The Effects of the Criminal Justice System on American Youth

Below are a list of facts and resources to help you be an advocate for our youth.
Please read and educate yourself so that we can further educate and engage our communities to action.


Juvenile JusticeEffects of Mass Incarceration ON YOUTH


Many times, children are funneled into the juvenile justice system for what begin as minor offenses. The school-to-prison pipeline often begins with children having a difficult time and appear to be acting out, but adults may not consider asking them what is bothering them or offer ways to help. Sometimes there is abuse or neglect at home, other times the child may have a learning disability. The response is too often to discipline the child which can lead to further and repeated abuse.

Sometimes children are sent into the juvenile justice system after being misunderstood or blamed as a result of abuse. This is often the case with girls in the juvenile justice system. 

The juvenile justice systems can often be abusive toward children, subsequently teaching them to become criminals. When this occurs, they are more likely to stay in the system and are subject to further abuse, neglect, and other unhealthy influences. Many times, this process leads to a lifetime in prison.

Many times, being caught for selling or being in the possession of marijuana has been the beginning of this life-long abuse.


Reasonable support given to youth helps to improve self-esteem, turn their lives around, and build bright futures.




Kids are affected by the current state of the criminal justice system in other ways in addition to the problem with juvenile incarceration or the school-to-prison pipeline. Structural inequalities play a major role in incriminating a vulnerable population which, in turn, has a deleterious effect on youth in high numbers.

In communities with high incarceration rates, many of those who are incarcerated are parents. Many times, these individuals are incarcerated for petty reasons, minor crimes, or reasons that are not criminal but related to health issues. Other times, they may have been accused of a crime they had not committed. But for financial reasons, they are not able to make bail or are only able to afford lawyers who do not take their cases seriously. Racial disparity is often a factor. In these situations, children are not able to see their parents and have to be raised by other family members, other times, placed in the foster care system.

Since children depend on their parents as positive role models, they are affected by the incarceration of a parent in terms of their self-esteem and psychological and emotional development. This state of affairs affects entire families and communities as a whole, often serving as a precursor to poverty, engagement with the criminal justice system, and recidivism. In addition, having a criminal record, regardless of the reasons behind it, make it difficult to get a job, pay bills, and take care of a family. It is also difficult to maintain crucial relationships with family members and others since visitation can be limited.

The amount of youth affected by this problem is exponential even when compared with youth who are directly affected by the criminal justice system.


The United Nation's International Youth Day celebration "aims to remind the public that youth is an important stage in life and is celebrated all over the world."