department to house youth found guilty in criminal court. Nevertheless, some of the juveniles sentenced as adults are incarcerated in adult prisons, where the emphasis is on punishment and few services are available.

Youth in Adult Prisons

Between 1985 and 1997, the number of offenders under 18 admitted to state prisons more than doubled, from 3,400 in 1985 to 7,400 in 1997 (Strom, 2000). And 61 percent of those under 18 sent to state prison in 1997 had been convicted of a violent offense. Juveniles arrested for violent offenses are more likely to end up in state prison now than in 1985. In 1997, 33 of every 1,000 juveniles arrested for a violent crime were sentenced to prison, compared with 18 per 1,000 in 1985. Nearly two-fifths of the juveniles sent to state prison in 1997, however, were not there for violent offenses—22 percent had been convicted of a property offense, 11 percent of a drug offense, and 5 percent of a public order offense (Strom, 2000).

Juveniles remain a very small percentage of the total state prison population. Those under 18 make up less than 1 percent of the inmates in state prisons, a figure that has remained steady since the mid-1980s. Since 1985, juveniles have consistently made up about 2 percent of new admissions to state prisons (Strom, 2000).

Minority juveniles are disproportionately represented among juveniles sent to adult prison. In 1997, minorities made up three-quarters of juveniles admitted to adult state prisons,13 with blacks accounting for 58 percent, Hispanics 15 percent, and Asians and American Indians 2 percent (Strom, 2000). Males accounted for 92 percent of the juveniles admitted to state prisons in 1997.

Based on current sentencing and release policies, prison officials estimate that 78 percent of those who were admitted to prison prior to their 18th birthday would be released by age 21 and 93 percent would be released by age 28 (Strom, 2000). The fact that 90 percent of juveniles admitted to prison had not completed high school, coupled with the paucity of services available to them in adult prison, does not bode well for their reentry into society.

Historical Perspective

To provide some historical perspective on juveniles in state prison, panel member Steven Schlossman analyzed a detailed sample of prison-


In 1997, minorities accounted of two-thirds of juveniles committed to public juvenile residential facilities (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999).

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