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Can Music Be Deterrent to Juvenile Crime?

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The number of young people locked up in Illinois has dropped by more than 60 percent in the past few years. (Rainerzufall1234/Wikimedia Commons)
The number of young people locked up in Illinois has dropped by more than 60 percent in the past few years. (Rainerzufall1234/Wikimedia Commons)
 By Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL, Contact
November 20, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – There has been a dramatic drop in the number of young people being committed to prison in Illinois and across the nation.

Between 2006 and 2015, the rate of youths being sent to out-of-home placement by juvenile courts fell 50 percent, according to data recently released by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Illinois' numbers were well above that at 61 percent.

Advocates applaud those numbers and encourage more focus on treatment and diversion programs for young people who have gotten into trouble.

Victor Goines, director of Jazz Studies at Northwestern University, maintains music can help do that.

"Music makes better people, through discipline, through collaboration, through communication,” he states. “So what I'm teaching to my students, it's all about learning how to make decisions, wise decisions that are not only just good for the individual but for a group of people, because that's some of the challenges we face in the world today."

The United States incarcerates more youths than any other developed nation and for longer periods of time, with no evidence that these efforts at correction make a difference.

Goines says in recent years, arts organizations have stepped forward to act as partners to bring positive youth development projects to juvenile justice.

Goines, a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and fellow musician Wynton Marsalis both travel to schools around the state to introduce children to jazz and to answer questions from them.

Goines says there was a time when children were encouraged to play, but now much of their free time is spent on smartphones, computers and television.

"It was something that actually sparked their minds in curiosity when they'd have to think and figure it out, try to figure it out in a way that's very creative instead of just sticking them in front of something that just told them what to do," he explains.

The juvenile justice report showed decreases in juvenile imprisonment of at least 50 percent in 24 states, and that's matched by a 49 percent drop in juvenile violent crime arrests over the same period.

Kentucky was the only nearby state that had a higher drop in juvenile incarceration than Illinois. Missouri was lowest in the nation.

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