This article identifies and discusses some basic conceptual issues involved in defining the youth re-entry population and uses available data to estimate the magnitude and characteristics of youth who re-enter society from some type of secure confinement; also discussed is the need to provide re-entry services for youth in transition from various other types of out-of-home placements, such as foster care.
There are no current data on releases from juvenile correctional facilities. The best assessment of the characteristics of committed juveniles in the United States comes from a relatively new national data resource, the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP). From analyses of CJRP data, this article estimates that approximately 88,000 youth were released from juvenile commitment facilities in 1999. It is also possible to use the CJRP data to make a rough estimate of the demographic characteristics of this 1999 release cohort. Of all youth released from commitment facilities in 1999 who had more than a short length of stay in a facility, 88 percent were males; 19 percent were age 14 or younger, and 36 percent were age 17 or older; 39 percent were white non-Hispanic, 39 percent were Black non-Hispanic, and 17 percent were Hispanic; and 38 percent were committed for a violent offense, 33 percent for a property offense, 14 percent for a public-order offense, 11 percent for a drug offense, and 5 percent for a status offense. On the census date in 1999, the average time a committed youth had spent in the reporting facility was nearly 29 weeks, i.e., more than 6 months. The median time in the facility was 17 weeks. In 1987 the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics interviewed a nationally representative sample of juveniles and young adults housed in long-term, State-operated juvenile training schools (the Survey of Youth in Custody 1987). The findings of this survey represent the most recent comprehensive assessment available on the background characteristics of committed youth. The survey indicated that committed youth were likely to come from single-parent homes and to have relatives who had been incarcerated; lagged behind other youth in their levels of educational attainment; used alcohol and other drugs; had a prior adjudication that led to at least probation; and mental health problems that may have contributed to the prevalence and frequency of their offending behavior. Given the many developmental deficits associated with the delinquent behavior of incarcerated youth, it is imperative that funds be provided for research and evidence-based treatment programs designed specifically for youth who are returning to their communities from long-term commitments. 3 notes and 18 references