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Transforming Closed Adult and Youth Prisons

In recent years policymakers and practitioners have implemented reforms to scale back the United States’ punitive criminal justice policies. By year-end 2016 the number of people held in U.S. prisons had declined by 6% since a 2009 peak. Reductions in prison populations have led to 22 states eliminating or planning to eliminate an estimated 48,000 state prison beds. Similar dynamics have been observed in the juvenile justice system where states and localities are increasingly embracing community-based alternatives for justice-involved youth. These reforms have resulted in a significant decline of youth detained in out of home placements leading to hundreds of facility closures. Closing adult and youth prisons has created opportunities to use these institutions for new purposes that meet the needs of their local communities.


Carmen E. Daugherty – Policy Director, YouthFirst Initiative

Samantha Harvell – Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute

Sharlen Moore – Co-Director, Youth Justice Milwaukee

Nicole D. Porter – Director of Advocacy, The Sentencing Project

Additional Resources

Transforming Closed Youth Prisons: Repurposing Facilities to Meet Community Needs

YouthFirst Initiative Campaign Starter

Repurposing: New Beginnings for Closed Prisons



Photo by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash.