Recent efforts among state and local leaders to reduce the number of youth who are incarcerated have yielded impressive results: the national juvenile incarceration rate has been cut in half over the past decade. Yet state policymakers, practitioners, and advocates alike recognize that reforming the juvenile justice system requires more than incarcerating fewer youth. What constitutes success is ensuring that, whenever possible, youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system receive the necessary community-based services and supports to ensure their successful transition from incarceration and other forms of system supervision to a crime-free and productive adulthood.
States have struggled, however, to achieve these goals. Recent research indicates that rearrest rates for youth being supervised in the community remain unacceptably high, and states have struggled to improve outcomes for the smaller number of youth who remain incarcerated. These young people typically face many challenges in reentry. They may not receive the necessary support from their families, peers, schools, and communities. They may struggle to connect with treatment for mental health or substance use disorders when they return to their communities after confinement, or they may face barriers to enrolling in an appropriate educational or vocational program. And the landscape of the juvenile justice system is more fragmented than ever: as of 2013, almost two-thirds of incarcerated youth were placed in facilities administered by local governments or a combination of private for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, compared to 10 years ago when most incarcerated youth were placed in juvenile correctional facilities run by state governments.
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