The resulting photo-survey, Juvenile-In-Justice, documents 350 facilities in over 30 states. It’s more than a peek into unseen worlds — it is a call to action and care.
“I grew up in a world where you solve problems, you don’t destroy a population,” says Ross. “To me it is an affront when I see the way some of these kids are dealt with.”
The U.S. locks up children at more than six times the rate of all other developed nations. The over 60,000 average daily juvenile lockups, a figure estimated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), are also disproportionately young people of color. With an average cost of $80,000 per year to lock up a child, the U.S. spends more than $5 billion annually on youth detention.
On top of the cost, in its recent report No Place for Kids, the AECF presents evidence to show that youth incarceration does not reduce recidivism rates, does not benefit public safety and exposes those imprisoned to further abuse and violence.
Ross thinks his images of juvenile lock-ups can, and should, be “ammunition” for the ongoing policy and funding debates between reformers, staff, management and law-makers.
Our juvenile justice system is appalling. Physical and sexual abuse of inmates is rampant, either by other kids in the facility or by the adults in charge. In a criminal justice system that should be the shame of the country, this may be the single worst element.