of high school among Chicago public school students. They also find a significant gap in four-year college enrollment between arrested and otherwise similar youth without a criminal record. The authors also assess intervening mechanisms hypothesized to explain the process by which arrest disrupts the schooling process and, in turn, produces collateral educational damage. The results imply that institutional responses and disruptions in students’ educational trajectories, rather than social-psychological factors, are responsible for the arrest–education link. Read the full article.
“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States” by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (2012)
Abstract: Every day in jails and prisons across the United States, large numbers of young people under age 18 are held in solitary confinement. They spend 22 or more hours each day physically and socially isolated in a small cell, often for weeks or even months on end. Adolescents in solitary confinement are routinely denied access to needed treatment, services, and programming. The practice is serious and widespread.
The solitary confinement of adults can cause severe pain and suffering and can violate international human rights and US constitutional law. But the potential damage to young people, who do not have the maturity of an adult and are at a particularly vulnerable stage of life, is much greater. Yet, solitary confinement of young people is not necessary; there are alternative ways to address the problems that officials cite as justifications for using solitary confinement.
Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on US federal and state governments to prohibit the solitary confinement of young people under age 18; prohibit the housing of adolescents with adults or in adult jails and prisons; strictly limit and regulate all forms of segregation and isolation; and monitor and report on the segregation and isolation of young people, whenever they are deprived of their liberty. Read the full report.