Land Acknowledgment 🔊

This project’s research, student proposals, and local supporting organizations (e.g. the University of Minnesota) are located on traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Dakota and Ojibwe people. It is important to perform land acknowledgements to recognize the relationship between our communities and those of our neighbors in the current conditions and in the past. In our daily lives, we occupy the land of the Dakota, and the Ojibwe, therefore we must advance their rightful citizenship, be grateful for their stewardship, and become stewards ourselves.

Research Process, Findings, and Design 🔊

The original research was framed by a Hennepin County University Partnership (HUP) as an investigation of juvenile incarceration to develop a continuum or spectrum of care for youth that would include such issues as incarceration, correctional placement, and treatment for addiction and mental health. The study took place over three years, evolving from being a studio class called “Reconceiving Juvenile Incarceration” to a class called “Preventing Juvenile Incarceration,” and finally to a studio entitled “Expanding Youth Opportunity.” These titles changed as we realized that incarceration was not the solution for youth offenders, and acknowledged the importance of treatment and trauma informed care as an alternative, when developing facilities to support youth development into productive, kind adults who contribute to their communities. (Robinson & Price, 2021).

During the first two years of the project, Angela Cousins (Division Manager for the Hennepin County Department of Community Correctional and Rehabilitation), and Daniel Treinen (BWBR Architects) taught the course with Julia Robinson (School of Architecture, University of Minnesota), and in the third year, due to the pandemic they served as project reviewers. In the second and third years, Alysha Price (Price Dynamic) served as Community Consultant and Liaison to Northside community project participants.

Site visits during the first year revealed institutionalized racism, with the majority of troubled white youth receiving treatment in private facilities for addiction and mental health and troubled youth of color in juvenile correctional placements. Interactions with community members, and inventory of services showed a lack of resources and prevention programs available to assist families and young people in the zip codes with the largest numbers of youth in correctional placements.

In the second year of the project we learned that transition age youth, those who graduated from high school or from foster care in the Northside neighborhood were often without jobs and housing and could benefit from a period of transition to adulthood. In the third year we focused on transition age youth. As a result of our evolving research findings, student projects addressed youth in different ways each year. In 2018 students designed projects for affected neighborhoods in both north and south Minneapolis that addressed the gaps in existing service, focusing on after-school activities, job training and treatment facilities. For the last two years students focused on North Minneapolis. In 2019, students addressed family services, child care, arts facilities, and transition from incarceration. In 2020 students designed facilities to serve the needs of transition age youth, such as housing and services for youth experiencing homelessness, training to be business entrepreneurs, a center for carpentry, music and performance, and a youth-run restorative justice center.


This research focuses on developing opportunities for young people to become fully participating members of society, with employment, housing, health services, and family.

Youth involved in the justice system may be as young as 13 years old. As we will discuss in more depth later, at-risk youth are likely to have experienced trauma within their families or neighborhoods, and to have disabilities including mental illness (Aud, 2011). Such young people need to have access to education, therapy and after-school activities that support their growth, services often substandard or missing in the communities where they live.

Of special concern are what is called transition-age youth, who are becoming adults. In middle-class neighborhoods, the transition to adulthood takes place over a number of years as young people graduate from high school, study or train for work for several years and then get a job. In neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and crime, where high school graduation may mark the end of education, and where jobs are scarce, the transition to adulthood may occur due incarceration or pregnancy (Joseph, 2018).

A major focus of the research was transition age youth. Alongside their developing cognition, youth that fall within this age range face a variety of issues laid out later in the document. To bridge the gap between youth and adulthood this group undergoes, services must be implemented to address these issues, and ensure a successful transition to later stages of life.

Definition of Neighborhood 🔊

This project focuses on the North or Northside neighborhood. At the recommendation of our neighborhood participants, the class placed a special emphasis on Hawthorne and Folwell in 2019 and on Hawthorne alone in 2020. Nonetheless, students were free to site their projects anywhere in these neighborhoods, with many choosing sites on West Broadway or along the Mississippi River.

History of Neighborhood

The land in what is now Minneapolis, including the Near North neighborhood was home to the Dakota and Ojibway people before white settlers claimed the territory. Minnesota became a state within the USA in 1858, and in 1863 Dakota people were forcibly removed from the state after the passage of the Federal Law mandating expulsion (Peterson, 2021).

