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Report: Youth Crime Way Down in Last 20 Years in NH, U.S.

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Thursday, June 23, 2022   

New research found reports of skyrocketing youth crime are not only unfounded, but are fueling calls for stricter punishments.

Data from the Sentencing Project showed the share of crimes in the U.S. committed by young people fell by more than half in the past two decades. It also decreased in all major types of offenses in 2020.

Richard Mendel, senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said there has been alarming news coverage and rhetoric from politicians regarding a false crime wave, and it is important for states to continue working to divert kids from the justice system, rather than returning to more tough-on-crime policies.

"This is not a moment to be panicking about youth crime," Mendel asserted. "Especially if that panic is going to lead us to embrace solutions that we know that the evidence shows do not work."

According to the report, juvenile detention and transfers to adult court can worsen youth outcomes. Instead, Mendel encouraged reforms to help drive young people away from delinquency, including reducing reliance on youth confinement and making stronger investments in social and mental-health supports in schools and communities.

Joseph Ribsam, director of the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families, said the number of open cases in the juvenile probation office has gone from 1,100-1,200 in 2017, to the low 900s in recent years.

He credited diversionary programs being implemented in the state. One connects kids who interact with law enforcement with services they may need before they ever go to court. Another is a children's system of care for behavioral health.

"Believe it or not, New Hampshire really didn't have a children's behavioral health-care system just five or six years ago," Ribsam recounted. "We now have what is a relatively strong system, serving kids through what we call a high-fidelity wraparound program."

Ribsam noted young people's brains are still developing until about age 25.

"That impacts decisions around impulsivity, it impacts the way that they hyper-prioritize things like peer pressure and peer support," Ribsam explained. "Sometimes their behaviors, they might not make sense to adults, and that's a biological thing; it's not just something that kids want to do."


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