"The United States locks up more people than any country in the world. That starts young: Roughly a million kids a year get caught up in the criminal justice system. In Caught, a new podcast from WNYC, we'll listen as some of those young people tell their stories over nine episodes. They'll help us understand how we got here--and how we might help, rather than just punish troubled youth. Welcome to Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice. Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice is supported, in part, by the Anne Levy Fund, Margaret Neubart Foundation, the John and Gwen Smart Family Foundation, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project." Listen now.
Illinois’ use of five state prisons – incarcerating about 425
juveniles – has a direct operational cost of about $514 per youth, per day.
This cost does not including education, services, or aftercare. However,
alternatives to youth incarceration save money up front and provide long-term
safety benefits. The report states “youth incarceration is the costliest
response to delinquency – in upfront costs, hidden costs, youth outcomes, and
societal costs. Even for high-risk youth, the costs of the choice to imprison
outstrip other, less damaging approaches.”
“Strong communities are key to success.” Illinois needs to
increase funding for youth justice reinvestment programs and expand the
capacity of local nonprofits that provide state social services to youth and
Vincent Schiraldi on
Parole and Probation
Vincent Schiraldi started his career in criminal justice reform in
1981, although he always knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to helping
people, or as he humbly states to be “in the human services field.” Schiraldi
started working at the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, and
then went on to create two nonprofits, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal
Justice in San Francisco and our very own Justice Policy Institute. Today, at
the Justice Lab at Columbia University he is a leading voice in criminal
justice reform, specifically in regards to parole and probation.
Schiraldi has two reports out on parole and probation, one from a national perspective and the other focused on New York
Since the creation of the parole and probation systems,
they have deviated from their original intent and have become a trigger to mass
incarceration. Schiraldi states that “nationwide there are almost five million
people on probation and parole. That’s more people than live in half of U.S.
states, one in 53 adults. It was never meant to be that big and it’s now a
In an article that Schiraldi
co-authored with Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center
at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, they state that when looking at the
quality of justice, we often only measure its success by recidivism rate -
which is “inadequate and often misleading.” Instead of focusing on recidivism
rates, we should focus on alternatives to incarceration and improving what
systems we already have in place - such as parole and probation, which were
originally created to help people who are incarcerated. Highlights -
“[Probation and parole were] originally meant to be alternatives
to prison, they now have become tripwires and triggers to mass incarceration.”
“Nationwide there are almost five million people on probation and
parole. That’s more people than live in half of U.S. states, one in 53 adults.
It was never meant to be that big and it’s now a processing-back-to-prison
On Less is More in New York report: “Twenty leading probation and
parole administrators signed on to our report, which calls for ultimately cutting
the systems they run in half and to reduce technical violations that
lead back to prison.”
“There’s a lot of research showing that community cohesion and
resilience makes communities safer, not just more police and more prisons.”
On Rikers Island: “New York’s already the least incarcerated and
safest big city in the country. We’re going to do something that no U.S. city
“Once you’ve been behind bars, words can feel like freedom.”
Formerly incarcerated people are now finding a new voice through
poetry, thanks to the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. This workshop
helps young men find a way to give expression to their lives during and after
incarceration. Since 2002, the program has worked with teenagers charged and
imprisoned as adults in the D.C. Jail and the federal prison system.
This blog is a part of a series dedicated to
celebrate JPI’s 20th Anniversary. Bart Lubow’s piece is excerpted
from comments he delivered at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JuvenileDetention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Orlando, Florida in April
2017 on the occasion of JDAI’s 25th anniversary. JPI has been proud
to partner with JDAI since its inception. We are particularly thankful to the
leadership of Bart and other champions from the Casey Foundation and around the
country, who made this success story possible and continue the work.
years ago, the juvenile justice system was struggling to survive. It was widely condemned as soft, ineffective,
and unaccountable. Elected officials
across the country, reacting to a brief spike in violent crime, ridiculed and
diminished the system, most obviously by passing a slew of laws that took the
most serious cases and mandated that they be prosecuted and incarcerated in the
adult criminal justice system. The core notion behind the creation of juvenile
justice—that youth were different from adults and deserved a system that
recognized those developmental differences—was at risk of being abandoned.
a variety of reasons juvenile justice did deserve criticism.While it was perceived as soft on crime,
juvenile justice was in fact locking up rather minor law
violators—misdemeanants, probation violators and status offenders--in jails and
prisons which we euphemistically called “youth study centers” and “training
schools” but which were endemic with abuse and neglect like their adult
counterparts.None of this would have
been allowed had the youth in question looked like, spoke like, lived near or
were related to people like me.Indeed,
the collective complexion of those who were grist for this mill was darkening
at a rapid rate, with more and more Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American
youth being hauled before a system that routinely acted as if youth of color
were all dangerous and unredeemable.
