What Comes After Youth Prisons?

Watch our new video to hear from youth themselves about why the current youth justice system is a failure, and what they need instead.

New Jersey invests extensively in a youth incarceration system that is severely broken, but spends little on community-based alternatives to incarceration that could really help our kids.

In 2019, the state budgeted $54 million to operate its three youth prisons – $289,287 to incarcerate each child in a state youth prison – but just $16 million on community programming.

New Jersey has the worst racial disparities among its incarcerated Black and White youth in the entire nation: a Black child is over 18 times more likely to be locked up than a white child.  Moreover, we see high recidivism rates: of the 377 young people released from commitment in state youth facilities in 2014, 76.9 percent had a new court filing or arrest, 58.9 percent had a new adjudication or conviction, and 23.9 percent were recommitted within three years of release.

As part of the 150 Years Is Enough Campaign, the Institute and its partner Salvation and Social Justice (S&SJ) collaborated on a community-engagement initiative to reimagine NJ’s youth justice system and propose system-level changes to its community-based system of care. We worked with community residents in six New Jersey cities (Atlantic City, Camden, New Brunswick, Trenton, Newark, and Paterson) to complete the initiative. Additionally, we assembled a team of community residents and completed a community asset mapping project to identify assets, gaps, and barriers to community care in three cities (Camden, Trenton, and Newark).

Our long-term goal is to transform the current punitive system into a new justice model centered on restorative and transformative justice practices, a comprehensive array of services, care coordination, and community accountability so that our kids can live healthier lives.  

We offer strategies to break down system silos, promoting open and transparent communication, tackling racial justice issues, and building an evidence-based system.

Findings from this initiative should guide investment decisions and direct system-level improvements required to build a national “best in class” service delivery model for youth.

Watch the webinar What Comes After Youth Prison Closure?

Read the report What Comes After Youth Prison Closure?

See our Youth Justice Toolkit: A Community-Led Restorative Justice Approach

See our Youth Mental Health Toolkit: Investing in Youth, Not Incarceration