Published March, 2018

The State of America’s Children – Juvenile Justice, Children’s Defense Fund (2017)

The statistics presented in this report provide detail on the number of youth involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. For example, according to the Children's Defense Fund, one child is arrested every 31 seconds in the U.S. Although youth incarceration has actually declined in recent years, youth of color, particularly Black youth, make up a greater proportion of those incarcerated (69%). And LGBTQ youth, while only 7-9% of the general youth population, account for 20% of incarcerated youth, 85% of whom are LGBTQ youth of color. The portion of girls involved in the juvenile justice system has increased by 40% between 1992 and 2013.  Youth are often placed in the most restrictive settings, where they are at risk of physical and psychological abuse, sexual assault, suicide, and may be deprived of social interaction and necessary services.

However, not all incarcerated youth are held in youth prisons. Around 200,000 young people are placed in the adult criminal system each year, most of them for non-violent offenses. Those in adult jails are at greater risk of sexual victimization and are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those held in youth prisons.

Sections of the Children’s Defense Fund report focused on other youth issues ranging from child health to education can be found here.