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How juvenile incarceration can truly doom a young person's future

We have previously written about common problems with the juvenile justice system, both here in Wisconsin and around the country. Courts are supposed to treat juvenile crimes and young offenders differently than adults (focusing on rehabilitation rather than simple punishment). Unfortunately, young offenders are too often incarcerated, resulting in significant costs to taxpayers and significant risks to the futures of the incarcerated youths.

If your son or daughter is facing charges for juvenile crime, the stakes for their future are high. Criminal charges and convictions can disrupt a young person's college plans, scholarships and work opportunities. And young offenders who are incarcerated - even for a short time - face even more serious obstacles.

According to the results of a recent study, juvenile offenders sentenced to incarceration are between 13 and 39 percent less likely than their peers to graduate from high school. Even when a young offender is incarcerated for one to two months, the disruption to their education can be such that they are unlikely to return to school. If they do return, they may be placed in special education classes despite having no cognitive disabilities.

That same study found that juvenile incarceration also increases the risk of adult incarceration. Juvenile offenders who have been incarcerated are between 23 and 41 percent more likely to be incarcerated again in adulthood.

According to the Department of Justice, there are approximately 70,000 juvenile offenders being housed in residential detention facilities on any given day. About 68 percent of these offenders are racial minorities.

In many cases, incarcerating juvenile offenders serves neither society nor the offenders themselves. It is time to fundamentally rethink our nation's approach to juvenile justice.

Source: Journalist's Resource, "Juvenile incarceration and its impact on high school graduation rates and adult jail time," Feb. 4, 2015

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