Everyday roughly 48,000 youth are in some kind of youth detention facility in the United States. Many of these facilities are supposed to hold violent or dangerous offenders. However, they tend to be filled with youth who have committed low level or “petty” crimes. This often creates a cycle where kids who are arrested for things like shoplifting or vandalism are often placed in the same facilities as murderers and rapists.
Take Francisco “Cisco” Vasquez for example. Originally from Texas, Cisco had to move to California due to constant harassment from the local police force and justice system. Once Cisco was in the system he would regularly be stopped and arrested for things ranging from having spray paint or a marker in his backpack to driving without a license. Sometimes he was even held without knowing why.
“There was always something that kept me there or kept me going back,” said Cisco in an interview.
Cisco was often unable to escape being harassed by police. Whether it was in his neighborhood or at school it tended to follow him everywhere.
Colin Meinrath, an advocate for criminal justice reform, among many other things, said this in an interview, “The state and state adjacent institutions are all involved in reducing young people’s freedom as much as possible and profit off that reduction of freedom, and youth incarceration is one extreme part of that.”
Without any programs or resources focused on rehabilitation most of these facilities are only intended to punish those who are sent there rather than steer them towards something other than crime.
However on a more positive note, the amount of youth incarcerated since 2000 has fallen by 60% which is a large change. For more information on youth incarceration in the United States please check out the link below.