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America’s longstanding use of the youth prison model, which emphasizes confinement and control as a tool of rehabilitation, exacerbates trauma and inhibits positive youth development while failing to address public safety. A review of the research concludes that models of youth justice that rely heavily on confinement are not effective at rehabilitation or the promotion of public safety. Additionally, given the extensive allegations and documentation of abuse in such facilities, the report called for all youth prisons to be closed and replaced with a continuum of community-based programs that includes some limited secure out-of-home placements for the very few young people who require such intervention. A continuum of care, or a range of primarily non-residential community-based programs, supports, and services specifically aimed at meeting the individual needs of youth as well as their families has worked in other jurisdictions and at less cost to the taxpayer. A continuum of care draws upon the strengths of young people, their families and communities, approaching youth from a strength-based rather than deficit-based lens and fosters autonomy, competence, and a sense of belonging within families and communities. When resourced, accessible, and evaluated for efficacy, a continuum of care can deliver the right amount of services at the right time to keep young people out of the justice system and away from the punitive, often traumatic cycle of incarceration. It holds youth accountable close to home where they can maintain supportive community connections and fulfill their promise as resources critical to the growth and well-being of a community.

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