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Juvenile Justice: Institutions - Current Developments And Problems

percent youths facilities offenses—

During the 1990s, states began replacing old, run-down institutions and constructing new facilities to respond to the dramatic rise in violent juvenile crime throughout the country. Violent juvenile crime, fueled by the lethal combination of illicit drugs and guns in the hands of adolescents, climbed rapidly between 1988 and 1993. The proportion of juvenile arrests for violent crime grew from 9 percent in the late 1980s to 14.2 percent in 1994. Juvenile murder arrests more than doubled between 1987 and its peak year 1993 from approximately 1,500 to 3,800 each year.

According to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), there were 105,790 juveniles under age twenty-one in custody in either a pretrial detention or juvenile correctional facility on a given day in 1997. This represented a 63 percent increase in the number of incarcerated youth since 1991 when the one-day count of confined youths was 65,000. Three states (California, Texas, and Florida) that account for 25 percent of the youth population in the United States account for 30 percent of all confined youth in the country (Snyder and Sikmund). Youths in confinement facilities run the gamut from violent offenders to status offenders. The CJRP breakdown for youths in institutional placements in 1997 was:

  • • Violent Index Crimes—25 percent
  • • Other Person Offenses—8 percent
  • • Property Offenses—30 percent
  • • Drug Offenses—9 percent
  • • Public Order Offenses—21 percent
  • • Status Offenses—7 percent

This dramatic increase in the number of youths remanded to secure institutions has caused severe crowding problems in facilities throughout the country similar to the over-crowding of adult prisons in the 1980s. In 1995, 50 percent of all pretrial detention facilities and 45 percent of all correctional institutions were operating above design capacity.

Minorities, especially black youths, are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, especially in secure institutions. Research findings show that this is primarily the result of widespread disparity in juvenile case processing. Data demonstrates that minority youths are more likely to be placed in public secure facilities, while white youths are more likely to be housed in private facilities or diverted from the juvenile justice system altogether. The custody rates for juveniles are:

  • • Black—1,018 per 100,000
  • • White—204 per 100,000
  • • Hispanic—515 per 100,000
  • • Native American—525 per 100,000
  • • Asian—203 per 100,000
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