After 1865, immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in the Near North neighborhood, establishing businesses and forming a lively community, especially along Washington and Plymouth Avenues (Weber, 2020). Redlining and racially restrictive deeds resulted in an influx of Black residents joining the Jewish population in the early 1900s, developing Black businesses and churches (Hankin-Redmon, 2021). In 1937, the Olson Memorial Parkway was constructed, destroying existing businesses and separating the neighborhood from downtown, partially contributing to the Jewish population moving West, into neighborhoods formerly restricted against them, with the Northside becoming predominantly Black by the 1960s (Paulsen, 2018; Hankin-Redmon, 2021).

The national civil rights movement devastated the Northside. In 1967, destructive demonstrations resulted in the loss of many businesses (Marks, 2015). During this same period, the construction of Interstate 94 destroyed housing and businesses, further isolating the neighborhood (Walsh, 2020).

In 1995, a class action lawsuit charging the city with segregation in public housing resulted in the city demolishing housing and businesses, causing a significant portion of the Black population to move to other neighborhoods, particularly Brooklyn Park (Orfield, 2017). In 2000, the city created the suburban-style Heritage Park development specifically to serve Northside residents affected by the demolition. (Hankin-Redmon, 2021).

In addition to Hmong refugees who settled in the community in the late 1970s, today, the community includes Latinx and First Nation people (MN Compass, 2020).

The combination of national crises, such as the 2008 recession and resulting foreclosures, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tornado of 2011 has taken a particularly hard toll on North Minneapolis (Egerstrom, 2020; USDC 2011). Additionally, police killings of Black men, like Jamar Clark, Philando Castile and George Floyd, inflicted pain upon the local communities (Collins, 2021). In 2020 and 2021 a record number of shootings took place in Northside neighborhoods, including young children (Jokich, 2020). As of 2021, the Near North neighborhood is actively confronting these challenges.

Demographics of North Minneapolis 🔊

Over 50% of residents in the Near North community (Harrison, Hawthorne, Jordan, Near North, Sumner-Glenwood, and Willard-Hay neighborhoods) are Black (6% mixed) (MNCompass, 2020). Higher levels of poverty, lower average income, and higher levels of incarceration led to Minneapolis being ranked near the bottom for racial inequality by NPR. The median Black family earns $38,178 a year, compared to $84,459 for a White family; The Black poverty rate is 25.4%, compared to 5.9% for Whites; The Black incarceration rate is 11 times that of Whites rate (Rosalsky, 2020).

In the Near North community, 45% of the population is 24 years old or younger, with 10.4% of the population (3,684 individuals) transition-age youth (18-24 years old), and 34.9% of the population being below age 18 (MNCompass, 2020).

From 2015-19, including a 9.3% vacancy rate, 38.9% of housing units were owner occupied, while 51.8% were rented in the Near North community, and 77.5% of households had at least one car (MNCompass, 2020). Of those aged 25 and older in this community, 50.9% have only a high school diploma, 22.4% have no high school diploma, and 26.8% have a higher degree. (MNCompass, 2020)

Community Risk Factors 🔊

From 2002 to 2011, homicide was the leading cause of death of Minneapolis residents ages 15 to 24, accounting for 39 percent (National Forum, 2014). A contributing factor to youth homicide is gang involvement, with youth involved in gangs being three to seven times more likely to commit serious and violent offenses (Hill, 1999).

Researchers studying youth gangs found that risk factors for membership match those for other violent behavior (Hill, 1999). Motivation for gang involvement can include a desire for protection from other gangs, a sense of belonging, independence from parents, and raising self-esteem (Gangs and Children, 2021). Youth with learning and other disabilities are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior (Shandra & Hogan, 2012), and due to social exclusion, may be more susceptible to gang participation (Ngo et al, 2016). Elimination of gangs must not only address the dangers of gangs, but also provide remedies for these motivations.

Following recommendations of the 2013 Minneapolis Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence, significant positive results were shown until 2019 (Big Cities Health Coalition, 2014). Unfortunately, community reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd events have caused the statistics to trend in the wrong direction. A renewed effort to address the present situation is in order.


Throughout research, the team became very aware of the racial disparities ever present within each aspect of a youth’s life. To approach designing for youth, it is imperative to acknowledge these disparities in order to create equitable solutions, and combat racial inequalities.

Incarceration Inequality

In Fall of 2018, site visits to the Hennepin County Home School and the Hazelden Adolescent Treatment Center showed greatly contrasting populations. The county facility, supported by the taxpayers, housed primarily youth of color, whereas the treatment center, paid with private health insurance, housed 95% white youth. (Robinson & Price, 2021). We concluded that white youth were seen as “troubled” rather than “criminal,” and youth in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and high populations of color, are more likely to engage with the justice system.

