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Juvenile incarceration rates decreasing


Youth advocates and those who work in fields related to juvenile justice in New Jersey often agree that concerted effort is required to reform the system and reduce the rates of youth incarceration. Though there may be differences of opinion as to the best path forward, there is broad general consensus that America should bring its youth incarceration rates more in line with the rest of the industrial world and pursue other options when confronting juvenile crime.

The vast majority of the youths in question are not being held for violent crimes. In fact, in 2010 only 25 percent of the youth population in confinement were being held for crimes like sexual assault, homicide or robbery. On the other hand, close to 40 percent of the minors incarcerated were there because of less serious offenses such as violation of probation, underage drinking, property crimes without significant loss of value and truancy.

Official government data indicates that the rate of juvenile incarceration hit its peak in 1995. At that time there were approximately 107,637 young people confined on one typical day. By 2010 this number had declined to 70,792. Most of the reduction in the rate has come in recent years, and there is evidence that leads experts to conclude that this trend may be accelerating. Even though America has been incarcerating fewer minors, experts aver that there has been no concomitant rise in juvenile crime detected.

Although many legal professionals remain committed to finding solutions to juvenile crime that do not involve imprisonment, it may still be best to adopt an active defense when any minor is accused of a specific crime. An attorney may be able to answer any relevant questions about the criminal law process, as well as providing representation for their clients when needed.

Source: AECF, "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States", Feb. 1, 2013

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