There are approximately 70,700 imprisoned youth in the United States.

This number is set against the backdrop of a jarring total of 2.3 million incarcerated individuals in America alone, meaning a staggering 1 in 100 American adults are currently under detention.

In Richard Ross' new book, "Juvenile In Justice" the veteran photographer documents imprisoned youth from more than 200 detention centers across the United States. Throughout almost 150 images, Ross takes his viewers into the isolated world of youth under lock and key. Whatever their crimes — and some are horrendous -- the series raises serious questions about the workings and purpose of the juvenile justice system. Are we really offering any chance of transforming these young people's lives? Ross offers a thought provoking entry into this dark world. Scroll down for a slideshow.


The photographs are accompanied by short vignettes about the young people Ross photographed and interviewed over the course of five years, and this harrowing montage gives a face and a voice to the young people hidden outside our view. Ira Glass of This American Life and Bart Lubow of the Annie E. Casey Foundation have also written essays to accompany these images. In a press release for the book, Ross notes that he hopes his work “offers visual evidence of a system that desperately needs reform, revealing an aspect of American society that is rarely seen or understood.”

Ross' photographs harmonize with the images and stories from Susan Madden Lankford's new book "Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall." In the book, Lankford chronicles the two years she spent speaking with incarcerated youth as well as a number of psychologists, lawyers, and experts in the field of juvenile justice. She paints a poignant yet distressing picture of the aspirations, fears and pain these young people grapple with. We've included one excerpt from the book that powerfully illustrates a young person's reflection upon seeing a photograph of an empty jail cell.

Excerpt from "Born, Not Raised."

In 2007, Ross was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for "Architecture of Authority," a photographic series that chronicles architectural spaces around the world that employ power over individuals in a Foucaultian fashion.

Artists like Ross and Jessica Blank/Erik Jensen of The Exonerated, as well as programs like Bard’s Prison Initiative and The Public’s Mobile Unit point out that small waves are being made in helping illuminate the need for prison reform, as well as providing educational and cultural connection to thousands of Americans behind bars.

See more images from Ross’ “Juvenile In Justice” in the slideshow below and be sure to check out the Juvenile In Justice webpage where you will find more information about the book and project.

What do you think? Should teens be imprisoned like adults?

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  • <em>A.N, age 18, from Opalaka. He will be here for four months according to the court. He is here for burglary, and has ten open cases of more burglaries from the past. He has been here six times, or more. His parents don't live together, his mom is an outreach worker, his dad does trucks. He did not attend school outside The Center. He went to a program called CATS, and spent six months in a moderate risk program. He has three brothers and a younger sister, another sister died very young from health conditions.</em> <em>Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (Juvenile Justice Center), 3300 Northwest 27th Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33142. The Center is run by the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and has a maximum bed population of 226, but can exceed that number by more than 100. According to their own material, The Center has an average length of stay, per youth, of 13 days. </em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>At the Youthful Offender System facility in Pueblo, Colorado. The Orientation Training Phase is set up to run like a boot camp.</em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em> C.C, age 16, an 11th grader, has been here one week. I ask him “How was lunch?” and he responds, "Junk." He is under court order to stay isolated from other kids. While the room has a capacity of 8, only 3 boys are staying in the room. C.C was adopted and has been in foster care for about 11 years. He committed a crime when he was in 7th grade –- residential burglary -- but nothing really bad since then, just lots of probation violations, like being tardy to school, and not appearing at his parole officer meeting. He says that "drug court saved my life." His mom is into drugs and his dad was deported to the Phillippines. C.C. has three sisters and lets me know that all the kids are split up. He sees them once in a great while. The only person who visits him is his YMCA drug counselor. Hale Ho'omalu Juvenile Hall, Honolulu, Hawaii. At the time these images were shot, the facility was under a Memorandum of Understanding from the Department of Justice; It has since been shut down and replaced with a new facility.</em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center is on a historic native American encampment on Lake Mendota, WI. Average stay here is 8 months. It houses 29 individuals at a time and is always at full capacity. The units are for emotionally and mentally disturbed juveniles, some of which are self-abusive or suicidal. Kids are here not for the severity of their crime but for their failure to institutionalize their behavior. Kids must be released at age 18, sometimes with no transition options available to them. The facility operates on a basis of treatment and punishment when needed. </em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>D, age 16, from Seattle. At home, he lives with his mother, ten-year-old brother, and step father. He does not know his real father. He doesn’t like school and has been suspended. He spends his time at home hanging with his friends. He has two older brothers and one older sister, all in their 20s+, and they all don't live at home. He has been at King County for about a week and has been here 3 other times. They are thinking of moving up his charges to Robbery 1. He might be going to a decline status, not an auto decline, a person on person crime. He might be going to RTC to break the detention cycle.</em> <em>King County Youth Service Center houses the Juvenile Detention Center, Juvenile Court and Juvenile Court Services, as well as juvenile divisions of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Department of Judicial Administration. The Youth Service Center is located in Seattle's Central District neighborhood. </em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>July 2010, Gabriel is small African American kid in cell. He is viewed through window as well. 14 year old. Been here for a week. In Observation room. He goes to class in the AM and then comes back to his room; he doesn't read, doesn't watch TV. He sits in the cell. He eats in the cell. He was supposed to come home today, but his Aunt didn't come. He can't live with his mother nor father. I’ve been here three times before. This is the longest. So his aunt doesn'€™t visit€. She is never sure when the visiting days are. He didn't tell his aunt that he is here (she has to be notified) He is low functional. He has a very slow mannered speech. CPS must be involved as well. He has been charged with battery against his aunt. </em> Caldwell Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center. Kids aged from 11-17 years old. When they turn 18, they are released to an adult institution. Discretionary days€-violation of probation, stays at the facility for a while. Prison population contains more Hispanic youths than the general population. Isolation Cells. Kids eat in cells. Average stay is 14 days, some kids stay longer. "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>Caldwell Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center. Kids aged from 11-17 years old. When they turn 18, they are released to an adult institution. €œDiscretionary days-violation of probation, stays at the facility for a while. Prison population contains more Hispanic youths than the general population. Isolation Cells. Kids eat in cells. Average stay is 14 days, some kids stay longer. (Multiple values) There are six girls here today. 2 of the girls runaway/curfew violations. 1 lewd and licivious conduct, molestation abuse 1 controlled substance 1 trafficking methamphetamine 1 burglary and marijuana Drugs of choice are meth, weed, a SLIGHT rise in Spice-Salvia)</em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>I have been here about three weeks. I got picked up for VOP Not much to do here. Mostly I write on the wall. I really don want to talk to you. - A.W, age 16</em> <em>Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Mississippi is operated by Mississippi Security Services (formerly the Biloxi City Jail) currently run by Director Warden. A fire in 1982 killed 27 inmates. There is currently a lawsuit against them, which has forced them to reduce their inmate population. They must now maintain an 8:1 inmate to staff ratio. </em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>Washoe County Detention Facility, Reno, Nevada. Built in 2004 for a capacity of 108, all juveniles here are pre-adjudicated. The facility holds youth for up to 30 days before transferring them to commitment.</em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • <em>Orleans Parish Prison (O.P.P), New Orleans, Louisiana. Air Conditioning is not working. There was a fight there the night before, so they have taken away privileges, such as TV, cards, and dominoes. OPP currently houses about 23 juvenile boys, two boys per cell. At its narrowest portion, the cell measures about 6 feet wide. OPP is controlled by Sheriff Marlin Gusman and there is minimal supervision.</em> "Juvenile In Justice," Richard Ross.

  • "Juvenile In Justice," book cover by Richard Ross.