How Long Do You Stay In Juvenile Detention?

Read our guide to find out about juvenile detention centres, what happens during confinement, how juvenile detention affects young people and society, what other ways young offenders can be rehabilitated, and how long young offenders stay in juvenile detention centres.

What is a juvenile detention centre?

Juvenile detention centres are where young offenders are incarcerated while their criminal cases are ongoing. Normally, sentences are much more lenient for young offenders compared to adults and juvenile centre stays are short-term.

Many cases do not end up in juvenile detention as most courts agree that more minor offences can be dealt with outside of confinement by way of rehabilitation and preventative methods. Incarceration normally only occurs with serious crimes or reoffending, where a judge believes that a young person is not going to benefit from anything but confinement.

Juvenile detention centres can also be used for status offenses, such as truancy or breaking probation rules such as curfew and house arrest sentences.

How long do young offenders stay in juvenile detention?

27 days is the average length of stay for young offenders placed into juvenile detention. However, this can be longer or shorter depending on individual circumstances.

What happens during the confinement period in a juvenile detention centre?

Young people still undergo schooling while in the care of a juvenile detention centre. They follow a routine of physical exercise, outdoor time, recreational and religious activities (if applicable) and take part in rehabilitation programs and physical or mental health care if required. 

What are juvenile correctional centres?

Youth correctional centres, in contrast to detention centres, are longer-term placements for when cases have been finalised and the sentence is passed by a judge. Sentences served in secure centres can be years long if the offender can not be rehabilitated or if the crime is serious enough.

How does serving time in a juvenile detention centre affect young people?

Sometimes, serving their punishment in a juvenile detention centre can negatively impact young offenders and their likelihood of recidivism. It can also negatively impact their mental health due to time apart from family and friends during the crucial adolescent stage of life.

Taking a young person out of school takes them away from both their community and their routine. They also may become more involved with the incarcerated community, increasing the likelihood that they will continue to offend in the future.

The justice system puts great emphasis on rehabilitation focus when it comes to young offenders. This is because it is well known that a young person’s brain is not fully developed and there are many factors to consider which may make young people likely to offend in their youth, but not as a more law-abiding adult with responsibilities.

It is in a country’s best interest to attempt to reduce the incarceration of young people where possible, as their life outcomes can be negatively impacted by detention and this may adversely affect the community as a whole. 

What alternatives are available to juvenile detention and are they more or less effective?

Alternatives to juvenile detention are normally applied to young people when the crime is not serious or when the judge believes the juvenile will benefit more from interventions outside of a juvenile detention centre.

Sentences a judge may pass which focus on rehabilitating the young person and reducing recidivism include: mandatory counseling programs, community service punishments, community centre programs, school requirements and adjustments, curfew and house arrest.

These are more lenient punishments and may not drive home the realities of crime as much as a youth detention centre may, but they also help to prevent ongoing criminal behaviour and negative life outcomes for the young person. 

Why does juvenile detention benefit some people?

Some young offenders may have committed serious crimes which require confinement, both to keep the rest of the public safe and to sentence the juvenile with a punishment more appropriate to the level of crime committed.

While juvenile detention often causes negative impacts to societies, sometimes they are the only suitable method for dealing with a highly delinquent juvenile.

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