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Report Urges Supports for Young People, Not Tough-on-Crime Policies

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022   

New research found reports of skyrocketing youth crime are not only unfounded, but are fueling calls for stricter punishments.

Data from The Sentencing Project showed the share of crimes in the U.S. committed by young people fell by more than half in the past two decades. It also decreased in all major types of offenses in 2020.

Richard Mendel, senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said there has been alarming news coverage and rhetoric from politicians regarding the false crime wave, and it is important for states to continue working to divert kids from the justice system, rather than returning to more tough-on-crime policies.

"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 that the evidence shows do not work."

According to the report, juvenile detention and transfers to adult court can worsen youth outcomes. Instead, Mendel encouraged reforms to help drive young people away from delinquency, including reducing reliance on youth confinement and making stronger investments in social and mental-health supports in schools and communities.

In March, Congress held a hearing about a spike in carjackings in big cities such as Chicago.

Clark Peters, associate professor of social work at the University of Missouri, believes coverage of the surge as youth crime is missing critical context.

"Very few carjackings are actually prosecuted," Peters pointed out. "So any claims that any increases in carjackings are due to young people engaging in this just isn't borne out in the data."

Peters added young people's brains are still developing into their 20s, and it is crucial to keep them in their communities rather than in the system.

"People do better in their communities, they do better when they remain connected with their families," Peters observed. "They will improve by getting better education, getting access to jobs."


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