watched the documentary, When Kids Get Life, read the two opposing viewpoint articles on whether or not the juvenile system is too harsh or too lenient.
What are your thoughts on the two opposing viewpoints? Provide thorough explanations to the following questions. (1) Which viewpoint do you most agree with, and why? (2) Also, explain why you do not agree with the counter viewpoint. Support your answers with course material! You must also discuss relevant material from When Kids Get Life. (3) Of the juveniles featured in the documentary, which do you think most deserved a different disposition/sentence? Explain why you think this and what disposition/sentence you think would have been more appropriate.
Please answer all questions posed in the assignment in your initial thread (minimum 300 words)
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watched the documentary, When Kids Get Life, read the two opposing viewpoint articles on whether or not the juvenile system is too harsh or too lenient. What are your thoughts on the two opposing vie
The Juvenile Justice System Is Too Lenient on Violent OffendersLinda J. Collier Linda J. Collier has served as guardian ad litem, an advocate for children whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court, in the Philadelphia juvenile justice system. She is a lawyer and teaches a course on juvenile delinquency at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Source Database: At Issue: Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults? Young offenders commit violent acts at increasingly young ages, and statistics show the numbers rising at alarming rates–a 60 percent increase in crimes committed by juveniles since 1964. For this reason an antiquated juvenile justice system needs revamping. Historically, the juvenile justice system was intended to protect children from society and save children gone astray. Today it continues to operate under the principle of what is best for the child. This system is inappropriate for violent children who commit adult crimes. Lowering the age at which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults is a step in the right direction, but the practice should be automatic and nationwide. When prosecutor Brent Davis said he wasn’t sure if he could charge 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson as adults after [the 1998] slaughter in Jonesboro, Ark., I cringed. But not for the reasons you might think. I knew he was formulating a judgment based on laws that have not had a major overhaul for more than 100 years. I knew his hands were tied by the longstanding creed that juvenile offenders, generally defined as those under the age of 18, are to be treated rather than punished. I knew he would have to do legal cartwheels to get the case out of the juvenile system. But most of all, I cringed because today’s juvenile suspects–even those who are accused of committing the most violent crimes–are still regarded by the law as children first and criminals second.Increasingly, Children Commit Violent and Deadly Crimes As astonishing as the Jonesboro events were, this is hardly the first time that children with access to guns and other weapons have brought tragedy to a school. Only weeks before the Jonesboro shootings, three girls in Paducah, Ky., were killed in their school lobby when a 14-year-old classmate allegedly opened fire on them. Authorities said he had several guns with him, and the alleged murder weapon was one of seven stolen from a neighbor’s garage. And the day after the Jonesboro shootings, a 14-year-old in Daly City, Calif., was charged as a juvenile after he allegedly fired at his middle-school principal with a semiautomatic handgun. It’s not a new or unusual phenomenon for children to commit violent crimes at younger and younger ages, but it often takes a shocking incident to draw our attention to a trend already in progress. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crimes committed by juveniles have increased by 60 percent since 1984. Where juvenile delinquency was once limited to truancyor vandalism, juveniles now are more likely to be the perpetrators of serious and deadly crimes such as arson, aggravated assault, rape and murder. And these violent offenders increasingly include those as young as the Jonesboro suspects. Since 1965, the number of 12-year-olds arrested for violent crimes has doubled and the number of 13- and 14-year-olds has tripled, according to government statistics. Those statistics are a major reason why we need to revamp our antiquated juvenile justice system. Nearly every state, including Arkansas, has laws that send most youthful violent offenders to the juvenile courts, where they can only be found “delinquent” and confined in a juvenile facility (typically not past age 21). In recent years, many states have enacted changes in their juvenile crime laws, and some have lowered the age at which a juvenile can be tried as an adult for certain violent crimes. Virginia, for