By Gondles, James A., Jr.
Corrections Today , Vol. 64, No. 6
Growing up in Ponca City, Okla., I did not confront many of the issues that today's youths face. I was not exposed to drugs such as GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) and methamphetamines as today's youths are. I was not exposed to the influence of gangs. And I did not see celebrities from the world of sports being accused of violent crimes or of using drugs, including steroids. It is safe to say that the world has changed.
Juveniles in the United States today live in a world much different from that of my generation. Problems experienced by children now are the products of multiple and sometimes complex sources. Fewer children are raised in two-parent homes. And although the proportion of juveniles living in poverty has recently declined, they still are far more likely to live in poverty today than 20 years ago. Drug and alcohol use is more common and gang involvement has increased.
In 1998, the most recent year statistics are available, more than 81 percent of high school seniors reported trying alcohol and more than half reported using alcohol within the past 30 days. Also in 1998, 54 percent of all seniors said they had at least tried illicit drugs, with marijuana being the most commonly used illicit drug by far.
While sell-reported drug and alcohol use among juveniles has remained stable or only increased slightly during the 1990s, the juvenile arrest rate for drug abuse violations nearly doubled between 1992 and 1996. This reflects a greater effort by law enforcement, as well as by the community, to crack down on illegal drug and alcohol use by our nation's youths.
As with the adult population, a large percentage of juveniles who come into contact with the criminal justice system do so because of their involvement with drugs and alcohol. The proportion of high school seniors who reported breaking the law (for something other than using alcohol or drugs) was greater among drug users than nonusers.
More juveniles come into contact with the nation's criminal justice system today than at any time in our nation's history. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, law enforcement agencies in the United States made 2. …