The increased and unnecessary use of detention exposes troubled young people to an environment that more closely resembles adult prisons and jails than the kinds of community and family-based interventions proven to be most effective. Detention centers, said a former Deputy Mayor of New York of that city’s infamous Spofford facility, are “indistinguishable from a prison.”
Commenting on New York’s detention centers, one Supreme Court Justice said that, “fairly viewed, pretrial detention of a juvenile gives rise to injuries comparable to those associated with the imprisonment of an adult.”
Detained youth, who are frequently pre-adjudication and awaiting their court date,
or sometimes waiting for their placement in another facility or community-based program, can spend anywhere from a few days to a few months in locked custody.
At best, detained youth are physically and emotionally separated from the families and communities who are the most invested in their recovery and success. Often, detained youth are housed in overcrowded, understaffed facilities—an environment that conspires to breed neglect and violence.
Congregating delinquent youth together negatively affects their behavior and increases their chance of re-offending.
Behavioral scientists are finding that bringing youth together for treatment or services may make it more likely that they will become engaged in delinquent behavior. Nowhere are deviant youth brought together in greater numbers and density than in detention centers, training schools, and other confined congregate “care” institutions.