To prevent youth violence, invest in young people

Earlier this month, a Walgreens executive admitted that he “may have cried too much” in 2022 over shoplifting concerns at its stores. But Walgreens wasn’t alone. Heavily boosted by the upcoming midterm elections, 2022 was the year everyone started talking about crime again, much of it by young criminals. With Republicans on the offensive, even many Democrats began to sell a tougher stance on crime, supporting a massive increase in police funding and investment in juvenile and adult prisons. Meanwhile, cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia have curfews in place to crack down on youth violence.

But as Walgreens executives have admitted, much of the evolving narrative about rising youth crime is just hype. doing. And in any case, research shows that incarceration rates have little to no relationship with trends in crime in general or violent crime in particular. As legislatures across the country begin their 2023 session, our leaders instead commit to long-term investments in young people and their communities to prevent and break the vicious cycle of violence. is needed.

Way back in the 1990s, heavy spending was spent on tougher crime-fighting programs aimed at youth of color that ultimately proved ineffective. Such policies only helped reinvest public money from schools and civic infrastructure into prisons and prisons, with little benefit to society. U.S. taxpayers now spend about $80 billion annually to incarcerate criminal offenders, many of whom are young people of color.

Using that money to invest in neighborhood and non-profit programs that help young people is more likely to forestall crime and violence in our communities than anything else we can do. .

For the past 20 years, we have worked directly with and researched grassroots advocacy groups serving Latino, Indigenous and other young people of color. Rally in New York City. La Plasita Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Their experience reveals what can really work in reducing youth violence: engaging young people in community service, ensuring peer and adult mentoring support, cultural healing and Benefit from mental health practice, complete degrees and certification programs, and help achieve gainful employment in a good work environment. Less likely to get involved or get involved.

Research from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice demonstrates the effectiveness of these approaches and calls for a fundamental rethink of how we invest in responding to youth violence and crime.

Breaking the cycle of violence and crime is no easy task. Once integrated into society, many of these young people give up committing crime for the rest of their lives. According to recent data from the Prison Policy Initiative, one-third of her released inmates still have not secured employment four years after their release. Only 40% are able to find a full-time job.

Largely as a result, New York University’s Brennan Center estimates that incarceration costs the nation more than $350 billion each year due to its long-term impact on diminished or unrealized economic potential. The effects of these losses are most directly borne by the incarcerated individuals themselves, but their effects extend to their families and communities as well, subjecting them to persistent poverty and recidivism.

In contrast, recent reports suggest that a better way to move neighborhoods historically affected by crime and violence forward is to be community-centered and aimed at building assets and wealth in the areas most at risk. It reveals that it depends on a new investment model that

Indeed, new data reveal that a major pocket of the overall prison population in the country has declined in recent years. That’s good news. Accordingly, it is essential to fundamentally rethink how to better combat the root causes of crime and violence across society.

Moving forward, as policy leaders ponder new limits on easy access to guns, criminal activity, and community violence, we will focus on youth and community-led investment in national legal and policy responses. must be readjusted. Community groups have effectively tackled youth crime and violence for decades by providing real alternatives to the most at-risk youth. National policy leaders, philanthropic investors by investing in their proven efforts and approaches, building funds to increase their capacity and scale, and helping them focus on prevention rather than punishment , and the larger society can achieve much better results.

Each of these groups and networks shows that the secret to change is simple. To prevent youth crime and violence, we need to invest in young people.

Albino Garcia, Jr. is the founder and director of the La Plajita Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The La Plageta Institute is a leading youth development organization focused on Latino and Indigenous Communities Healing, violence prevention, and social enterprise. Henry AJ Ramos is a Senior Fellow of The Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy and author of a Latino-focused trilogy on youth violence prevention published by Arte Público Press, based at the University of Houston. is a co-editor of

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