example, has reduced its minimum age to 14, and suspects accused of murder and aggravated malicious wounding are automatically waived to adult court. Illinois is now sending some 13-year-olds to adult court after a hearing in juvenile court. In Kansas, a 1996 law allows juveniles as young as 10 to be prosecuted as adults in some cases. These are steps in the right direction, but too many states still treat violent offenders under16 as juveniles who belong in the juvenile system. My views are not those of a frustrated prosecutor. I have represented children as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, or temporary guardian, in the Philadelphia juvenile justice system. Loosely defined, a guardian ad litem is responsible for looking after the best interest of a neglected or rebellious child who has come into the juvenile courts. It is often a humbling experience as I try to help children whose lives have gone awry, sometimes because of circumstances beyond their control. The Juvenile System neither Treats nor Punishes Effectively My experience has made me believe that the system is doing a poor job at treatment as well as punishment. One of my “girls,” a chronic truant, was a foster child who longed to be adopted. She often talked of how she wanted a pink room, a frilly bunk bed and sisters with whom she could share her dreams. She languished in foster care from ages 2 to 13 because her drug-ravaged mother would not relinquish her parental rights. Initially, the girl refused to tolerate the half-life that the state had maintained was in her best interest. But as it became clear that we would never convince her mother to give up her rights, the girl became a frequent runaway. Eventually she ended up pregnant, wandering from place to place and committing adult crimes to survive. No longer a child, not quite a woman, she is the kind of teenager offender for whom the juvenile system has little or nothing to offer. A brief history: Proceedings in juvenile justice began in 1890 in Chicago, where the original mandate was to save wayward children and protect them from the ravages of society. The system called for children to be processed through an appendage of the family court. By design, juveniles were to be kept away from the court’s criminal side, the district attorney and adult correctional institutions. Typically, initial procedures are informal, non-threatening and not open to public scrutiny. A juvenile suspect is interviewed by an “intake” officer who determines the child’s fate. The intake officer may issue a warning, lecture and release; he may detain the suspect; or, he may decide to file a petition, subjecting the child to juvenile “adjudication” proceedings. If the law allows, the intake officer may make a recommendation that the juvenile be transferred to adult criminal court. Adjudication is similar to a hearing, rather than a trial, although the juvenile may be represented by counsel and a juvenile prosecutor will represent the interests of the community. It is important to note that throughout the proceedings, no matter which side of the fence the parties are on, the operating principle is that everyone is working in the best interests of the child. Juvenile court judges do not issue findings of guilt, but decide whether a child is delinquent. If delinquency is found, the judge must decide the child’s fate. Should the child be sent back to the family- assuming there is one? Declare him or her “in need of supervision,” which brings in the intense help of social services? Remove the child from the family and place him or her in foster care? Confine the child to a state institution for juvenile offenders? This system was developed with truants, vandals and petty thieves in mind. But this model is not appropriate for the violent juvenile offender of today. Detaining a rapist or murderer in a juvenile facility until the age of 18 or 21 isn’t even a slap on the hand. If a juvenile is accused of murdering, raping or assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, the suspect should automatically be sent to adult criminal court. What’s to ponder?A Major Overhaul of Juvenile Justice Laws is Needed With violent crime becoming more prevalent among the junior set, it’s a mystery why there hasn’t been a major overhaul of juvenile justice laws long before now. Will the Jonesboro shootings be the incident that makes us take a hard look at the current system? When it became evident that the early release of Jesse Timmendequas–whose murder of 7-year-old MeganKanka in New Jersey sparked national outrage–had caused unwarranted tragedy, legislative action was swift. Now New Jersey has Megan’s Law, which requires the advance notification of a sexual predator’s release into a neighborhood. Other states have followed suit. It is unequivocally clear that the same type of mandate is needed to establish a uniform minimum age for trying juveniles as adults. As it stands now, there is no consistency in state laws governing waivers to adult court. One reason for this lack of uniformity is the absence of direction from the federal government or Congress. