Mortality After Youth Incarceration

On Public Health Post, an article by Caroline Dignard describes the devastating long-term of incarceration on youths, particularly those serving time in adult prisons: 

“Thousands of children as young as 13 years old serve time in adult prisons each year. Many U.S. states do not have a minimum age for prosecutors to charge children as adults and the lack of protections for children in prisons has disastrous outcomes.

Children experience a drastically different environment in adult prisons compared to juvenile correctional facilities. Adult prisons are much larger and have fewer guards and other staff to protect prisoners and ensure safety. . . . 

The lack of protections and rehabilitation opportunities in adult prisons can have severe consequences on children’s health and long-term outcomes. These youth report being more afraid for their safety than their peers in juvenile facilities. They are more likely to suffer sexual and physical violence, both at the hands of fellow inmates and prison staff. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission stated in a 2009 report that ‘More than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk of sexual abuse.’ Although this report is dated, little has changed for juveniles in adult prisons over the last 14 years.

Children incarcerated in adult prisons also experience substantially higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression than those in juvenile facilities. Youth held in adult facilities in Texas report more distress and higher rates of psychiatric symptoms compared to their peers in juvenile centers. The result is that children in adult prisons are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those housed separately from adults.”

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