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Policy Position 5: Reduce Institutionalization
Institutionalizing young people must become the choice of last resort, reserved only for those who pose such a serious threat that no other solution would protect public safety. Incarceration should especially be avoided where the child has engaged in a behavior that violates the law only because they are younger than age 18. Incarcerating youth disrupts their positive social development and exposes them to negative behaviors. Youth should never be placed in a facility solely because of their family situation or social service needs. Though existing resources vary among systems, we should strive to reduce the number of our youth who are incarcerated.
The overwhelming majority of justice-involved youth can be served, and the public kept safe, by community-based services that align with the best practices in the field. Jurisdictions can distinguish between youth who pose risks to public safety and those who can be placed in less-restrictive settings by using validated risk and needs assessments that measure risk to public safety and guide placement decisions; expedited case processing; and sentencing guidelines.