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reportsthat adjacent states such as New York and Pennsylvania respond differently to 16-year-old criminals, with New York tending to treat offenders of that age as adults and Pennsylvania handling them in the juvenile justice system. Federal prosecution of juveniles is not totally unheard of, but it is uncommon. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that during 1994, at least 65 juveniles were referred to the attorney general for transfer to adult status. In such cases, the U.S. attorney’s office must certify a substantial federal interest in the case and show that one of the following is true: The state does not have jurisdiction; the state refuses to assume jurisdiction or the state does not have adequate services for juvenile offenders; the offense is a violent felony, drug trafficking or firearm offense as defined by the U.S. Code. Exacting hurdles, but not insurmountable. In the Jonesboro case, prosecutor Davis has been exploring ways to enlist the federal court’s jurisdiction. Whatever happens, federal prosecutions of young offenders are clearly not the long-term answer. The states must act. So as far as I can see, the next step is clear: Children who knowingly engage in adult conduct and adult crimes should automatically be subject to adult rules and adult prison time. [In a juvenile hearing open to the public, Golden and Johnson were given the maximum penalty, confinement in juvenile detention until age 21, with the possibility of early release.] Source Citation: * “The Juvenile Justice System Is Too Lenient on Violent Offenders” by Linda J. Collier. Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults? Judy Layzell, Ed. At Issue Series. Greenhaven Press, 2005. * Linda J. Collier, “Adult Crime, Adult Time; Outdated Juvenile Laws Thwart Justice,” Washington Post, March 29, 1998, p. C1. Copyright (c) 1998 by The Washington PostCompany/Washington Post Writers Group. Reproduced by permission of the author. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 11 January 2006; http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC>
watched the documentary, When Kids Get Life, read the two opposing viewpoint articles on whether or not the juvenile system is too harsh or too lenient. What are your thoughts on the two opposing vie
Juvenile Offenders Have Been Unfairly Demonized Linda S. Beres and Thomas D. GriffithLinda S. Beres is a professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Thomas D. Griffith is John B. Milliken Professor of Taxation, University of Southern California Law School.Source Database: At Issue: Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults? Demonizing youth while framing crime control as a “war” encourages a climate of police brutality and draconian anticrime measures. One such measure is the proposal to turn over to prosecutors the decision whether to try fourteen-year-olds as adults. Furthermore, detailed descriptions of young men of color, especially those suspected of gang membership, may be entered into a secret database not open to the public, leaving the youths vulnerable to police harassment. Ultimately, reliance on extreme measures such as these discourages less punitive, often more cost-effective methods of crime control. Youth in general, and young minority males in particular, often are demonized by legislators, the media, scholars, and the public at large. These attacks reinforce stereotypes and place a particularly heavy burden on young Black and Latino males. Negative images of youth also may inhibit the adoption of the most effective programs to reduce crime, especially in disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods. Viewing young minority males as the enemy fosters illegal police conduct like that exhibited by the Rampart CRASH unit. Indeed, the name itself, Community Response to Street Hoodlums, evokes images of incorrigible offenders for whom rehabilitation programs are fruitless. Conceptualizing the crime-control mission in military terms–“War on Drugs” and “War on Gangs”–can encourage an “ends justifies the means” attitude. The resulting police conduct can vary from the oft-reported false testifying of officers regarding the circumstances surrounding a stop or search, to the more extreme case of shooting and then framing an innocent man. This same attitude can lead prosecutors and judges to accept questionable police testimony. In addition, it can lead voters to pass draconian anti-crime measures directed against young offenders, such as Proposition 21. Although titled the “Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act of 1998,” Prop. 21 was approved by the voters in an initiative referendum on March 7, 2000. Prop. 21 provided several “get tough” measures for participants in gang-related activities. It also transferred from judges to prosecutors the