From this, the Annie E. Casey Foundation
began the Juvenile Detention Alternatives
Initiative. JDAI required a huge political risk, a major shift
in the way we approach pretrial detention for youth, and the development of new
procedures and programs to better serve America's troubled young people.
We believed that the basic myth driving the incarceration explosion—that
locking up large numbers of people was the pathway to public safety—was
fundamentally wrong. Second, we argued
that the use of detention was driven first and foremost by the policies and
practices embraced by adults, not the behavior of the kids. Third, we hypothesized that a focus on
detention reform—while limited given the many problems with juvenile
justice—would spill over to affect other issues. Finally, we argued that no system which
claimed to represent “justice” could have any credibility as long as it was
perceived as biased and unfair in its treatment of youth of color.
there are about half as many youth locked in juvenile facilities as there were
25 years ago, and juvenile crime rates are a modest fraction of what they were
as recently as 15 years ago. If nothing
else, over the past 25 years JDAI has demonstrated that it is possible to
radically reduce confinement without sacrificing public safety.
entire trajectory of juvenile justice has changed in the past two and one-half
decades. States across the country are
now raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and rolling back mandatory
transfer laws, rather than pulling more youth into adult courts and
prisons. More and better tools are being
used to inform decisions and stronger, more innovative alternatives have
expanded the range and effectiveness of options in lieu of confinement. At the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court
abolished the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18 and declared
mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences unconstitutional. A movement to end solitary confinement has
emerged with interest at the local, state and federal levels of government. Over the past 25 years, juvenile justice,
rather than retreating under criticism, has increasingly served as the
laboratory for more enlightened and effective approaches to crime, some of
which are now infiltrating many state adult justice systems.
JDAI, is not responsible for all the progress of the past 25 years, it has been
in the center of much of it and it at least deserves credit for forsaking the
myths and excuses of the past and for helping to nourish a wide array of
practitioners, advocates and researchers whose ideas and voices were hidden
during the dark days of the so-called super-predator era. We have learned many
things relevant to a better future, not the least of which is to not be
constrained by the limits that the status quo would impose on our
have come very far, but not nearly far enough for this system to pass what we
have come to refer to as the “my child” test.
There can be no let-up in our clamor for change, not while lives are at
stake and communities suffer the effects of mass incarceration. The clamor must now come, first and foremost,
from the next generation of reformers. All enterprises of this scale and
influence are built from collective, collaborative work. All of us stand on the shoulders of others.
Bart Lubow is a Senior Consultant with the
Annie E. Casey Foundation
With almost 40 years
of improving criminal justice systems, Bart Lubow served as director of the
Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile
Justice Strategy Group from 2009 until 2014. Today, as a senior consultant, he
supports the Foundation’s juvenile justice reform agenda, which includes
reducing unnecessary confinement in order to minimize long-term consequences of
incarceration, prevent family disruption and increase opportunities to
positively alter the life trajectories of youth in the juvenile system.
Last year’s civil rights survey by the
Department of Education revealed some disturbing trends: Out-of-school
suspensions for black students are common for preschoolers and a pattern of
disciplining black students more than white students is consistent from
kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Advocates for equity in education highlight the
fact that many school districts emphasize the policing of students as opposed
to counseling and are more committed to hiring security officers than school
counselors. This approach helps create a “school-to-prison pipeline” that
impacts students throughout their educational careers.
“Suspending a student for misbehavior usually
makes things worse,” says Joshua Aronson, associate professor of applied
psychology at NYU Steinhardt, which recently launched Counseling@NYU. “Not only does the child miss
instruction, but he or she is rejected by the community in a very public
The Department of Education survey collected data from public
school districts during the 2013-2014 school year, and their analysis found
that black preschool children were 3.6 times more likely than white children to
receive one or more out-of-school suspensions. In the K-12 years, black
students were suspended at rates almost four times higher than white students and expelled from school without
educational services at a rate that was nearly double. They were more than two
times more likely to be disciplined through the involvement of school security
officers, such as a school-related arrest.
