Adult and Juvenile Prison Systems in the U.S.
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In the criminal justice arena, the area of corrections is plagued by more problems, bad press, and lawsuits than any other. In any given year, the cost of operating a U.S. correctional system is approximately $32 billion. Although the U.S. accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, approximately 25 percent of the world’s prisoners are housed in American jails and prisons. The U.S. correctional system is comprised of approximately 4500 facilities:
- 3304 city and county jails
- 112 federal prisons
- 1084 state prisons
- As of October 1997, there were approximately 1,121 public and 2,310 private residential juvenile detention facilities.
Prison Systems and Social Movement
Separate juvenile facilities are a product of social movements within the last 100 years. Before the twentieth century separate facilities for juvenile offenders did not exist for the most part. Before this time, juvenile offenders were few and far between, and those who were convicted of crimes were sent to the same prisons as adults. Although some states such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia did have some type of separate facility for those under eighteen, the federal system had none and federal courts dealing with young offenders had to rely on the few state facilities available or sentence these offenders to the dangerous environment of the adult prison system.
During the last few decades of the nineteenth century, shortcomings of the juvenile justice system emerged as an issue at both state and federal levels. Due to the Volstead Act that made moonshining a crime, the rate of juveniles being sentenced for crimes raised dramatically. In response to these rising crime rates, Congress appropriated twelve hundred dollars for a “House of Correction” for boys in 1866.