Community-Based Alternatives to Juvenile Detention: Problems and Prospects in Changing Local Juvenile Justice Culture

Lisa Feldman, George Washington University
Charis Kubrin, George Washington University

Recent trends toward a more punitive approach in managing youthful offenders over the past 20 years, particularly young black males, and perceptions about minority youth maintained by juvenile justice practitioners, has led to a disparate effect on minority youth in the juvenile justice system. The decision to detain youth prior to adjudication is particularly important when looking at the outcomes of minority youth offenders, as research has shown that detained youth have a greater likelihood of receiving harsher sentences than those youth that remain in the community prior to case disposition. This study examines the effectiveness of a community-based program designed to reduce overcrowding of youth in detention generally, and to reduce minority overrepresentation in detention facilities specifically, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The study shows that community-based programs can be effective alternatives but face numerous obstacles in changing the local juvenile justice culture. We discuss potential solutions.

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Updated 05/20/2006