Crimes committed by youthful offenders in our nation have gone from a troubling statistic that would have been barely noticed even 25 years ago to a problem of pandemic proportions. The responsibility for this falls on every citizen and we must all bite the bullet and agree to properly fund programs that can help to prevent crime, properly rehabilitate prisoners, and save the youth of our nation at the same time.
Youth gangs have existed in various forms since at least the 19th century, although the nature and extent of their activity has evolved over time. Over the past 25 years in particular, gangs have expanded rapidly both in size and their areas of operation. Gangs today are more violent, their activities are more widespread and pervasive, and they are more entrenched within the community. (Cahill, & Hayeslip, 2010)
Some people may be inclined to say “I don’t have any children so this doesn’t affect me” but they would be drastically wrong. As taxpayers we all share the cost of housing youthful and adult offenders. The sooner we are able to stop the cycle of youth crime, the sooner we can work towards helping to rehabilitate these youthful offenders and keep them from going back to prison. Rehabilitation helps reduce the number of repeat offenders who return to jail after being unable to adapt to life outside of jail. The numbers vary from state to state, but the national average shows that almost 65% of the adult prison population is made up of repeat offenders. Over 47% of repeat offenders in prison today committed their first misdemeanor crime before the age of 16, and over 52% committed their first felony offense before the age of 21. ( Stephan, 2004)
Many readers are probably thinking that this is simply a part of everyday life and the price we have to pay to keep our streets safe, but have they actually considered what it costs to house all these prisoners? Maybe the readers may think “it’s no big deal” because they have not “crunched the numbers”. I challenge those readers to look at the following statistics and then try to honestly say it is “no big deal”. The average annual operating cost per State inmate in 2001 was $22,650, or $62.05 per day. Among facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it was $22,632 per inmate, or $62.01 per day. ( Stephan, 2004) What logically thinking person would not want an extra $62.01 a day going to hire new teachers for our local schools? Who among us would not want that extra money going to fix the potholes on our city’s streets or add an extra street light downtown?
How do we get those dollars out of the prison system and back into the public coffers where the can be better used? Once again the signs seem to point to rehabilitation and crime prevention. Why should we focus our attention on the youth of our nation? I think the answer to that is plain to see and that answer is crime prevention programs targeted towards youth. If we can prevent the first crime from happening we don’t...