Community Foundation of New Jersey

Author Argues Against Juvenile Incarceration

June 9, 2014

If it costs $88,000 per year to incarcerate one young person for one year, it’s worth asking the question, “what’s the return on investment?”  The question is one of many author Nell Bernstein asks – and attempts to answer – in her new book, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison.

We at the Community Foundation are particularly keen on reading the book given our donors’ burgeoning interest in supporting efforts to reform the juvenile justice system in New Jersey.  Click here to take a look at our collective work in this area.

In a recent NPR interview (which we think is worth a listen, so click here), Bernstein argues that “detention usually makes [troubled youths’] problems worse, and sets them in the direction of more crime and self-destructive behavior.”

She goes on: “The greatest predictor of adult incarceration and adult criminality wasn’t gang involvement, wasn’t family issues, wasn’t delinquency itself. “The greatest predictor that a kid would grow up to be a criminal was being incarcerated in a juvenile facility.”

Among some of Bernstein’s more thought-provoking arguments: