"Youth incarceration is financially wasteful," said report author Andrea McChristian on a call with reporters. "In addition, our system of youth incarceration perpetuates racial disparities."
A black child in New Jersey, the report notes, is at least 30 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white child, even though children of both races commit most offenses at about the same rate.
The state spends $250,000 each year per child to "maintain this broken system of incarceration," the Institute says.
"When I think, $250,000 — my goodness," said state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), who also participated in the teleconference. "What could we do with that money if it were focused in a more positive way?"