The congressional justification for cracking down on juvenile lawbreakers and giving states incentives to do the same is not borne out by trends in youth violence, according to a recent report by a bipartisan crime policy think-tank.
Democratic and Republican proposals now pending in Washington would make more punitive the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of children as young as 13. But these bills target a wave of so-called “super-predators” that just doesn’t exist, according to the Washington-based Campaign for an Effective Crime Policy. In fact, youth crime rates, including homicide, are way down, they report.
While it is true that juvenile crime rates increased 30 percent from 1990 to 1993, the CECP reports a lesser-known stat: the same index of violent crimes among kids 17 and under actually dropped back to the 1990 level by 1995. Since the number of juveniles killed by firearms has gone up, however, the campaign urges policymakers to pay more attention to illegal gun trafficking.
The report’s authors also think that sending teens to adult prisons will onlt create career criminals. “While a relative handful of persistent juvenile offenders may be appropriately referred to adult court,” they write, “this should be decided in juvenile court on a case by case basis, rather than by automatic transfer based on the charges.” For a copy of the report call (202) 628-1903.