Report: Blaming Youth for COVID Crime Wave is False
Friday, June 24, 2022
Data from The Sentencing Project showed the share of crimes in the U.S. committed by young people has fallen by more than half in the past two decades.
The findings are in contrast to what the youth-advocacy group calls "false narratives," suggesting a youth violence movement has swept the country since the start of the pandemic.
Sierra Ludington, communications manager for New Mexico Child Advocacy Network, said the state's emphasis on intervention programs has limited the number of juveniles going to correctional facilities.
"Keeping kids with their families and their communities, putting them in restorative justice programs, really indicates that even young people who make a mistake can really become successful adults who contribute to our communities," Ludington asserted.
After most states adopted a "get tough" approach for young offenders in the 1980s, an estimated quarter-million minors were charged as adults each year by the early 2000s, according to Pittsburgh's National Center for Juvenile Justice. The center said the number dropped to about 53,000 in 2019.
Richard Mendel, senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said stress over the past two years could affect future data and perhaps show a pandemic-era increase in youth crime. But he contended returning to outdated correctional methods would be counterproductive.
"This is not a moment to be panicking about youth crime," Mendel asserted. "Especially if that panic is going to lead us to embrace solutions that we know the evidence shows does not work."
Last month, the Child Advocacy Network debuted a series of videos explaining New Mexico's juvenile justice legal process and how young people and families can navigate the system.
Ludington pointed out the videos stress the state code for juveniles is designed to provide a program of supervision, care and rehabilitation.
"Preventing children from facing adult consequences for typical adolescent behavior, as well as giving them an opportunity for rehabilitation, is key," Ludington emphasized. "I can't say it enough, that positive youth development is key."
The new report suggested stronger investments in social and mental health supports in schools and communities could help continue the trend of fewer crimes committed by youth.
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