The trend towards closing large youth prisons gains momentum.
In recent years, several states closed juvenile facilities, citing lower populations, budgetary constraints, and a desire for reform. Some closures have been the result of organized calls to action following particular incidents at the facilities that highlighted institutional problems.
In some states, the closures are part of a plan to reshape the juvenile justice system to eliminate large institutions in favor of smaller, less prison-like facilities that are located closer to the young people’s families and communities. In jurisdictions that sought to build new facilities, the efforts were at times met with resistance. Despite this resistance, Maryland opened a new detention center to house up to 60 youth that will cost $35 million.
- In Kansas, following the 2016 passage of comprehensive juvenile justice reform legislation that resulted in a 40 percent decrease in youth who are incarcerated, the state closed the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility in March 2017. The remaining population was transferred to the state’s now sole juvenile facility in Topeka.
- Citing a statewide plan to consolidate facilities, Kentucky closed the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Facility in June 2017. Lincoln Village was the site of a highly publicized death that prompted calls from advocates for the facility’s closure.
- Virginia closed the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center at the end of June 2017, one of two remaining maximum-security facilities in the state. The state proposed to construct a new, smaller facility in the city of Chesapeake, but the plan was met with controversy and ultimately pulled from the city council agenda.
- The McKinley County Juvenile Detention Center in New Mexico was closed in July 2017 following a population decline so dramatic that only two youth remained housed at the facility.
- The Jetson Center for Youth in Louisiana, which housed 76 youth, was closed in 2014. That same year, construction began on the new Acadiana Center for Youth, which will be Louisiana’s first facility built specifically to accommodate the Louisiana Model for Secure Care, keeping juveniles closer to their communities of origin and emphasizing therapy and family involvement for occupants. The new facility is slated to open in April 2018.
- After years of community pressure, the Connecticut Juvenile Training School closed admissions on January 1, 2018, and will transfer operations of the facility from the Department of Children and Families to the judicial branch on July 1, 2018. The purpose of the change is to allow more children to remain in their communities or in smaller, less prison-like settings, but some have questioned whether the tight timeline may cause unintended consequences like an increase in transfers to adult court or kids sent out of state for placement.
- Significant facility closure efforts continue in Washington State (Naselle Youth Camp), Los Angeles County, and San Diego County (Camp Barrett).