What Is Juvie Like?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

Whether by sheer interest or for fear fuelled reasons, something has led you here. If you are trying to figure out what Juvie is like then you have come to the right place. Hopefully, throughout this article we can answer most (if not all) of your questions in one place.

Whether you are facing the prospects of juvie yourself or you are concerned for a friend or relative it is only natural to worry about what juvie will be like.

Let’s face it juvie doesn’t have the highest trip advisor and it certainly isn’t where most of us would choose to go and stay but sometimes it happens.

It could be down to an unforeseen sequence of events or maybe deep down you always knew that this would be the result but either way you have every right to be nervous.

What Is Juvie Like


There is a good chance that one of the reasons that you are here and reading this article is fear. If it isn’t then perhaps its work, college or personal interest related and either way you are more than welcome to read on.

Fear is a natural emotion to feel in any challenging situation but one of the most common causes of fear and anxiety is a fear of the unknown.

So, if you are soon to face juvie then you can start to tackle this fear by getting a better understanding of what it is all about.

What Is Juvie?

Perhaps you have never heard the term juvie or maybe you have but just in passing and you don’t really know what it means. Juvie is actually a colloquial term (slang) for a youth detention centre or a juvenile detention centre.

In other words juvie is a secure unit for young offenders. It is similar to a prison in many respects, however, there are some notable large differences which will be discussed later in the article.

What Age Offenders Is Juvie For?

Different states have different rules and laws governing what age people can go to juvie at. However, the vast majority of time the minimum age is somewhere between 10 and 13.

For example, in California the minimum age to be found guilty and to be labelled as an offender is now 12, anyone below this age will be seen as a victim.

Before this change came into play there way no minimum age. Similarly, the highest age to be sent to juvie is generally 18 although in certain circumstances it could be up to 21.

What Is The Purpose Of Juvie?

Juvie, or juvenile detention centres, serve to mimic the adult prison environment. They have multiple purposes including to deter people from committing crime.

For instance, sometimes the knowledge that they could end up in juvie or the threat of juvie could be enough to stop someone from offending or reoffending, this leading to more law abiding citizens and lower crime rates.

Deterrence isn’t the only purpose of juvie. It also serves as punishment. If punishment is not given for crimes committed by young people then they will feel above the law and continue to commit crimes.

Statistics also suggest that throughout adulthood these crimes would only get worse. Punishment also helps to stop other people from offending as if they have seen someone they know be sent to juvie then the threat becomes more real to them.

One of the positive roles that juvie aims to fulfil is being a centre of reform. Juvie aims to help to reform young offenders and to get them on to the right path in life.

Juvie aims to educate young people on why they shouldn’t commit crimes and to have them leave juvie as law abiding citizens.

What Are Some Of The Biggest Similarities Between Adult Prison and Juvie?

As previously stated, there is quite a lot of crossover between juvenile detention centres and adult prisons. One of these is the strict nature of the places.

Just because Juvie is aimed at younger people does not mean that it is more lenient. They are still expected to behave in the same manner that it is hoped that adult prisoners do.

They will still receive punishment for breaking rules and other bad behaviour such as extended sentences.

Both prison and juvie both operate a locked door policy. This means that at certain times of day the cell doors will be locked and inmates will not be able to leave their cell.

The exact rules as to how many hours an individual needs to be confined to their cell can vary drastically depending on the type of centre that they are in and the crimes that they commited.

In the vast majority of prisons and juvenile detention centres inmates will be allowed out into the main areas at certain times a day including meal times where they will often all eat together.

Unfortunately, another thing that both juvenile detention centres and adult prisons have in common is the fact that they are both home to lots of violence.

These kinds of environments are often home to some of the state’s most aggressive and violent individuals so when they are all cooped up together the results can be disastrous. In such a high pressure environment fights can break out for all sorts of reasons.

The inmates also sometimes form gangs. The fighting and violence in prisons and juvenile detention centres can lead to death.

Fighting is one of the reasons that young offenders and adult offenders and taken to different places as otherwise young offenders would be seen as easy targets and would be subject to lots of violence from older inmates.

What Are Some Of The Biggest Differences Between Adult Prison And Juvie?

Despite all of the similarities between the two types of detention centres there are indisputably some big differences. This is because the same methods used on a 13 year old would not be effective on a 46 year old.

One of the biggest differences is the focus on education in juvie. Most young people at juvie are only school age so it is important that they still get an education.

If these people were to miss out on an education because of the crimes that they had committed then they would struggle to find employment even more then they would otherwise and therefore they would be more likely to fall back into a life of crime.

Depending on the age and ability of the offender’s the education that they receive while in the juvenile detention centre will vary massively.

The aim is to try and provide them with an education similarly to that that they would have received in a mainstream school.

Specialist teachers come in to teach the students however, young people in juvie often have learning difficulties, mental health difficulties or behavioural issues that can make maintaining a positive learning environment really difficult.