While policing in schools disproportionately
affects students of color, research shows that it doesn’t increase safety. The
Justice Policy Institute released a report on the school to prison pipe in 2011
Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. They found that many
schools have “School Resource Officers” who spend their time acting as law
enforcement at schools. The presence of SRO’s resulted in disproportionate
punishment rates for students of color, including suspensions and arrests,
without actually making schools safer.
The Need for a Long-Term Solution
Some factors may be contributing to the fact
that black students are disciplined at higher rates, including the racial bias
of teachers. Yale University’s Walter Gilliam has
spent more than a decade studying this trend, and he told NPRthat most adults interpret disruptive behaviors differently and that
these perceptions depend on the race of the child.
“We tend to
hold African-American children as more culpable,” he said in the article. “And
we think they're older than they are.”
And focusing on discipline as a method of
dealing with behavior issues can have a long-term effect on students in many
ways. They are too frequently absent from the classroom and miss out on all of
the lifelong benefits that are derived from academic achievements.
“This punishes the child and marks them as a
problem without uncovering the underlying reasons for the misbehavior, which
typically is an unmet need,” says Aronson.
UCLA’s Civil Rights Project framed such sentiments in some hard data. A study
by the Project shows that student
suspensions cost the nation $35 billion in lost taxpayer revenue — by linking
them to the “cost of keeping people in prison and paying for health care, since
students who get suspended are more likely to drop out of school, earn less
money, and get involved in the criminal justice system.”
A Counseling-Focused Approach
An effective alternative to
discipline is to give teachers support to better address students’ behavioral
issues, and school counselors play a key role in such a strategy.
“Schools need the resources to find out what
students need and the resources to meet those needs,” says Aronson. “This
may cost more in the short-term, but it is a mere fraction of the cost of
incarcerating the high percentage of suspended students who will end up in
One example, outlined by NPR, is Van
Ness Elementary in Washington, D.C., which trains teachers in Conscious
Discipline and provides them with a support network that includes a staff social
worker, a psychologist, and weekly visits from a clinical psychologist. Every
pre-K classroom at the school also has a “safe space” where kids who are being
disruptive can be peaceful and calm down — and preschoolers are taught calming
techniques, like “breathing slowly into a pinwheel to make it spin.”
in the current framework, more than 20 percent
of high schools don’t even have a school counselor at all, and 1.6 million
students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school
counselor. To alter the dynamics of the school-to-prison pipeline, those kinds
of odds need to change.
As JPI celebrates its 20th Anniversary, Education Under Arrest remains a great tool for understanding the
effects of the school to prison pipeline. Work done by organizations like JPI and
the Department of Education shows the importance of alternatives to policing in
schools. By making positive investments in our students, we can create better
schools and safer communities.
Remember your first great
achievement as a child? Was it your first
talent show or dance recital? First little league hit, basket made, or goal
scored? Think back to that moment. What made it so special? Who was there? There’s
no better affirmation of a child’s achievement than a parent’s approval.
Remember the excitement? Now
imagine that seat in the audience being empty, and the hurt and disappointment
that follows. That empty seat is a reality for too many kids across the country
due to the justice system’s devastating impact on families and communities. The
residual effect of the justice system’s disproportionate impacts on people and
communities of color are reflected in those empty seats. One in four black
children is at risk of having an incarcerated parent compared to one in thirty
This Father’s Day, remember
all the fathers who have been separated from their children as a result of the
justice system. Many acknowledge that the United States’ system of slavery was
so terrible because of the beatings, mutilations and overall inhumane physical
treatment of slaves. However, the cruelest part of slavery for many slaves in
the U.S. didn’t lie in the inhumane physical treatment, but rather, the
separation of families. There is no greater pain or loss than a parent being
separated from their child, and the separation of families now routinely happens
under the cover of the justice system. The impact cannot be overstated. As a
coach for my son’s basketball and baseball teams I see and feel the reality of
those empty seats. I can tell within the first practice which of my players does
not have a father figure in their lives. There is a difference. You can see it.
You can feel it. And the kids certainly can, too.
