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Report looks at costs, outcomes of incarcerating youth

A new report says Nebraska spends more than $126,000 a year to incarcerate a young person.

The Justice Policy Institute report looks at the costs of youth incarceration, both in terms of money and outcomes. JPI’s report found that incarceration of juveniles is down 45 percent from 2001 to 2011. 33 states spent more than $100,000 annually to confine youth, according to the report.

Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, says juveniles of color are much more likely to be incarcerated than whites.

"African-Americans are incarcerated at a rate of nearly five times that of whites, and Hispanics and Latinos at a rate twice as high as whites. So even though young people engage in similar behavior, there are big differences in the way young people of color and white youth are treated, and this has a significant impact on communities of color as it relates to the justice system."

Schindler says there are hidden costs to incarcerating young people. Those include the long-term costs of lower wages, recidivism, and increased dependence on public assistance programs.

JPI’s report makes several recommendations. One is to spend less on confinement and shift resources toward community services for youth. Another is to address local and state barriers that prevent youth from being placed close to home or receiving in-home services.