Identifying youth prisons as “inhumane, ineffective, wasteful factories of failure,” Annie E. Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy calls for the closing of these institutions. During a recent TEDx talk to an audience of governors and legislators, McCarthy pledged Foundation support to any state that accepts his challenge to shutter these large conventional juvenile corrections facilities. Referring to an overreliance on incarcerating youth, McCarthy said “we need to admit that what we are doing doesn’t work, and is making the problem worse while costing billions of dollars and ruining thousands of lives”.
McCarthy pointed to three commitments states must make in order to produce better outcomes for young people who get into trouble with the law. They include decreasing the number of youth going into juvenile systems by half; improving existing systems by expanding community-based and family-centered programs proven to help kids who have the most serious problems; and eliminating all publicly operated and contracted youth prisons and instead use small, treatment-intensive secure care programs.