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L.A. County spends $233,000 a year per juvenile detainee

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Los Angeles County reportedly spends more than $233,000 annually on each youth in juvenile detention.  The report comes as youth crime has been steadily falling, and the costs of imprisoning minors has skyrocketed since the mid-1990’s.

As L.A.’s youth detention system costs taxpayers an increasing amount, some are pointing to other cities with significantly lower costs of juvenile detention, reports The Los Angeles Times.

“There is so much waste.  And no one pays attention or cares,” said Jacqueline Caster, a member of the LA Country Probation Commission.

It costs San Diego $127,750 annually for each youth in juvenile detention, and $84,000 for Houston. 

As arrests of young people in the city have fallen, the ratio of prison staff to imprisoned youth has grown at an unsustainable rate, according to Cal Remington, LA’s interim Probation Chief.

“We probably need to start considering closures,” said Remington. 

The high costs of incarcerating youth are not paying off, according to a study done at Cal State Los Angeles.

According to the research, a person who spends time jailed as a youth is more likely to be imprisoned later than a youth who commits a crime but is not jailed.

Despite the large cost of maintenance, the L.A. juvenile incarceration facilities are not receiving adequate repairs and amenities. 

According to a 2014 LA County report, “bath towels and duct tape were used in a futile attempt to repair broken pipes and prevent seepage… there was an indistinct foul odor in the hallway suggesting that sewage of stagnant water was present.”

Many in Los Angeles are pushing for reducing juvenile incarceration, and opting for rehabilitation programs that cost less and may yield better results.

Youth who are incarcerated experience pervasive setbacks for the rest of their lives. 

According to research compiled by Child Trends group, roughly one third of imprisoned youth return shortly after they are released. Imprisoned youth also generally earn less than non-incarcerated colleagues later in life.

Sources: Child Trends, The Los Angeles Times / Photo Credit: Christina House via For The Times

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