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Juveniles in Adult Prisons and Jails.
A National Assessment
By James Austin Ph.D., 
Kelly Dedel Johnson, 
Ph.D., Maria Gregoriou, M.A.

October 2000

GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications (
Published On: June 10, 2001          Updated On: August 07, 2001

Since 1992, 45 states have passed or amended legislation making it easier to prosecute juveniles as adults. The result is that the number of youth under 18 confined in adult prisons has more than doubled in the past decade. This phenomenon is challenging the belief, enshrined in our justice system a century ago, that children and young adolescents should be adjudicated and confined in a separate system focused on their rehabilitation.

In 1997, the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded a nationwide study of juveniles in adult correctional facilities to help policymakers and criminal justice practitioners form an effective response to this critical issue. Juveniles in Adult Prisons and Jails: A National Assessment is the product of that study. This report begins to answer important questions about this vulnerable population: What is the extent of juvenile confinement in federal, state, and local facilities? What types of facilities are used to house juvenile offenders? What happens to juveniles in the adult system? Are juveniles in adult facilities educated, treated for substance abuse, and taught skills that will help them find a job after their incarceration? Are prisons and jails protecting young offenders from physical, sexual, and psychological abuse? What are the alternative strategies for housing offenders sentenced to long terms in adult facilities?

As the findings of this study show, there are important steps we can take now to improve the well-being of juvenile offenders in adult facilities. We can develop specialized vocational, sex offender, and substance abuse programs tailored to the developmental needs of youth. We can ensure that staff in adult facilities take seriously their federal mandate to provide regular and special education services to youth in their care. And we can do much more to ensure the safety and care of young offenders who interact with adult offenders.  

It is our hope that this work engages public officials, administrators, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, scholars, and other criminal justice practitioners in a frank and meaningful discussion about the incarceration of juveniles with adults.

Nancy E. Gist
Bureau of Justice Assistance 

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