power to decide whether offenders as young as fourteen would be triedas adults or as juveniles for certain serious crimes. An analysis of Prop. 21 is beyond the scope of this article. It is revealing, however, to examine its “Finding and Declarations.” These include:* “While overall crime is declining, juvenile crime has become a larger, more ominous threat.” * “From 1983 to 1992 … murders committed by juveniles more than doubled.” * “Criminal street gangs have become more violent, bolder, and better organized in recent years.” * “Vigorous enforcement and the adoption of more meaningful criminal sanctions, including [Three Strikes] has resulted in a substantial and consistent four year decline in overall crime. Violent juvenile crime has proven most resistant to this positive trend.” * “Gang-related crimes pose a unique threat to the public because of gang members’ organization and solidarity.” * “Dramatic changes are needed in the way we treat juvenile criminals, criminal street gangs, and the confidentiality of the juvenile records of violent offenders if we are to avoid the predicted, unprecedented surge in juvenile and gang violence.”Draconian Measures Based on False Assumptions In short, the backers of Prop. 21 argue that tougher penalties for youth crime are needed because violent crime by youths, and especially by youths in gangs, is increasing now and will likely increase even more rapidly in the near future. Prop. 21’s “finding” of a “predicted, unprecedentedsurge in juvenile and gang violence” is based on two factual assumptions:* The number of juveniles in the “crime-prone ages between 12 and 17” is going to increase significantly in the near future. * These youths will be much more dangerous than those of prior generations. It is far from clear; however, that the ages 12 to 17 are the “crime-prone ages” or that the coming youth cohort is more dangerous than prior cohorts. Are serious violent crimes most likely to be committed by individuals between the ages of 12 and 17? Homicide arrest rates are highest from age 17 to 21 with the peaks occurring at ages 18 and 19. Homicides by youths under the age of 16 are relatively rare. A similar pattern occurs for violent crime generally. Arrest statistics, moreover, overstate the extent of youth crime because teenagers tend to commit crimes in groups. Arrests for violent crimes peak slightly earlier than arrests for homicide, largely due to arrests of youths for aggravated assault. Violent crime arrests are highest from age 17 to 19 with the peak occurring at age 18. Contrary to the claims of Prop. 21, the most crime prone ages are 17 to 21, not ages 12 to 17. Nevertheless, it is true that 17-year-old youths and, to a lesser extent, 16-year-old youths do commit crimes at a fairly high rate, similar to that of individuals in their early 20s. But the backers of Prop. 21 mislead the public when they lump the crime rates for 16 and 17-year-olds together with the much lower crime rates for 12 to 14-year-olds. Legislation to Require Trying Youths as Adults Perhaps more frightening than the projected growth in the number of young teenagers is the prediction that these teenagers will be much more likely to commit serious violent crime than teenagers in the past. The most prominent advocate of this claim is John J. DiIulio, Jr. [who has recanted the most extreme predictions made in his 1995 book The Coming of the Super-Predators]. As youth crime rose in the late 1980s and early 1990s, DiIulio’s warning of the emergence of a new, more dangerous type of youthful offender was widely reported in the popular press. DiIulio continued to sound the alarm even as violent youth crime was beginning to decline in the mid-1990s. DiIulio coined the lurid phrase “super-predators” to describe this new breed of juvenile offenders. The image evoked was one of individuals devoid of humanity: “[A] few years ago, I forswore research inside juvenile lock-ups. The buzz of impulsive violence, the vacant stares and smiles, and the remorseless eyes were at once too frightening and too depressing (my God, these are children!) for me to pretend to ‘study’ them.” These super-predators lack the normal human desires for affection, companionship, and respect. And unlike other humans, they are impervious to punishment: On the horizon, therefore, are tens of thousands of severely morally impoverished juvenile super-predators…. They fear neither the stigma of arrest nor the pain of imprisonment…. In prison or out, the things that super-predators get by their criminal behavior–sex, drugs, money–are their own immediate rewards. Nothing else matters to them. The warnings of DiIulio and others formed the intellectual underpinning of the hyper-punitive approach to crime control that led to legislation like Prop. 21 and “Three Strikes” in California. At the national level, DiIulio’s terminology was embraced by U.S. Representative Bill McCollum when he introduced a crime bill, the “Violent Youth Predator Act of 1996,” which