Revised Position Statement Recommends Safeguards to Care for Juveniles Housed in Adult Facilities

Posted Nov 1, 2018

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care has long been concerned about the health and mental health implications of adolescents housed in adult correctional facilities, and issued its first position statement on the matter in 1998. The latest review of this statement led to significant updates to reflect the shifting trends in juvenile offending, criminal justice policy and resulting outcomes.

Adopted by the NCCHC board of directors in October 2018, the revised position statement highlights the complex developmental aspects of adolescence and the negative effects of housing juveniles in facilities designed for adults, such as exacerbation of mental health disorders. It also describes the limited capacity of most adult facilities to adequately care for juveniles, including the lack of staff with appropriate education and training to work with youth and a heightened risk of physical and sexual assault.

Fundamentally, NCCHC’s position is that adolescents should not be incarcerated in adult facilities. If they are, however, it is imperative that correctional programs caring for adolescents be designed to meet their needs. The position statement outlines the following principles to guide such programs:

  1. Adolescent health and mental health specialists familiar with correctional health care should be consulted in the development of correctional policies and procedures dealing with adolescents.
  2. Correctional and health staff who are responsible for the supervision and treatment of adolescents should receive orientation and ongoing training regarding their unique health, developmental and educational needs.
  3. Facilities should recognize adolescents’ vulnerability in an adult setting. Adolescents should be separated from adults and be given opportunities for appropriate peer interaction and developmentally appropriate and specialized programming. These services should include mental health, physical health, social needs and life skills specific to transition-age youth. (The position statement elaborates on each of these areas.)
  4. The specific developmental and growth needs of an adolescent population should be addressed in a special needs treatment plan as described in NCCHC’s Standards for Health Services for jails and prisons, standard F-01 Patients With Chronic Disease and Other Special Needs.

Health Services to Adolescents in Adult Correctional Facilities is available at the NCCHC website along with all of NCCHC’s position statements »