The Addiction Web Site of Terence T. Gorski

Best Practice Principles  - Articles  - Publications

Mission & Vision -  Clinical Model - Training & Consulting

Home - What's New - Site Map - Search - Book Reviews

 Links - Daily News Review 

  Research Databases  - Leading Addiction Websites -

Special Focus:  Mental Health, Substance Abuse, & Terrorism

 

Chapter 3
Characteristics of Juveniles 
Housed in Adult Jails and Prisons

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 (www.tgorski.com)
Published On: June 10, 2001          Updated On: August 07, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

Introduction

A current and accurate enumeration of juveniles confined in adult prisons and jails is essential to understand the issue of youth in adult facilities. Data on youthful offenders in national reports were not sufficiently complete or comprehensive to achieve the level of detail required for this study. Consequently, a comprehensive national survey of adult jail and prison systems was required. 

Two survey instruments were developed to obtain data on youthful offenders, one for adult state prison systems and one for state and local adult correctional facilities. Both surveys were modeled after the Bureau of Justice Statistics correctional facility surveys. The most critical assumption in developing the surveys was a precise definition of a youthful offender. For these surveys, a "youthful offender" was defined as a person age 17 or younger. In most states, 18-year-old offenders are considered adults and are normally tried in adult court. By focusing on the population age 17 and younger, the surveys concentrated on offenders generally considered juveniles and whose presence in adult correctional facilities was exceptional.

The purpose of the correctional system-level survey was to collect data on the number and characteristics of all youthful offenders incarcerated in a state's prison system, as well as to compare these characteristics with those of the adult offenders incarcerated in the system. The survey collected data on the custodial status of the juvenile residential population, housing patterns, offense background, race/ethnicity, age, length of stay, disciplinary actions, programs, litigation, health services, and capacity.

The facility-level survey was intended to provide specific information on the actual conditions of confinement in prisons and data about some of the large jail systems. This survey asked questions about facility characteristics, housing patterns, offense history, race/ethnicity, age, length of stay, disciplinary actions, programs, litigation, and health services. Although the facility survey addresses many of the issues identified in the system survey, it is designed to give a better sense of the "fit" between the youth and the adults in these institutions.

Both the system- and facility-level surveys were sent to each state prison system, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and 19 jail systems. The selected jails included all the major metropolitan jail systems and a sample of small and medium-size jails throughout the country. In total, 70 surveys were distributed. Surveys were mailed in September 1998, and a followup survey was mailed in January 1999. Participating state and local systems were instructed to complete the system-level survey and disseminate the facility-level survey to any facilities in their jurisdiction that housed youthful offenders. The number of participants in the facility-level survey was dependent on the number of adult facilities identified by jurisdictions as housing juveniles, the number of such facilities to which the jurisdictions mailed the facility survey, and the willingness of these particular facilities to respond to the survey.

All 50 states, 3 of the 19 jail systems (Los Angeles County, New York City, and Philadelphia), and the District of Columbia responded to the system-level survey, and 196 correctional agencies responded to the facility-level survey. Despite efforts to solicit their participation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and other selected jail systems refused to take part in this research. Consequently, these results are not representative of the total population of juveniles in adult prisons. 

Findings: Correctional System Survey

Most state adult correctional systems house youthful offenders. Of the 54 jurisdictions responding, 87 percent housed incarcerated juveniles. In terms of the legal status of incarcerated juveniles, 96 percent of the reported youthful offender population fell into two major categories: 23 percent were held as adjudicated juvenile offenders or pretrial detainees, and 75 percent were sentenced as adults.

Two objectives of the survey were to identify the characteristics of youth currently held in adult correctional facilities and to compare the characteristics of the youthful offender population with those of adult offenders held in the same facilities. These data provided information on the types of youth who were incarcerated in adult facilities and their similarities to the adult population housed in these facilities. 

The total adult correctional system capacity identified by survey respondents was 826,289 beds. Of the respondents, 46 percent maintained housing designated for youthful offenders. The capacity of these units for youthful offenders totaled 6,708 beds or less than 1 percent of the overall system capacity identified by the respondents.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia indicated that they maintained separate housing specifically for youthful offenders (table 4). The presence of separate housing for youthful offenders does not necessarily mean that all youthful offenders were housed in these separate facilities. States with large youthful offender populations, by necessity, often housed youthful offenders with the adult population when their housing capacity for youth was exceeded. Although a significant number of states maintained separate housing for youthful offenders, their definition of a "youthful" offender was frequently more expansive than the definition used here. In Florida, for example, youthful offenders from the ages of 14 to 24 were provided with dedicated housing and programs.

