When youth get in trouble with the law, it’s important to take a level-headed approach that helps them become contributing members of society while ensuring community safety. Unfortunately, our current juvenile justice system is like an exceptionally difficult maze, with too many paths in and too few ways out. But just entering the maze can have devastating consequences for society at large and for the young people themselves. As stated in a report by the National Institute of Justice and the Harvard Kennedy School:
There is evidence that youth who have been institutionalized get into worse trouble, are more likely to commit worse crimes, are less employable, are more likely to be on a path toward lifelong failure, and are more likely to pass their problems on to their children.
According to the report, state data show that:
- 70 to 80 percent of incarcerated youth are rearrested within two to three years (Mendel, 2011);
- incarcerating youth may actually increase recidivism; and that
- the financial costs of incarceration are enormous, with 34 states reporting incarceration costs of $100,000 or more per youth.