The US Is Incarcerating Fewer Juvenile Offenders Than Ever

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The incarceration rate for juvenile offenders hit its lowest point ever since the U.S. began tracking the statistic in 1997, according to The Washington Post.

Juvenile incarceration and general crime has fallen steadily in the U.S, since 1997, with today’s juveniles offenders being sentenced to prison at less than half the 1997 rate. Roughly 1 in 400 juvenile offenders were incarcerated in 1997, but only 1 in 1,000 were incarcerated in 2015. The fall comes in the wake of steady drops in youth arrests and crimes, but some argue even fewer juveniles should be going to prison.

“We know that keeping youth out of high risk environments helps keep them out of the system in the long run, strengthens communities, and saves taxpayer dollars,” Jasmine Heiss, a director at the Coalition for Public Safety told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But our work is far from over. Even as numbers have fallen, racial disparities in the juvenile system have widened, despite the fact that there is little difference in crime rates between black, white, and latino kids.”

Sentencing reform proved to be one of the few widely bipartisan issues under the Obama administration, and state governments have continued pushing softer sentencing under President Donald Trump.

States across the political spectrum and the country have adopted justice reforms in 2017. In May, the Republican-controlled Louisiana House passed a massive 10-bill criminal justice reform package to decrease the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next decade.

In June, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bail reform measure in Illinois to get more people out of jails, and GOP Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill to reduce Oklahoma’s recidivism rate by matching restitution payments to an inmate’s ability to pay.

Until recently, federal sentencing reforms had faltered due to the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but Senate Republicans and Democrats have begun working together again on the issue. Sens. Kamala Harris and Rand Paul pushed a bail reform bill together in September, and both left and right-wing caucuses are pushing soft sentencing reforms this week.

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