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Fewer juveniles being locked up in the US

The juvenile justice system in North Carolina has been under scrutiny the last few years over accusations of mistreatment and the need to reform the juvenile justice system. With all the reports over what's wrong with the juvenile justice system and its impact on juvenile offenders, some positive news is finally being reported.

A new report found that fewer juveniles are serving long-term prison sentences in the U.S. compared to previous years. The report said that 2010 saw the lowest number of juvenile offenders in prisons and detention centers since 1974. In fact, the incarceration rate for juveniles has been declining since 1995.

What has lead to the decline in the juvenile incarceration rate? The report suggests that teenagers are not getting into as much legal trouble as they used to. However, the main finding attributed the decline to how states are punishing juveniles who commit crimes.

Recent studies show that incarcerating juvenile offenders does not help prevent juveniles from committing crimes in the future. In fact, studies have suggested that juveniles who have been locked up previously for committing minor offenses are more likely to offend again.

This finding has lead to many states, including North Carolina, to look to community-based or county programs for juvenile offenders instead of sending them to state prisons. Juvenile justice experts say that these programs can give juvenile offenders help and education instead of punishment as well as help them avoid criminal charges in the future.

Juvenile justice reform advocates were hopeful that this report can help show why juvenile offenders benefit from treatment and education programs instead of punishment. Unfortunately, many juvenile justice programs that involve community programs rely heavily on state funding so it can be difficult to adequately fund these programs that can significantly impact juvenile offenders for the rest of the lives.

Source: FindLaw, "Juvenile Incarceration Rate Lowest Since 1975," Deanne Katz, March 6, 2013

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