March 07, 2022

On Friday, March 3, Cara H. Drinan, Professor of Law and Director of Faculty Research, participated in a conference hosted by the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal entitled, The Problem of Mass Incarceration: Diagnosis and Reform.

Drinan spoke on youth in the criminal system and explained why, even though incarcerated youth represent a small percentage of the overall incarcerated population, youth justice policies still demand attention. Specifically, Drinan explained that youth incarceration, often viewed as a tool to enhance public safety, accomplishes precisely the opposite effect. Most youth who enter the criminal system bring an extensive trauma history, and this reality, coupled with the harsh aspects of youth detention, leads to a host of negative consequences. Specifically, incarcerated youth are more likely to drop out of high school and have future contact with the adult criminal system. Drinan urged reforms that keep youth out of detention whenever possible by relying on proven therapeutic alternatives and — when necessary — detention that is developmentally appropriate. While youth justice reform measures alone won't solve mass incarceration, as Drinan argued, they are an important piece of the puzzle.

Scholars from top law schools across the nation participated in the conference, and the Symposium Papers will be published later this year.