The number of youthful offenders in each system surveyed is presented in table 5, along with data on the reported number of adult offenders in these systems. The total adult residential population identified by the survey was 1,069,244 offenders in 1998. The youthful offender population totaled 4,775 or 0.5 percent of the total population. For these same respondents, the average system population for calendar year 1997 was 937,460 offenders, with an average youthful offender population of 4,078, again roughly 0.5 percent of the total population. The total average female youthful offender population for all reporting systems was 158 offenders, which is approximately 3.3 percent of the entire youthful offender population in adult facilities. This proportion of female offenders is somewhat lower than that reported for adult female offenders. Survey respondents indicated that adult female offenders constituted approximately 6 percent of the total adult offender population. Approximately 22 percent of the systems surveyed were planning to expand their youthful offender capacity (table 6).

As indicated in table 7, approximately 51 percent of the youthful offender population were housed in dormitory settings. Youth in single cells accounted for 30 percent of all housing assignments, whereas 19 percent of the youth population were housed in double cells. By comparison, 43 percent of adults were housed in dormitories, 22 percent in single cells, and 35 percent in double cells. Youthful offenders were much more likely to be housed in either a dormitory or a single cell, and a double cell was much more prevalent for adult offenders.

The profile of youthful offenders in adult facilities shows the predominance of youth convicted of crimes against persons (table 7). Fifty-seven percent of all youthful offenders were being held for an offense against a person, compared with 44 percent of the adult inmate population. Property offenders made up 21 percent of the youthful offender population and 20 percent of the adult population. Juveniles in adult facilities were less likely to be held for drug-related offenses than their adult counterparts (10 percent and 20 percent, respectively). The remaining major distinction between the offense profiles of the adult and youthful offender populations was the presence of a significant number of parole/probation violators in the adult population. Respondents reported that 8 percent of the adult offender population were parole/probation violators, compared with only 2 percent of the youthful offender population.

These data suggest that the perception that youthful offenders are being transferred to adult correctional systems for more serious offenses is largely accurate. Violent offenders made up a substantially higher --proportion of the youthful offender population in adult facilities than were present in the adult offender population. Although some research indicates that the majority of juvenile transfer cases involve nonviolent, less serious offenses, these data suggest that the justice system draws appropriate distinctions in determining the types of youthful offenders who are sent to adult correctional facilities. 

In terms of race/ethnicity, 55 percent of the youthful offender population was black, compared with 48 percent of the adult offender population (table 7). The proportion of the youthful and adult population with a Hispanic background was 14 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Approximately 26 percent of the youthful offenders were white, compared with 35 percent of the adult population. These data suggest that the concerns expressed regarding the overrepresentation of minority youth among juvenile offenders in adult facilities have some basis, at least with regard to black males.

The age distribution of the youthful offender population was heavily skewed toward 17-year-olds (table 8). Approximately 78 percent of the reported youthful offender population was 17, with another 18 percent in the 16-year-old category. In a number of states such as Illinois, Michigan, and New York, 17-year-olds are considered adults. Accordingly, the presence of 17-year-old offenders in these states' populations does not necessarily reflect a policy of juvenile transfer, but simply a function of the normal prosecution of adult offenders. Few offenders were below the age of 16 in adult correctional facilities. The youngest reported age of a youthful offender in an adult facility was 13 years. 

In the course of a year, the number of youth experiencing some form of incarceration in an adult facility is much higher than the number shown by a 1-day count. Respondents reported 13,876 youthful offender admissions to adult correctional facilities in 1997 (table 9). Not all jurisdictions reported  release data; those that did reported 7,886 releases in 1997. The average length of stay for youthful offenders was 106 days for female offenders and 231 days for male offenders. These data are for youth who completed their time served, so they understate the actual length of stay for the youthful offender population by excluding more serious offenders with long-term sentences. 

The program offerings of the adult systems were fairly consistent, focusing on education and basic counseling services. As shown in table 10, most respondents offered formal elementary and secondary education programs, special education, general equivalency diploma (GED) preparation, individual counseling, and psychological/psychiatric treatment. In addition, 85 percent offered vocational programs, 50 percent offered college courses, 81 percent offered AIDS prevention counseling, and 84 percent offered health/nutrition programs. Only 56 percent offered substance abuse treatment, 26 percent offered sex offender treatment, and 40 percent offered youth violent offender treatment. 

Health services offered to youthful offenders were also fairly consistent. All respondents offered initial health screenings conducted by licensed personnel. Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and mental health personnel were available in most systems on a daily basis. 