would have required adult prosecution of children as young as thirteen for certain offenses.Exaggerated Claims of Youth Crime A coming flood of remorseless young plunderers, killers, and rapists who cannot be deterred or rehabilitated certainly is frightening. But how real is the threat? Homicide arrests in California for offenders under 20 years of age more than doubled between 1986 and 1991.2 Youth homicide arrests then were cut almost in half between 1991 and 1998.3 The homicide rate rose and then fell for all youth, but the roller coaster pattern was more pronounced for minorities. For young Whites, the homicide rate rose by 29% from 1986 to 1991 and then dropped by 48% from 1991 to 1998. For young Blacks, the homicide rate peaked in 1990 at a rate 75% above the 1986 level and then dropped by 70% from 1990 to 1998. The rate changes were even more dramatic for young Hispanics. The Hispanic youth homicide rate increased by 196% from 1986 to 1991 and then dropped by 53% from 1991 to 1998. Note that the drop in the homicide rate for each group began several years before the passage of the California Three Strikes law in 1994. The drop in the California youth homicide rate is not unique. Across the nation, offense rates for homicide and for serious crime generally have dropped for youth offenders. In light of these trends, it is hard to justify predictions that the nation stands on the brink of a youth crime explosion. Inaccurate Perceptions of Crime and Gang Threat A majority of the population continued to believe that the crime problem was getting worse years after crime rates began to drop. In 1992, when crime rates were still rising in many areas, eighty-nine percent of the surveyed population believed that crime was getting worse. By 1998, when crime had been dropping for several years in most of the country, the percentage of those polled who believed crime was rising had dropped to fifty-two percent. Still, citizens who believed crime was rising outnumbered those who thought crime was dropping by almost a three to two ratio. And fear of youth crime, fueled by heavily publicized school shootings in Columbine and elsewhere, was rising. Fear of youth crime often is focused on gangs. Prop. 21, for example, was justified by a “finding” that youth gangs were a growing threat to the safety of the community. In fact, however, crime rates have dropped most rapidly among Black and Latino youth, the demographic groups reputed to be most dominated by youth gangs.4 This suggests that criminal gang activity was substantially reduced. The perceptions of law enforcement officials who deal with crime on a daily basis might be expected to be more accurate than those of the general public. However, despite strong evidence that gang crime had been dropping for years, law enforcement agencies were much more likely to believe that the gang problem was getting worse than to believe it was improving. Demand For “Get Tough” Policies The belief that youth gangs “pose a unique threat” and have “become more violent, bolder, and better organized” produces a popular demand for “get tough” policies against gang members. The following is only a partial list of such policies. * The formation of specialized antigang law enforcement units, like the LAPD’s CRASH unit, which lies in the center of the police misconduct scandal in the Rampart division. * Statutes providing for enhanced criminal penalties for crimes committed by gang members. * Civil injunctions that would enjoin alleged gang members from engaging in ordinarily legal activities such as walking or driving in a car with other alleged gang members. * Creation of centralized databases of alleged gang members and “associates” for the use of law enforcement officials. * Police officers stop, question and, if possible, search suspected gang members even if there is no evidence that they are currently committing a crime.A detailed analysis of these anti-gang policies is beyond the scope of this article. We will examine briefly, however, the impact of gang databases on young minority males.Targeting youths for gang databases During the 1990s law enforcement agencies across the nation increasingly made use of computer-based gang databases. These databases contain the lists of alleged gang members and gang associates, together with personal information about each entry. Information entered into a database might include the person’s gang membership, gang moniker, home address, identifyingmarks or tattoos, and even photographs. Remarkably, the information often is gathered from the alleged gang members themselves. Police officers will stop suspected gang members, question them about their gang membership and even take their photographs. Youths stopped and questioned by the police may fear retaliation if they refuse to answer the questions asked or ifthey deny permission to be photographed. There are few safeguards against being falsely identified as a gang member. Lists are secret; access is denied to the