Immigrant Youth in Juvenile Facilities: A State-by-State Review of Recreation Programming




Immigrant, youth development, juvenile justice, recreation, policy


Recent national events have increased attention towards immigrant youth. Youth placed in juvenile justice facilities go through processes overseen by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the Unaccompanied Children’s Program. While in placement youth are exposed to risk factors and face cultural barriers being in a new country. As publicity of the incarceration of immigrant youth increases, there is an emphatic need for researchers to examine the quality of care youth experience in placement facilities. One of the areas that has not been critically investigated is recreation programming in juvenile justice facilities. Recreation programs grounded in Positive Youth Development have proven to promote healthy development and offer immigrant youth opportunities to adapt to their new environment. Providing youth in juvenile justice facilities access to high quality recreation programming strengthens protective factors in youth to prepare them for adulthood, and reduces the likelihood of their committing an offense, thereby increasing public safety and saving taxpayer dollars. This paper is a first step to establish a clear understanding of the treatment of immigrant youth in detention. In this paper I discuss the results of a comprehensive examination of the minimum requirements for recreation programming in juvenile justice facilities. The results provide clear implications for immigrant youth as well as suggestions for further critical inquiry.

Author Biography

Maria León, Texas A&M University, Youth Development Program

Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences

Youth Development Program

Graduate Assistant 



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