Are Adult Decisions Doing Kids Harm in the Juvenile Justice System?

Posted February 9, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog adultdecisionsvideo 2015

The Foun­da­tion has pro­duced a brief video to high­light how adult deci­sion mak­ers in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, look­ing to address and reha­bil­i­tate coun­ter­pro­duc­tive actions in young peo­ple, iron­i­cal­ly make deci­sions that instead dam­age young lives and open the door to youth becom­ing a greater threat to pub­lic safety.

The video, Deci­sions,” depicts sit­u­a­tions most of us can relate to and many of us have per­son­al­ly expe­ri­enced. Though the scenes in the video are staged, they mir­ror real events in count­less com­mu­ni­ties every day. Young peo­ple are often arrest­ed and placed into cus­tody for minor mis­be­hav­ior even though research shows this dam­ages their futures, makes their behav­ior prob­lems worse and does noth­ing to improve pub­lic safe­ty – at great cost to taxpayers.

A recent opin­ion piece by Newt Gin­grich, for­mer speak­er of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and a Right on Crime advo­cate, high­lights the impor­tance of pro­vid­ing appro­pri­ate con­se­quences that match youth­ful indis­cre­tions. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant when we know that doing the oppo­site can result in dis­mal out­comes for kids. 

Sev­er­al stud­ies, includ­ing this one by the Amer­i­can Soci­o­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, show that youth arrest­ed dur­ing their high school years are twice as like­ly to drop out of school as youth with iden­ti­cal back­grounds and self-report­ed mis­be­hav­ior who were not arrested. 

Toward the end of the video, the nar­ra­tor explains: Adults in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem make deci­sions every day that deeply affect young peo­ple, most of whom pose lit­tle risk to pub­lic safe­ty. These deci­sions can change their lives for the worse by remov­ing kids from their homes for what is often typ­i­cal ado­les­cent behav­ior.” The nar­ra­tor con­tin­ues: But it doesn’t have to be this way.” And adult deci­sion mak­ers in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem have to be remind­ed of that fact.

Learn more about the Foun­da­tion’s work in juve­nile justice

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