Closing Youth Prisons: Lessons from Agency Administrators

Brief

Closing Youth Prisons: Lessons from Agency Administrators

Abstract

Communities across the United States are fundamentally transforming their approach to juvenile justice services, moving away from outdated youth prisons and investing in community-based solutions. Juvenile justice system administrators are uniquely positioned to lead facility closure efforts as part of broader system reform and many are leading by example. In the summer of 2018, the Urban Institute convened a small group of current and former administrators who had successfully led closure efforts to discuss lessons learned and share their advice with others considering reform. Participants suggested four key strategies: maximize windows of opportunity; strategically partner with advocates; collaborate with youth, families, and other stakeholders; and use data and research to make the case for closure and combat counterproductive narratives. This brief describes the recommendations they offered and illustrates each with real-world examples from across the country.

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