"Too many children—particularly children in poverty; children of color; children with disabilities; children with mental health and substance abuse challenges; children subjected to neglect, abuse and/or other violence; children in foster care and LGBTQ children—are pushed out of their schools and homes into the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice systems. While the number of children arrested and incarcerated has declined over the past decade largely due to positive changes in policy and practice, America’s children continue to be criminalized at alarming rates.

"• In 2018, 728,280 children were arrested in the U.S. (see Table 33). A child or teen was arrested every 43 seconds despite a 63 percent reduction in child arrests between 2009 and 2018.

"• Although the number of children in the juvenile justice system has been cut in half since 2007, 43,580 children and youth were held in residential placement on a given night in 2017. Nearly 2 in 3 were placed in the most restrictive facilities.2

"• Another 935 children were incarcerated in adult prisons on any given night in 2017—down from 2,283 in 2007 (see Table 35). An estimated 76,000 children are prosecuted, sentenced or incarcerated as adults annually.3

"• While many states have made legislative changes to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, five states still automatically prosecute 17-year-olds as adults (Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin) and all states allow children charged with certain offenses to be prosecuted in adult courts.4"


"The State of America's Children 2020," Children's Defense Fund. Washington, DC: 2020.