Majority of Americans Favor Keeping Youth Out of Prisons

Youth First poll map. Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.
Youth First poll map. Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.

New Poll Shows Strong Support for Community-Based Alternatives to Incarceration to Rehabilitate Youth

By Lincoln Mondy, Berlin Rosen

A new poll released February 13, 2017, by Youth First shows that 78 percent of Americans favor keeping young people out of prisons and instead prefer community-based alternatives that are proven to lead to better outcomes.

At a time when partisan polarization is dominating the political landscape, the poll finds that Americans from a wide range of backgrounds and all political stripes support shifting the youth justice system’s focus from incarceration and punishment to prevention and rehabilitation. Youth First, a national advocacy organization working to end the unconscionable practice of youth incarceration and reform the youth justice system, commissioned the poll which was conducted by GBA Strategies.

“Youth prisons are notoriously dangerous, ineffective, and outdated – and there is a clear consensus that it’s time to change the system,” said Liz Ryan, President of Youth First. “We know that kids can be rehabilitated without being locked up, if given the opportunity. States across the nation should unify behind this growing movement to close youth prison facilities and focus on solutions that actually work.”

The survey of over 1,000 adults found that:

  • 89% support design treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth’s family in planning and services.
  • 83% support providing financial incentives for states and municipalities to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration, such as intensive rehabilitation, education, job training, community services, and programs that provide youth the opportunity to repair harm to victims and communities.
  • 69% support increasing funding to provide more public defenders to represent children in court.
  • 70% support requiring states to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system.

Respondents cut across partisan affiliations, with 81% of Democrats, 83% of Independents, and 68% of Republicans supporting reform efforts. Youth First and a network of advocates have been challenging the unfair and unethical treatment of our most vulnerable young people. As a result, support for policies aimed at reforming the youth justice system has held strong or increased from a year ago, indicating a national trend in favor of reform. To view the full poll results, click here.

Youth First is a national advocacy campaign to end the incarceration of youth by closing youth prisons and investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration and programs for youth. See more at


Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.
Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.


Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.
Source: Lincoln Mondy, BerlinRosen.


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Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.