Of course, as is the case with working with any young people extra safeguarding regulations are needed. There are different rules on how to care for younger inmates meaning that the experience of being in a juvenile detention centre and an adult prison can be very different.

What About Visitation?

When an individual or an individual’s loved one is facing being incarcerated the thought of not being able to see each other can be really difficult. Much like with adult prisons, who young offenders can see and when they can see them will be restricted.

The exact restrictions will vary depending on the exact juvenile detention centre and sometimes also on the individual.

Generally speaking the young offenders are allowed to make between 1 and a few calls a week on the main phones and the same with face to face visitors.

Face to face visitation might sound enjoyable, and it can be, but it can also be very emotional. There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to visitation including no gifts and certain topics of discussion will be off topic.

One of the things that people often find the most difficult about visitation is the fact that physical contact is restricted.

Again, different centres will have slightly different rules on this, some will allow no physical contact at all and others will allow a quick hug or something similar.

This can be really difficult as when visiting a loved one such as a son, daughter, niece or nephew people often want to hug for longer as it could be a long time until they next see them.

Visitation can also be daunting for other reasons, especially for the visitors, visitors will usually have to be searched at time of entry to make sure that they are not sneaking any contraband in for any of the inmates.

It can also feel like a really hostile environment to those that have never been to somewhere like a juvenile detention centre.

What Are Inmates Able To Eat?

It might sound strange, but one of the most common things that people worry about when facing a juvenile detention centre sentence is what they will be able to eat.

The first thing to be aware of is that all prisoners, whether in a youth detention centre or an adult prison, will have access to adequate food and drink.

It is important that everyone in life, but especially young people, have their three meals a day and this is something that youth detention centres are very aware of. Therefore, there are always three meals a day available.

These three meals a day will vary from centre to centre and even from day to day. Generally speaking, they won’t be anything too fancy but they will definitely be of adequate quality and portion size.

If an inmate has any specific dietary requirements due to allergies or religious beliefs then these will also be adhered to. Having said this, outside of situations like this there is not usually much choice.

What Are Inmates Able To Eat?

What Is A Juvenile Detention Centre Cell Like?

Just like in an adult prison, in a juvenile detention centre there are some public spaces which all inmates share and some private spaces.

Cells are private spaces that can only be accessed by youth detention centre staff and the inmates that are based in each one. Cells are the small locked rooms that inmates live and sleep in.

It is interesting to note that sometimes inmates have a cell each and sometimes they share between two, or in rare cases even more. Whether or not an inmate has their own cell depends on numerous factors, one of which is the size of the juvenile detention centre.

In smaller juvenile detention centres with cells, inmates are more likely to share a cell, this is more common in older detention centres.

Another factor that is considered is the crime that the inmate has committed and whether they pose a risk to other inmates.

Those who are in the centre for committing more violent or sexual crimes are likely to be deemed a risk to others and therefore be more segregated.

The cells are always pretty basic, they each have a bed in per person, so in a one person cell there would be one bed or in a two person cell there would be two beds.

The beds are not usually the comfiest and generally speaking they are attached to the wall so that they can not be thrown around. Each cell also has a toilet so that inmates have no need to leave their cell during unprohibited hours.

In some juvenile detention centres individuals are allowed a few extra bits however some are very basic, again this depends on the centre itself and the behaviour of the inmates.

As in the outside world, good behaviour often leads to reward so it may be thes case that inmates who behave better are able to gain more rewards and therefore have more things in their room.

What About Mobile Phones And Social Media?

Even in juvenile detention centres mobile phones and social media are banned. This is a strict policy and anyone found accessing either of these two things will be punished.

There are many reasons for a lack of access to mobile phones and social media, one of which is simply that juvenile detention centres are supposed to act as a punishment.

Young people love their phones so allowing them to keep hold of them would not make juvie a very good punishment.

There are also other reasons that mobile phones and social media are banned such as the fact that they could be used to contact other inmates and plan attacks and other negative behaviour, therefore a blanket ban makes juvenile detention centres easier to manage for staff.

Similarly, phones and social media can be used to plan an escape which is counterproductive. Some individuals think that escaping a juvenile detention centre is a good idea.

It is not. Not only is it very, very unlikely to work but even if it did inmates would be punished and potentially have to spend even longer in the detention centre.

Mobile phones and social media also do not help with rehabilitation, instead they allow inmates to stay in contact with the people that they were getting into trouble with before they were sentenced.

In order to help them to create a new start they need to have distance from these people and situations otherwise there is a high chance that they would already be planning to reoffend as soon as they get out of the juvenile detention centre.

As previously mentioned. Juvies do usually have main shared phones that can be used at specific times to allow contact with loved ones.

Final Thoughts

Juvie is not a fun place to be however, in some situations it can be the right place. It can help young people who are on the wrong track to reform.

Young people in juvenile detention centres will still get an education and have all of their rights met so it isn’t always as bad as it is made out to be.