public. Individuals have no right to know that they have been placed on a list. Police officers are not required to get approval from a judge or magistrate before entering a name on a database. An individual may be entered on a gang database even if he has never been arrested or suspected of a crime. Once entered into a database, it seldom is possible for individuals to get their names removed. The criteria for placement on a gang list are broad. One set of guidelines, for example, provides that names should be added to the list only if two or more of the following gang criteria are met:* Professes to being a gang member. * Is deemed a gang member by a reliable source, such as a trusted informant, teacher, or parent. * Is called a gang member by an untested informant with corroboration. * Has gang graffiti on his personal property or clothing. * Is observed, by an officer, using gang hand signs. * Hangs around with gang members. * Is arrested with gang members. * Identifies his gang affiliation when brought to county jail. Some of the criteria have little probative weight. An individual living in an area with a significant gang presence may find it difficult to avoid “hanging around” with gang members. The problem is particularly tricky because an individual may not know which of his neighbors the police regard as gang members. Other criteria are difficult to evaluate. It is hard to assess, for example, the reliability of the information provided by a teacher, parent, or “trusted informant.” It is unclear what “corroboration” is needed to verify the statements of an “untested informant.” More important, even if the criteria were sound, there is no independent check on whether apolice officer has applied the criteria correctly when adding an individual to the database. The vague criteria, secrecy of the process, and lack of judicial review create a danger that police officers add many young, minority males to the database simply because they wear hip-hop clothing and live in poverty-stricken, high-crime areas. And there is substantial evidence that this is precisely what has occurred in California. One 1992 study of the Los Angeles gang database found almost half of the Black men in the county between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-four were on some gang list.5 A more recent examination of the 112,000 purported Los Angeles gang members or associates on the state CAL/GANG database found that 62,000 were entered by specialized LAPD antigang CRASH units, including the unit from the scandal-ridden Rampart division. About two-thirds of the persons entered were Latinos and about one-third was Blacks. Only about 2000 Whites were entered on the gang list. The LAPD argues that the database is useful in the investigation of crimes committed by gang members. Such tools against gang violence are essential, it is argued, because of the large number of gang-related crimes, defined broadly as any crime with a gang member as a perpetrator or a victim, even if the crime was not connected to a gang purpose. During one recent year, the LAPD noted, gang members committed 7600 offenses, including 136 homicides. These crime figures, while not trivial, are small in comparison with the alleged population of 112,000 gang members and associates in Los Angeles County. If the LAPD’s figures are correct and there are 7600 gang crimes and 112,000 gang members, only one crime is committed each year for every fifteen gang members or, put differently, the average gang member commits one crime every fifteen years. Unless gang members are a surprisingly law abiding group, the gang database includes many individuals who have ended their gang involvement or who never were gang members in the first place. There is little doubt that gangs are an important social problem and that hard-core gang members pose a significant threat to the safety of the community. But gang databases contain many innocent young minority males, who pose no serious threat to society, together with individuals who are truly dangerous. Reinforcing Racial Discrimination The burden of the demonization of youth and youth gangs falls most heavily on minorities, especially young minority males. The names entered on gang databases are almost exclusively those of minorities. Gang membership is so closely associated with minority youth that in some jurisdictions most of the young minority males are considered by the police to be gang members or associates. The close association of gang membership and minority status permits politicians and commentators to “play the race card” indirectly. Public officials may be reluctant to endorse a “war against young minority offenders” or “tougher criminal penalties for young minorities” because of a fear that they will be accused of racism. It is much safer to endorse a “war against gangs” or “tougher criminal penalties for gang members.” Gangs become a proxy for race. Targeting minorities for special scrutiny can undermine the relationship between