The U.S. locks up more kids than any other industrialized nation in the world. Today at 1 p.m. on Think, we'll be speaking to author and journalist Nell Bernstein about the phenomenon and alternatives to locking kids up in her book Burning Down The House: The End Of Juvenile Prison.
The juvenile incarceration rate has been steadily declining since the 1990's and much of it is attributed to declining juvenile crime rates, state budget cuts and a shift in thinking of the best ways to deal with young people who break the law.
Yet the country's youth incarceration rates remains seven times greater than in Great Britain and 18 times that of France. It costs about $88,000 a year to keep a youth locked up in juvenile detention, more than the U.S. spends on education per student.
According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 30.2 percent of youth have been arrested by the time they're 23. But according to Bernstein, 40 percent of youth are incarcerated for minor offenses such as shoplifting, loitering and truancy.
In her book, Bernstein shows various perspectives on the juvenile incarceration system, including from the kids themselves. She presents clear data the shows that the system needs to be changed. And she gives alternatives to the all-too-common practice of locking kids up.
Bernstein is an investigative journalist who's written for Mother Jones, Salon, and The Washington Post and is also author of All Alone In the World, about the children of prison inmates.