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Connecticut, South Carolina, and Middlesex County, Massachusetts reimagine incarceration for young people in adult prisons.

Concern about system-involved young people extended beyond the juvenile justice system in 2018, with several jurisdictions rethinking how they treat young people who are incarcerated in adult jails and prisons.

In Connecticut, the W.O.R.T.H. program, short for Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard Work, opened in June at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution in partnership with Restoring Promise, an initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and the MILPA Collective aimed at transforming the living conditions of incarcerated young people.Clarice Silber, “New Prison Unit Opens to Help Young Female Inmates,” Connecticut Mirror, July 9, 2018; and Vera Institute of Justice, “Restoring Promise.”

The W.O.R.T.H. housing unit, for women ages 18–25, is grounded on the principle of cultivating a sense of dignity toward—and within—the incarcerated young adults. Silber, “New Prison Unit,” 2018. In the W.O.R.T.H. unit, women collaborate with staff on developing rules and activities, while therapy, education, and mentoring help them prepare for life after release.Nyssa Kruse, “New DOC Program Seeks to Support Young Women Leaving Prison,” Hartford Courant, July 18, 2018; and Silber, “New Prison Unit,” 2018. W.O.R.T.H. follows the model for T.R.U.E.—a restorative justice-based pilot program launched at the state’s Cheshire Correctional Institution in 2017 with a capacity of 70 that focuses on helping young men.Maurice Chammah, “A Connecticut Prison Has a Radical New Plan to Keep Young Inmates from Coming Back,” Mother Jones, May 8, 2018. See also Ruth Delaney, Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames, and Nicholas Turner, Reimagining Prison (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2018), 83-89.

South Carolina, too, has committed to a new vision for young people in its prisons. In January, the South Carolina Department of Corrections joined Vera’s Restoring Promise initiative—the first statewide system to do so.Vera Institute of Justice, “Groundbreaking Young Adult Prison Reform Initiative to Expand to South Carolina,” press release (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, January 17, 2018). Also see Brittney McNamara, “South Carolina Adopts Vera Institute of Justice’s Restoring Promise Initiative,” Teen Vogue, January 30, 2018. And, spearheaded by Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, the Middlesex House of Correction and Jail in Massachusetts also launched a Restoring Promise housing unit, the first based in a jail.Robert Hayes, “Young Offender Unit Opens at Middlesex Jail & House of Correction,” Wilmington Apple, February 16, 2018. Called “People Achieving Change Together,” the P.A.C.T. unit is designed for 18- to 24-year-olds and features a barber shop, library, meditation room, and cell doors that remain open all day.Cristina Quinn, “A New Approach to Incarceration in the U.S.: Responsibility,” NPR, April 29, 2018. Similar programs, not part of Restoring Promise, have also opened in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and in the District of Columbia.Simón Rios, “Suffolk Sheriff Sets Up Family-Oriented Cellblock To Keep Young Inmates Out Of Jail,” WBUR, November 30, 2018.