Youth Justice Initiatives

For decades, the United States has relied on an archaic model of youth incarceration, sending youth to large, prison-like facilities that are far from their families and communities. This approach has disproportionately affected black and brown youth, perpetuating the country’s legacy of slavery and magnifying the cumulative disadvantages experienced by communities of color, and such as poverty and violence. Inside these facilities, youth may face violence and abuse, and over the long term, many struggle in school and have difficulty securing employment upon release. These negative outcomes come at an extraordinarily high cost, with states spending billions of dollars annually to operate these prisons.

    As the country’s youth incarceration rate has declined in recent years,  there is now a growing movement to end the use of a punitive youth prison models in favor of a more community-centered approach. Nationwide, research and practice are demonstrating that it is possible to families, all while promoting safety, fairness,  and accountability on all sides.

    Over time, the Justice Lab will accelerate this transformation through a multi-pronged initiative that will:

    1)  Build the field’s knowledge base about successful deinstitutionalization efforts through a variety of different public-facing products, including a series of case studies on jurisdictions that have done this successfully.

    2)  the Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice, a group that will unify and elevate the voices of current and former youth correctional leaders in states and localities in their efforts to end the use of youth prisons.  

    3)  Advance a new vision of what it means to establish community capacity that supports youth and families, through events, communications, and other approaches.

    4) Cultivate a new generation of reformers to redefine what youth justice looks like. This effort will focus on developing leadership capacity among youth who have either experienced the system as well as those who have been actively pushing for changes, within the jurisdictions  where transformations are underway.  

    Youth Justice Initiative Resources

    Does Keeping Youth Close to Home Really Matter? Pre-publication Discussion. Marsha Weissman, Vincent Schiraldi, and Kendra Bradner. March 2018.

    Youth Prisons as a Form of Violence: An International Human Rights Perspective. Vincent Schiraldi. 2018.

    The Future of Youth Justice: A Community Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model. Patrick McCarthy, Vincent Schiraldi and Miriam Shark, October 2016.

    Cuomo, don’t leave these kids hangingNew York Daily News, March 18, 2018. Vincent Schiraldi and Patrick McCarthy.

    Florida should shut down youth-detention centers where ‘fight clubs’ thriveMiami Herald, October 18, 2017. Candice Jones, Patrick McCarthy and Vincent Schiraldi.

    Juvenile Prisons: It’s Time to Close ‘Factories of Failure.’ The Crime Report, September 26, 2017. Vincent Schiraldi.

    It’s time to close all youth prisonsWashington Post, November 10, 2016. Vincent Schiraldi and Marc Schindler.

    Youth prisons don't reform, they damageUSA Today, October 28, 2016. Patrick McCarthy and Vincent Schiraldi.

    Why We Need to Shut Down JuvieThe Marshall Project, December 22, 2015. Vincent Schiraldi.

    Horrific Conditions in Prisons “Common, not Exceptional,” Schiraldi writesThe Crime Report, November 11, 2015. Vincent Schiraldi.

    What Mass Incarceration Looks Like for Young PeopleThe New York Times, November 10, 2015. Vincent Schiraldi.