Findings:  Facility Survey

Actual confinement conditions represent critical issues for both correctional managers and youth advocates. To better understand the conditions under which youthful offenders are being incarcerated, this section examines data from surveys of adult facilities that housed youthful offenders.

Every state and local correctional system participating in the survey was sent separate surveys for each facility under its jurisdiction that housed youthful offenders. In total, data were collected from 196 adult institutions that housed youthful offenders. However, 15 of these surveys were excluded from the final analysis because they were returned with significant amounts of missing information. 

Of the 181 adult facilities that responded to the survey, 148, or 82 percent, were adult prisons (table 11). The majority of these institutions, 74 percent, were either medium- or maximum-security institutions. The predominance of higher security facilities appears to be associated with the offense profile of this population, which, as noted earlier, was heavily weighted toward serious violent offenses. Forty-two percent of the institutions were located in small cities, suburbs, or rural areas, following the typical profile of adult prisons. Only 11 percent were located in large cities.

Of the facilities that responded to the survey, only 13 percent maintained separate facilities or units for youthful offenders. By far the more common practice appeared to be that no differentiation was made between adult and juvenile housing units. This finding is perhaps not surprising when viewed in the context of the rationales for moving youth to adult correctional facilities-the increasing severity of their crimes, the failure of rehabilitation, and the difficulty experienced in managing their behavior. 

The age of the facilities housing youthful offenders ranged from new to 163 years old. More than 25 percent of the facilities were opened before 1965. Another 50 percent were opened between 1965 and 1987. The remaining 25 percent have been open since 1987. The median age of these facilities was 20 years. 

Consistent with the operating practices of most adult correctional facilities, 98 percent of the facilities surveyed did not permit community access for youthful offenders. This situation reflects the predominance of medium- and maximum-security prisons in the survey and may be more indicative of the serious nature of the offenses for which these youth have been incarcerated than of a lack of appropriate programming for youthful offenders. Lack of community access may also result from the largely rural locations of many adult correctional facilities. 

Summary

The housing of juveniles in adult facilities is more frequent than ever before. Most state adult correctional systems house youthful offenders. Of the 54 jurisdictions responding (50 prisons and 4 jails), 87 percent housed incarcerated juveniles. In terms of their status while incarcerated, 96 percent of the reported youthful offender population fell into two categories: 23 percent were held as adjudicated juvenile offenders or pretrial detainees (mostly in the jails that responded to the survey) and 77 percent were sentenced as adults and housed in state prisons.

Juveniles constitute an extremely small proportion of offenders in the nation's prison system. At the time of this survey, there were 1,069,244 inmates in state prisons but only 4,775, (or 0.5 percent) were under age 18.

Respondents reported 13,876 youthful offender admissions to adult correctional facilities in 1997. The total average female youthful offender population for all reporting systems was only 843 offenders (table 9).

The age distribution of the youthful offender population was heavily skewed toward 17-year-olds. Approximately 78 percent of the reported youthful offender population was age 17, with another 18 percent in the 16-year-old category.

Youthful offenders are housed primarily in medium- or maximum-security facilities. Of the institutions surveyed, 42 percent were located in small cities, suburbs, or rural areas, again following the typical profile of adult prisons. Only 11 percent were located in the large cities. Of the facilities that responded to the survey, only 13 percent maintained separate facilities or units for youthful offenders. The more common practice appears to be that no differentiation is made in housing for youthful offenders in adult facilities.

<Go To Chapter 4>                                <Return To Table of Contents>

This document was prepared by the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, under grant number 97-DD-BX-0026, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

Terry Gorski and other member of the GORSKI-CENAPS Team are Available To Train & Consult On Areas Related To Adolescent Treatment
Gorski - CENAPS, 17900 Dixie Hwy, Homewood, IL 60430, 708-799-5000 www.tgorski.com, www.cenaps.com, www.relapse.org

 

Home - What's New - Site Map - Search Gorski's Site - Articles - Book Reviews

Mission & Vision - Training & Consultation Services - Publications - Links

Daily News Review  -  Addiction Databases  - Leading Addiction Websites

GORSKI-CENAPS Clinical Model --- Research-Based Best Practice Principles

Special Focus:  Mental Health, Substance Abuse, & Terrorism

Terry Gorski and Other Members of the GORSKI-CENAPS Team are Available To Train & Consult On Areas Related To Recovery, Relapse Prevention, & Relapse Early Intervention

Address: 6147 Deltona Blvd, Spring Hill, FL  34606
info@enaps.com; www.tgorski.com, www.cenaps.com, www.relapse.org