U.S. Department of Justice

Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA's Youthful Inmate Standard

Publication year: 2015
"Despite the strong language provided in the Prison Rape Elimination Act, state laws vary widely as to the regulations and parameters for housing youth in adult prisons. In fact, some states have no regulations or parameters governing the treatment of youth sentenced as adults at all. While some states have fully removed youth from their prison systems?—?Hawaii, West Virginia, Maine, California, and Washington?—?the overwhelming majority of states allow youth to be housed in adult prisons. In fact 37 states housed youth under 18 years of age in their state prisons in 2012. The PREA requirements have become the emerging standard of care for the housing of youth in adult facilities, yet the majority of states still permit the housing of youth in adult facilities, often times with no special housing protections. Once youth are sentenced in adult court to an adult prison term, few jurisdictions have enacted safeguards to protect their physical, mental and emotional health. Additionally, programs and behavioral responses in adult facilities rarely are adjusted to meet the needs of adolescent populations … This report explores how states house youth under 18 in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement. Furthermore, this report highlights national trends in juvenile arrests, crimes, and incarceration of children in the adult system. With evidence of the decreasing number of youth entering the adult system, the recommendations focus on how states can successfully remove all youth from adult prisons" (p. 1). Sections of this report include: introduction; federal laws protecting youth in custody—federal laws on youth housed with adults; state laws protecting youth in custody--state statutes, regulations, and policies on housing youth in adult prisons; incarceration rates and offenses of youth in adult prisons—incarceration rates, and use of the adult criminal justice system compared to the rate of youth involved offenses; how youth end up in the adult justice system—pathways; disparities in the system—racial and ethnic disparities in prison, California case study, and young female populations; conditions and consequences of confinement—sexual abuse and suicide in adult prisons, staff concerns, and solitary confinement, and the relationship between incarceration and recidivism for youth; and recommendations to policymakers. An appendix provides the language of state statute laws, and regulations.