According to a report by the Anne E. Casey Foundation, youth incarceration rates have dropped by 41% since its peak in 1995.

In 2010 there were 70,792 young people incarcerated, compared to a whopping 107,637 in 1995.

There are a variety of factors that have contributed to this trend. Juvenile crime rates have fallen, long-term sentences for young people aren’t as prevalent, and the economic downturn has forced states and counties to pursue alternatives to incarceration.

Of course for young people of color, the odds are still stacked against them. Black youth are five times as likely as their white peers to be incarcerated; Latino and Native American youth are 2-3 times as likely.


To hear young people of color who’ve been through this system tell it, the falling incarceration rates are an abstraction that contradicts what they see, hear and feel. “I would say there are more people getting locked up than before,” says Anthony, a black 19-year-old from Los Angeles who asked that we not use his last name. Anthony has been in and out of juvenile facilities, rehabilitation camps, and even the county jail. “When I first got locked up five years ago, I didn’t know anyone. But when I got out after the third time, that’s when I saw people I knew going to jail. I just don’t see a decrease.”

However, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this decrease is very real.

Because cash-strapped are receptive to alternatives,  this moment presents an opportunity to solidify lasting change.


Thoughts on the results of this report?

How can we work to lower youth incarceration rates and close the racial disparity in incarceration rates?

Sound off below!