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Why America Should Stop Building Youth Jails

The tragic story of Kalief Browder is instructive, and we should take away some important lessons about incarcerating teens.
Inmates in Boston's South Bay House of Corrections
Inmates in Boston's South Bay House of CorrectionsREUTERS/Brian Snyder

A youth jail is set to be built in Baltimore that’s far smaller and less expensive than the one originally planned for the city. But many in Baltimore do not want a facility built for detaining arrested youth at all. And the tragic story of Kalief Browder is a compelling argument for putting an end to incarcerating teens.

Browder was 16 years old when he was committed to New York City’s infamous Rikers Island detention facility after police arrested him for an alleged robbery. This was a crime Browder vehemently denied committing and of which he was never convicted. However, as The New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman has reported in her profiles of Browder and Rikers, the teenager ended up spending over one thousand days at the jail “waiting for a trial that never happened.”