The void the justice system
creates by removing so many fathers in poor communities of color creates a
ripple effect that is felt throughout the entire community. While at the
Justice Policy Institute over the past seven years, I’ve worked on these
important issues in communities around DC, Maryland and Virginia. I also live
in Maryland, where blacks make up 29% of the overall population but about 72%
of the prison population. This disproportionate impact of the justice system on
black males has devastated entire communities and left voids that are filled by
gangs and others who try to take advantage of the absence of strong parental
figures. If we want to create a better future for our kids, we must begin by altering
the trajectory of many fatherless kids by investing in them, and healing their communities.
According to The Right Investment, a
report by the Justice Policy Institute, the Maryland community where the
justice system spends the most money incarcerating residents is Sandtown-Winchester in Baltimore,
where Freddie Gray was from. Taxpayers spend $17 million a year incarcerating
residents from this one community alone. But when you look at the indicators of
a healthy neighborhood, such as employment, education, housing, and treatment
services, you then see that Sandtown has the highest unemployment rate, highest
percentage of people without a high school diploma, the highest number of
abandoned houses, and highest rate of emergency narcotic calls to 911. Sandtown
also has one of the highest percentages in Baltimore of female-headed
households with children under 18 (at 79.2%), compared to the city average of
54.4%. So, while it cost $37k a year to incarcerate someone in Maryland, that
same $37k could provide drug treatment for 8 people, employment training for 7
people, and a GED course for 37 people in impacted communities. In communities
deeply impacted by the justice system, it becomes clear where investments are
needed and why so many children are without fathers due to incarceration, instead of receiving the support they need. As JPI celebrates its 20th
anniversary year, I reflect on the work we’ve done towards reducing the
impact of the justice system, with most of my focus on communities around the
DMV. We know that there is a whole generation of missing fathers, an Incarceration
Generation, and much more reform that needs to be done towards creating
safer, stronger communities.
Rather than targeting
resources towards locking up so many black men, states and the federal government
could invest more wisely and preserve the family structure, rather than
continue to spend enormous amounts of money in the justice system that results
in the mass separation of family. We can and must do better! Instead of rendering so many black children
fatherless, it’s time to work on healing and strengthening communities through
smart, targeted investments that result in diplomas, not criminal records.
This Mother’s Day, we must honor our mothers who have children
locked up somewhere in the system –whether it’s a daughter or a son, a niece or
a nephew, grandchildren, or someone you hold dear. It’s a day for us to reflect
on those impacted by the justice system, and say we may not know your pain, but
we feel your anguish, frustration, urgency, and ultimately hope that things
will get better. For the love of our mothers, por el amor de nuestra madre, we must transform how we approach
youth misbehavior and our youth justice system.
On Mother’s Day and every day, this issue is near and dear to my
heart. In working with our youth as part of the National Alianza for Latino
Youth Justice, I am honored and humbled that many of them call me tia, or auntie. I cherish these children
and our relationships, because I know that understanding our children is an
important aspect of the work that remains in dismantling mass incarceration.
Like many of their moms, there was a time in my life where I was a single mom,
waking up each and every day praying that my son would not come in contact with
the juvenile justice system.
Despite my prayers and best efforts, there was one incident that
sent my heart pumping. Throwing me into panic mode, my son received a three-day
suspension for bringing a plastic toy gun to school. While it was a childish
mistake, I knew that zero tolerance policies and this three-day suspension were
enough to put a 12-year-old, afro-mexicano-indigenous youth at the door of
detention. I intervened, showing up at the Vice Principal’s office to demand
they consider the harms of detention on a child. Because I knew the research
and understood the trauma that comes with the justice system, the administrator
agreed to “do me the favor” of releasing my son to me.
As I spend time with previously impacted youth, I continuously
learn that many—if not all—have major, un-attended trauma that shaped their
young lives. Like my son, their justice system involvement started with a
school incident, running away from home, or committing an offense that would
change their life forever. These mistakes lead children towards the punitive
justice system, rather than giving them the restorative justice practices they
need or programs to address their trauma.
The National Alianza for Latino Youth, along with many other
organizations like the Justice Policy Institute, are part of a strong youth
justice transformation movement working to decrease the number youth in
detention. Over 300 facilities in 40 states across the country are implementing
practices that lower youth prison populations while improving public safety. We
know this work is especially important for youth of color, which is why I
partnered with JPI almost 15 years ago as part of the Building Blocks for Youth
initiative to write Donde Esta La Justicia: a call to action on behalf of Latino and Latina youth in the U.S.Justice System. The first of its kind, the report highlighted the over
representation of latinx youth in the justice system, who also receive longer
sentences and harsher treatment within the system. Because of the work juvenile
justice organizations like JPI have done to raise awareness and create change,
we are seeing a transformation in youth justice and how we treat our kids.
