Perspective

By Bell, Carl C. | Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Perspective


Bell, Carl C., Clinical Psychiatry News


Analyses of official crime statistics reveal a sharp increase in the arrest rates for homicide from 1983 to 1993, especially among youth. In response to increased numbers of homicide arrests, policies aimed at getting tough on youth crime were enacted, gun control laws were passed, boot camps were established, and children were waived from the juvenile justice systems into adult criminal courts.

From my perspective, those policies were grave errors, as they did not take into account an understanding of youth development and they failed to take a scientific, public health approach. Instead, those policies took a wrong-headed, reactionary, criminal justice approach to youth violence. Despite the lack of evidence suggesting that body slamming the adolescent through the criminal justice system is effective, it is the approach that continues to prevail.

More than 100 years ago, the Institute for Juvenile Research began as the first child-guidance clinic in the United States, and the research of the day clearly established that the reasons that youth were delinquent were neither genetic nor biological. Rather, the juveniles' context--such as homelessness and poverty--was driving their behavior. …

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