Juvenile Detention Center: Purpose & Characteristics

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  • 0:00 Shoplifting
  • 0:31 Juvenile Detention Centers
  • 1:29 Juvenile Offenders
  • 2:34 Recent Trends
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Approximately 70,000 juveniles every day are removed from their homes after committing criminal offenses, many of them ending up in juvenile detention centers. This lesson will review the purpose and characteristics of those centers.


Tyrone is caught stealing clothing from a department store in the local mall. He is 16 years old so he has to appear before a judge in juvenile court to be sentenced. Since this is Tyrone's third brush with the law, the judge refuses to grant leniency. Instead, he sentences Tyrone to spend 30 days in the local juvenile detention facility. Tyrone has never spent time away from home and is worried about what life in juvenile detention will be like.

Juvenile Detention Centers

Juvenile detention centers are secured housing facilities for juvenile offenders. The primary purpose of juvenile detention centers is to keep juveniles who have committed crimes away from the public. However, juvenile detention centers serve other purposes as well. In recent years, there has been a shift in centers away from a punitive purpose and towards the rehabilitation of offenders. The programs offered in juvenile detention centers vary by facility. As an example, the Mason County juvenile detention center in Washington offers incarcerated juveniles the following:

  • Opportunities to continue their education
  • Physical activities and exercise programs
  • Access to library resources
  • Allotted visitation with family members
  • Medical and mental health services and treatment

Counseling is an important part of the rehabilitative process in juvenile detention. Many of the youth sentenced to juvenile facilities have mental health issues that need to be addressed by mental health professionals.

Juvenile Offenders in Detention Centers

The Survey of Youth in Residential Placement, a 2010 survey conducted through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, provides some valuable statistics on youths housed in juvenile correctional facilities. Some of the key findings include such facts as:

  • 85% of incarcerated youths were males, while 15% were females
  • The majority of offenders were between the ages of 15 and 17 years old
  • The largest percentage of offenders were Caucasian (35%)
  • About 40% of offenders stated they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when committing the offense for which they were incarcerated
  • Approximately 2/5ths of the crimes committed were crimes against another person
  • The majority of offenders reported poor school performance
  • 20% of youths in custody are parents or expectant parents

This survey brought to light important facts about juveniles housed in detention centers. As an example, the fact that 20% of incarcerated juveniles are parents or expectant parents, highlights the need for services related to parenting skills.

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