Over 2.2 million juveniles are arrested each year in America. That’s equivalent to arresting the average student body population at 3,116 high schools each year. Yes, you read correctly, I said “high schools.” To arrest this many teens is dangerous to society.
These students come from all economic backgrounds and face harsh realities of a prison system that doesn’t understand their unique needs. Eighty percent of juveniles released from adult prisons will re-offend. America, we have a problem.
Writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Pat Nolan (President of Justice Fellowship) and Marc Levin (Director of Texas Public Policy Foundation) discuss the problem and solution to juvenile justice in the states.
We know from experience that teens and adult prisons don’t mix. Teens placed in adult prisons are more likely to be raped, commit suicide and more negatively impacts the community. Dr. John di Iulio has written, “most kids who get into serious trouble with the law need adult guidance. And they won’t find suitable role models in prison. Jailing youth with adult felons under Spartan conditions will merely produce more street gladiators.”
Justice Fellowship (JF) believes public safety should be a top priority, but teens must also be held accountable. Our main goal in juvenile justice should be more well-adjusted teenagers upon release from prison who create safer communities.
Nolan and Levin write:
Crime — and youth crime in particular — should be dealt with by leveraging the power of families and communities to reform troubled youths whenever possible. This is best done through giving localities the flexibility they need to place more youth into rigorous, effective community-based programs and providing them with necessary mental health treatment, rather than costly and ineffective state institutions.
All states must reconsider locking juveniles away and instead look to proven, cost-effective alternatives. If we do this for our teens today, we will see a return on investment tomorrow.
Visit Justice Fellowship’s Juvenile Justice page for more information.