Youth in the juvenile justice system should not have to fear the very facilities that are being utilized for their treatment and rehabilitation. However, many youth are being subjected to abusive, unlawful, and inhumane conditions of confinement. Detained and committed youth in need of education, treatment, health care, and legal counsel have the right to be protected from violence, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate access to counsel. Research shows that subjecting youth to such harsh confinement conditions increases rates of violence and recidivism. In a society that already faces daily violence and crime, deficiencies in the care of incarcerated youth serve only to further threaten the well-being of our children, families, and communities.
Beyond the Walls is an important resource for all those who are committed to improving the quality of care received by juveniles in detention and correctional facilities across the country. It is designed to be a reference that helps youth advocates, parents, attorneys, and program administrators safeguard and maintain the rights of youth in confinement. Although this report does not include an exhaustive list of mechanisms and strategies, it does provide six key tools that can have a positive impact on the serious problems and issues facing incarcerated youth. The methods discussed in these pages -- the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, ombudsman programs, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, protection and advocacy systems, the Administrative Procedure Acts, and self-assessment -- can assist readers in taking the first steps toward making a difference in the lives of youth entrusted to this Nation's care.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center have a shared goal for Beyond the Walls: to provide practical suggestions and ideas for improving conditions of youth in custody.