Policy Solutions for our Mass Incarceration Problem

The Prison Policy Initiative has put together the “Whole Pie” of our mass incarceration system to give Americans the tools they need to demand meaningful to changes to our criminal justice system.

Our systems of federal, state, local, and other types of confinement make it difficult to piece together a whole picture of who enters, leaves, and revolves through our justice system, but the chart below offers the first comprehensive look at who’s incarcerated, where they’re held, and why they’re there.

whole pieIn all, 2.4 million people are held in confinement–in state prisons, federal prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, and others.

This “Whole Pie” picture is troubling, particularly for children. 12,000 children are behind bars for technical violations of their parole or probation. These children broke the terms of their agreement, but they weren’t incarcerated for a specific, new offense. Another 3,000 children are behind bars for “status” offense, such as running away or truancy, which are not law violations for adults.

So now that we’re looking at the full picture, what can we do?

Our youth-serving community and human services organizations are experts, particularly around delinquency prevention and rehabilitation, who successfully reconnect disconnected youth and invest in their potential. Broadening the scope and reach of these programs through policies that fund the proven solutions and strategies they use will increase the successful outcomes for the youth in our communities.

The National Collaboration for Youth and its members recommend:

1) Reauthorize and strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act to keep juveniles out of adult jails, to keep children have committed no crime (status offense) out of correctional facilities, and to ensure fairness to children and youth of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations or gender indentities in the juvenile justice system.

2) Support increased family engagement and support youth, families, and other community members in developing better policies that protect incarcerated youth, support their rehabilitation, and reduce recidivism.

3) Reauthorize and strengthen the Second Chance Act to support community-based reentry programs that build competencies; connect youth to caring adults, housing, workforce, education, healthcare, community service opportunities; and prepare them to achieve success in school, on the job and as contributing citizens.

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