This experience was limited in terms of its scope, it acts as a microcosm of the larger issues within the juvenile justice system (and the justice system as a whole). Numerically, the data behind racial disparities in youth incarceration is staggering: in Hennepin County, although youth of color make up 26% of the total youth population, they represent 65% of youth housed in Hennepin County Juvenile Correctional Facilities (McVay, 2004).

Housing Inequality

In Minnesota, nearly 75% of youth experiencing homelessness were youth of color, according to a study by Wilder in 2015 (Wilder, 2015). Causes of this disparity include a lack of resources in communities which have a lower percentage of white people and a greater likelihood of youth of color to face risk factors such as incarceration.

Education/Employment Inequality

Using performance on standardized tests, graduation rates, and indicators of college readiness, there are clear disparities across race and ethnicity, as well as socioeconomic status, with a 14% graduation gap between Black and white high school students (Smith, Mary Lynn, 2020). Like housing inequality, educational inequality may be a result of a variety of factors, including a lack of resources in non-white communities. Likely correlated with the educational disparity is a disparity in employment, with the typical Black household earning only 44 percent as much as the typical white one in Minneapolis (Ingraham, 2020).

Addressing Inequality

Due to historic redlining and segregation, neighborhoods with higher minority populations and neighborhoods with lower average income lack resources such as education, after- school activities, family treatment, child care, employment, adult education, etc., and the people in these communities are more likely to suffer from mental and physical health issues (with fewer treatment options available) (Teitz, 2015). A holistic approach must be taken to address this issue, with services offered following a continuum of care to ensure equitable opportunities for success.


Many complex factors contribute to educational and employment achievement in youth such as disabilities, involvement with the justice system, and homelessness/high mobility. 84% of high school students in Minnesota graduate in four school students in Minnesota graduate in four years (Askari, 2021). In Minnesota, this rate decreases by 35% for youth experiencing homelessness, 21% for youth with disabilities, and on average nationally, between 13% and 39% for youth experiencing juvenile incarceration (Askari, 2021; Aizer, 2013). Nationally, youth with disabilities are more likely to be incarcerated, with 85% of incarcerated youth having a disability, and just 37% receiving special education services (Anspach, 2017).

A study conducted by the Journal of Criminal Justice concluded that “incarcerated youths with higher levels of educational achievement are more likely to return to school after release, and those youths who returned to and attended school regularly were less likely to be rearrested within 12 and 24 months (Blomberg, 2012).

In large incarceration facilities, classes are typically much larger than in public schools, more likely to be organized by age over ability, offer fewer subjects, and are far less rigorous than those of other schools (Walke, 2018).

Both as a result of trauma experienced in the juvenile justice system and the subpar education received within discussed previously, youth who experience incarceration suffer a deterioration in employment prospects. Most studies have found that incarceration increases the length of unemployment, reduces the probability of employment, erodes wages and earnings, and exacerbates turnovers (Apel, 2010).



Decarceration, opposite to incarceration, is the movement to eliminate incarceration facilities such as prisons as unsuitable for human inhabitation, and contrary to human rights. The incarceration infrastructure, for which the United States “pays approximately $80 billion per year to incarcerate, control and supervise over 6 million people” is seen as representing “beliefs in oppression, punishment, and dehumanization” that are based in racism and oppression, no longer viable in today’s society (Jacobs and Van Buren, 2020).


Normalization proposes that people have the right to housing that approximates the dwelling typical of the given society, based on the proposition that the quality of life increases as one’s access to culturally typical activities and settings increases. Normalization advocates for dwellings like apartments and houses, where inhabitants control their own territory, and have furniture and materials domestic in character. (Landesman and Butterfield, 1987).

Continuum of Care

“A continuum of care is an array of meaningful non- residential community-based programs, supports, resources and services specifically designed to meet the individual needs of young people and their families in their homes.” These services provide youth and families with what is needed at different stages of family life to “keep young people out of the juvenile justice system and confinement.” (National Collaboration for Youth, 2018).

Trauma-Informed Care

Up to 50% of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prior to incarceration, with over 90% of juvenile detainees experiencing at least one traumatic incident (Ford, 2007). The consideration of trauma is vital in the creation of youth services and facilities: “A trauma-informed system is not just about raising awareness, but changing behavior, actions, and responses” (Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, 2013). The approach requires being mindful so as not to re-traumatize youth or introduce additional trauma.


Mental Health

Mental health affects all aspects of a youth’s life. An estimated 13% of those under 21 experience mental health issues in Minnesota (about 1 in 10 nationally) (Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health, 2016). Mental health issues and trauma have been found to have negative effects on mental, physical, social, and emotional development of youth, and increases the risk of life-long psychiatric and health issues (Ford, 2007).

