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Benefits of reducing youth incarcerations

While many California residents would agree that incarceration is necessary when a juvenile offender poses a serious threat to society, there might be differences of opinion over how important incarceration is for less serious offenses. Statistics in recent years indicate that there may be many positive outcomes when incarceration is limited for young offenders. Although there is not a national policy addressing youth incarceration, recent trends and statistics shed a positive light on finding alternatives to serving time when possible.

Data collected by the United States Census Bureau indicates that the peak level of youth incarceration occurred in 1995, at which time there were nearly 108,000 youths in custody on a given day. By 2010, that level had dropped by more than one-third. Additionally, statistics indicated that the rate at which youths were confined decreased by more than 40 percent. The greatest changes in these numbers occurred between 2006 and 2010. While this seems to reflect a positive change in numbers, the U.S. continues to lead the world with the highest rate of youth confinement.

Factors that may be contributing to the decreased detainment levels include crowding in facilities and tight state budgets. However, one of the most positive outcomes is that there has not been a surge in juvenile crime as more youths are kept out of institutions. The reduction in risk to young offenders by keeping them out of these locations may be part of the reason for more stable juvenile crime numbers. Additionally, creative programs may be promoting positive interventions in the lives of at-risk juveniles.

The family of a juvenile who has been held on criminal charges might seek the help of a criminal defense lawyer to pursue alternatives to confinement. A lawyer might negotiate with the prosecution for penalties such as community service in lieu of confinement.

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