U.S. Has More Detained Children Than Any Other Country

A startling new report by the United Nations shows that the United States has more detained children in its custody than any other country

Photo: Unsplash/@freetousesoundscom

Photo: Unsplash/@freetousesoundscom

A startling new report by the United Nations shows that the United States has more detained children in its custody than any other country. The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, written by UN-linked human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak, shows that at least 300,000 children are detained around the world. The United States has an estimated 103,000 children in detention. 

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers, we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the (U.S.),” Nowak said in a press conference, according to NBC News. 


“Of course separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents and even small children at the Mexican-U.S. border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children.”

RAICES, an organization that helps detained children at the border, tweeted, “The U.S. has broken a record. We now have over 100,000 children in immigrant-related custody, per a United Nations study. We’re literally the top country in the world for locking up children.”

Here is a break down of the report by the U.N.

  • At least 410,000 children are held every year in prisons and pre-trial detention facilities where violence is “endemic.” Many are charged with ‘status offenses,’ including truancy, disobedience, and underage drinking. This does not include the 1 million children held in police custody every year.
  • Although UN experts have concluded that detention of children for migration-related reasons can never be in the best interests of a child, at least 330,000 children in 80 countries are held in immigration detention yearly.
  • Around 670,000 children have been placed by judicial authorities in institutions that meet the legal definition of deprivation of liberty. However, the total number of children in institutions is more than 5.4 million.
  • Children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in detention in the context of the administration of justice and institutions.
  • The number of children detained in the context of armed conflict and national security has increased sharply, driven by aggressive counterterrorism measures that include detention and prosecution of children for online activity, including posts to Facebook and Twitter.
  • Deprivation of liberty aggravates existing health conditions in children and can cause new ones to emerge, including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress. Psychiatric disorders for children in detention can increase tenfold during detention, and detention is correlated with early death among children once released.

Nowak added that these figures, especially from the United States, shows they are directly going against the “requirement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which clearly states that the detention of children must only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

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