Research shows that youth can be better served through community
based programs that address their unique needs. Mothers watched as generations
of children, mostly children of color, have been locked up and traumatized by a
system that promises to help them. This Mother’s Day, we honor mothers by
saying we hear you and we see you, and that we will work to give you a voice.
Only you know the pain of having a child in the justice system, and how
important it is to bring them back home. In the spirit of Madres
de los desaparecidos, Casa de Las Madres, and the "Thirteen
Grandmothers", I honor and call upon our mothers to rise up in solidarity.
This Mother’s Day, I am proud to be a part of a movement working to dismantle the
cages built for our youth, and to build la
cultura cura—pathways to bring our children home to their mothers, aunties, and grandmothers.
Marcia Rincon-Gallardo is a member of the National Alianza for Latino Youth Justice and Founder of Noxtin, a juvenile justice reform
think-tank and strategic action organization based in Silicon Valley that works
with directly impacted communities and system professionals.
This week 60 Minutes featured a storydetailing
the crisis in indigent defense in New Orleans, Louisiana. In a city where
public defenders have been under-resourced and overwhelmed for decades, the
situation has reached a breaking point.
Following years of budget cuts to the
office of the public defender, the city’s chief public defender, Derwyn Bunton,
has now gone on record stating that his office is not able to provide a
constitutionally adequate defense for too many of their clients. While Bunton
and his team of attorneys had been doing all they could to zealously advocate
on behalf of their clients for years – despite a shoestring budget – the load
simply became too much to bare while striving to ensure that everyone receives fair treatment by the justice system.
Having served 20 years ago as a public defender in Baltimore,
where I experienced crushing caseloads and saw firsthand how the system fails
to deliver justice, I know that we can and must do better. I had the privilege of working with
Derwyn Bunton on juvenile justice issues in Louisiana, and I know that his
decision to stop accepting cases was not done lightly, but with the same strong
and unyielding commitment to serving his clients that he’s shown his entire
As I consider the dire situation in New
Orleans, and reflect on JPI celebrating our 20th anniversary this
year, I am reminded of our work on this critical issue and our efforts to shine
a light on the significant challenges facing public defenders around the
country. JPI’s 2011 report, System Overload: The Cost of Under-Resourcing Public Defense, concluded that overloaded public
defense systems result in more prison time for people across the country, and
According to System Overload, 73 percent of county-based public defender offices lacked the
requisite number of attorneys to meet caseload standards; 23 percent of these
offices had less than half of the necessary attorneys to meet caseload
standards. JPI’s report found that public defense systems across the country
are overburdened, and showed how the busting-at-the-seams systems affect state
and county budgets, the lives of those behind bars, the impact on their
families, and the challenges of re-entering communities after serving time. We
further looked at why dedicated public defenders – like Derwyn Bunton and his
staff in New Orleans -- do not have enough time to conduct thorough
investigations, or meet with and provide quality representation for their
clients. Not surprisingly, in most of these systems the great majority of
clients are low-income and people of color – contributing to very troubling
racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
National standards recommend that public defenders handle no more
than 150 felony, 400 misdemeanor, 200 juvenile, 200 mental health, or 25
appeals per year. Only 12 percent of county public defender offices with more
than 5,000 cases per year had enough lawyers to meet caseload standards. Nearly
60 percent of county-based public defender offices do not have caseload limits
or the authority to refuse cases due to excessive caseloads. This lack of
authority is particularly evident in larger offices with higher caseloads.
With an increasing overload of cases, lack of quality defense and
a shortage of resources, JPI made the case that justice is not being served and
the wellbeing of millions of people is at stake. We called for reform to the
public defense system in System Overload,
and we will continue to challenge policymakers to make investments to ensure a
fairer, more effective justice system for all. If we want to have a justice
system that meets constitutional muster, we must ensure that the 6th
Amendment right to counsel isn’t just words on paper, but becomes a reality in courtrooms
across our country. Until that happens, we can’t honestly say that justice is
being served in many cities and towns across America.