police and the citizens they serve. Demonizing minority youth can also create a climate that fosters police misconduct. If young offenders are “super-predators” and if the operation against gangs is a “war,” then violating a suspected gang member’s constitutional rights or even planting evidence may be viewed as justified. Hispanics, and especially Blacks, are far more likely to fear being arrested by the police for a crime they did not commit. It might be claimed that the burden placed on innocent Blacks and Latinos is outweighed by the benefits of reducing crime. Consider, for example, the use of gang lists to help police in crime investigations by creating a database of nicknames, addresses, photographs, identifying marks, and similar items. Even if many of the people named in the database are innocent of any wrongdoing, it might be argued that the harm to them is small. If they commit no crime, a police investigation will absolve them. Arguments such as these surely underestimate both the burden of being a target of heightened police scrutiny and the likelihood of false conviction. More important, such arguments usually are made by individuals who will never bear such burdens themselves. If databases of gang members are an effective crime fighting tool, then a database of all citizens would be much more effective. The government could take fingerprints, DNA samples, and photographs of all individuals above the age of twelve and enter the information into a national computer system together with each individual’s name, address, occupation, and other personal information. With periodic updates, such a database might be a powerful tool in the fight against crime. Most citizens, we suspect, would reject such an invasion of their privacy as repugnant even if such a database would reduce crime.Underutilization of Nonpunitive Approaches to Crime Reduction Strong criminal sanctions and a high probability of apprehension can help reduce crime. Viewing young offenders as incorrigible super-predators and street hoodlums, however, encourages a focus on law enforcement even when less punitive approaches are a more cost-effective way to reduce crime. A recent study by [the nonprofit research institution] RAND, for example, found that giving disadvantaged high school students cash and other incentives to graduate was several times more effective in reducing crime, per dollar spent, than the tougher penalties of Three Strikes. Parental training and therapy for families with very young, school-age children who have begun to “act out” in school was also substantially more cost-effective at reducing crime than Three Strikes. More broadly, demonizing criminal offenders deflects attention away from the responsibility of society to remedy the social and economic conditions that produce a high crime rate in poor urban neighborhoods. Advocates of “get tough” approaches to crime argue that young persons, however disadvantaged, must be held responsible for their wrongdoing. Fair enough. But the privileged adults who control our nation’s social policies should be held equally accountable for their failure to address effectively poverty, poor health care, underfunded schools, racial discrimination, and other social conditions that produce high crime rates. The demonization of youth and especially young minority males fosters abusive police behavior, reinforces racial stereotypes and prevents the adoption of cost-effective, nonpunitive methods of reducing crime. It can also have a devastating impact on innocent, young minority males targeted by police as gang members or associates. Consider for example, the following excerpt from a school essay written by Jesus Daniel Guerrero, a B-student with no history of misconduct who, with an older brother mixed up in gangs, was almost certainly placed on the CAL/GANG database: As a child, I would spend countless hours daydreaming of becoming a mighty police officer…. But as I entered my junior high school years … my dream of becoming a police officer began to fade like sunlight at dusk…. I have been scolded, searched, handcuffed, pushed, kicked and wrongfully accused of crimes I did not commit. Footnotes1. Violent crimes are murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crime statistics are dominated by aggravated assault because there are far more arrests for this offense than for all other violent crimes combined.2. Six hundred eighteen homicide arrests occurred in 1986 and 1,307 in 1991.3. Six hundred eighty-three homicide arrests took place in 1998.4. By 1998, homicides by Hispanics in California had dropped fifty-three percent from their 1991 peak. Homicides by Blacks had dropped seventy percent from their 1990 peak.5. Similar practices exist elsewhere. In Denver, for example, two-thirds of the young Black men in the city apparently are on the gang database. A reported 3,691 Blacks were on the gang list, a number equivalent to two-thirds of the Black males between twelve and twenty-four in the city.