Not Getting Them Young

Ted Gest

in Crime and Politics

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780195103434
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833887 | DOI:
Not Getting Them Young

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Violent crime is committed disproportionately by young men, but government never has conducted a coherent, aggressive campaign against serious juvenile delinquency. The fragmentation has been evident since the late 1960s, when federal authority was divided between health and justice agencies. A 1974 law created a federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to take charge. The law set progressive standards, but the administration of Ronald Reagan tried to kill the agency in the early 1980s and downgraded it after Congress refused to end funding. The Reagan Justice Department did forge an alliance with the MacArthur Foundation to start a long‐term study of juvenile crime's causes. Meanwhile, a steady increase in arrests of juveniles prompted to require that more teen suspects be tried in adult courts, even when studies showed the tactic ineffective in preventing repeat criminality. Congressional Republicans helped enact a large “juvenile accountability” program designed to provide federal aid to programs that got tough on young lawbreakers. Some measures failed on a broad scale, such as ‘boot camps’ aimed at instilling more discipline in delinquents. Despite many promising crime prevention programs, the Congress under Republicans control starting in 1995 generally refused to fund them. Juvenile crime arrests declined sharply since the mid‐1990s, but there was no solid proof of what caused the change, whether government programs, the improved economy, or a lower number of teens in the population.

Keywords: boot camps; crime prevention; Justice Department; juvenile accountability; juvenile delinquency; MacArthur Foundation; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Ronald Reagan; recidivism; violent crime

Chapter.  11827 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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