Previously incarcerated youths are at higher risk for early death compared with those who have not served time in juvenile detention, according to a new study. File photo by Alexander Raths/Shutterstock
Dec. 23 (UPI) -- People incarcerated as adolescents and teens are more likely to die at young age than the rest of the population, an analysis published Thursday by JAMA Network Open found.
Those ages 11 to 21 years who previously served time in juvenile detention facilities have a nearly six-fold higher risk for early death compared with those who have not been incarcerated, the data showed.
Of previously incarcerated youths, 56% were slain, the researchers said.
"Youths who have been previously incarcerated are dying at a rate significantly higher than youths who are not involved with the juvenile legal system," study co-author Donna A. Ruch said in a press release.
"We must take the time to understand and spread awareness that youths exiting incarceration in the juvenile legal system are at risk," said Ruch, a researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Roughly 50,000 adolescents and teens are confined in juvenile correctional facilities across the United States, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
In earlier studies, youth incarceration has been associated with academic failure, limited job opportunities, poor physical and mental health and a lifetime of criminal behavior following release.
For this study, Ruch and her colleagues examined death rates and causes of death for 3,645 youths ages 11 to 21 years who were incarcerated in Ohio's juvenile legal system between 2010 and 2017.
They compared the findings within this group with those from a population of same-aged, non-incarcerated, Medicaid-enrolled youths, they said.
Of the 3,645 incarcerated youths in the study, 93% of whom were male, 113 died during the study period, the researchers said.
Incarcerated youth were 11 times more likely to be killed, four times more likely to die by suicide and four times more likely to die as the result of a drug overdose compared with non-incarcerated youths, the data showed.
In addition, previously incarcerated Black youths had a 14-fold higher risk for being murdered than White youth who had served time in juvenile detention, the researchers said.
Based on the findings, strategies that incorporate a culturally informed approach are key to reducing early death in this high-risk population, they said.
These include counseling, mentoring programs, family-centered interventions and school-based initiatives, the researchers said.
"We need more information on the re-entry process itself, not one solution fits all," Ruch said.
"We'd like to prevent delinquency in the first place, but we also need to do a better job supporting youths in this reentry process by assessing their needs, connecting them to appropriate resources and establishing a target for intervention," she said.