Youth with mental health problems are more likely to be involved in the justice system. The prison system has often failed to meet the physical, mental, and developmental needs of youth offenders. With around 1,100 youth in Minnesota admitted per year to DOC-licensed facilities, the mental health of a significant number of youth are potentially affected by incarceration (Results First, 2017).

Although mandated by law, mental health counseling, life and communication skills, and anger management, are provided to only about half the youth in the juvenile justice system nationally, with hypotheses about the low usage rates ranging from both a lack of trust in authority and under- resourced services (Young, 2007).


Youth involved in the justice system are more likely to experience problems with drug addiction: nationwide, 1.9 million of the 2.4 million youth (79%) arrested in 2000 reported a substance-abuse problem, compared to an estimated 7.7% in Minnesota, or 9.1% of all adolescents nationally (Behavioral Health Barometer, 2019). A cycle of “continued and serious contact with the juvenile justice system” seems to be triggered by involvement with drugs or alcohol (Young, 2007).

A national survey found that substance abuse treatment was provided in 66% of larger, state-funded facilities, and in 56% of community-based facilities, with “the number of youth attending treatment [...] on any given day was very low” (Young, 2007).


Familial Support & Poverty

Through the formation of developmental relationships, “young people develop the character strengths to discover who they are, gain the ability to shape their own lives, and learn how to interact with and contribute to others” (Search Institute, 2015). The research team found that the lack of a spectrum of care demonstrated that the problems facing youth were also familial, neighborhood, and societal problems.

Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Research findings on youth experiencing homelessness indicate increasingly poor outcomes, constituting an epidemic. The estimated nightly 4,080 youth experiencing homelessness in Minnesota are particularly at risk of incarceration, dependence on public assistance, out-of- wedlock births, and victimization (Wilder Research, 2013). Additionally, foster care youth experience poorer outcomes later in life; in Minnesota, of the 2,000 children who “age out” of the foster care system annually, 38% have no plan for health insurance, a job, housing, or a driver’s license. Over 50% of Minnesota’s youth experiencing homelessness have been in foster care at some point, closely linking homelessness and foster care (Wilder Research, 2013). Unemployed transition aged youth are especially vulnerable to housing instability. The 713 units for the 4,080 nightly unhoused youth in Minnesota show a lack of resources for addressing this issue (Wilder Research, 2013).

Youth Housing in Justice Facilities

Research demonstrates that community treatment is more effective than residential placement for justice involved youth. In response, the Hennepin County Department of Corrections and Community Rehabilitation (DOCCR) has worked to increase the use of community interventions and has reduced the number of youth in residential placements by over 50% since 2014 (Robert F. Kennedy, 2020). Nonetheless, many young people remain in residential settings that provide treatment for mental health, sexually harmful behaviors, and violent offenses.

In distant facilities, the lack of access to transportation makes it difficult for families to visit. Youth are unable to attend their local high schools and provided limited educational resources. Additionally, upon release, their treatment is disrupted by not having access to counselors and therapists they had been working with.

A conclusion drawn from discussions with corrections staff and existing literature is that high secure facilities are often unnecessary for a majority of occupants, resulting in stigmatization by the community.


Prevention and Treatment Over Incarceration

Our research and existing studies reveal that incarceration is no longer an appropriate way to address youth who exhibit destructive behaviors. Instead, they should receive preventative treatment, including mental health counseling, community organization participation, and non-incarceration-based housing. The primary takeaway of our research is that treatment and service provision lead to better future outcomes for youth than incarceration.

Job, Training, Childcare, and After-School Services

To prevent youth involvement in the justice system and ensure future success, youth and their families must be provided services, including jobs, educational and career training, childcare, and recreational activities. Services should be equitably located in communities proportionate to the issues they face. For example, in Hennepin County, more access should be provided to youth in Black communities, where there are higher risk factors. Utilizing trauma-informed care is extremely important in the provision of such services to ensure effective results.

Family Services

As part of a continuum of care, service provision and treatment for youth is much more successful when it incorporates family support and local community support. This directly relates to the location of services and treatment options, in addition to the continuation of services post- treatment and post-transition to adulthood. Ongoing involvement of family and community will help promote achievement not only for the youth in question, but also for others involved in their life.

Poverty, Segregation, Racism, and Disparities

Racism and the resulting disparities existent in society contribute to the discriminatory and inequitable practice of youth incarceration. Poverty is a significant risk factor to transition-age youth, and has a direct link with racial inequality, not just in Hennepin County, but worldwide. The issues contributing to juvenile incarceration are a result of the historical and institutionalized racism, segregation, and its resultant poverty, that must be addressed. The student projects tackle these issues in their design.