American Penal System and Minority Youth: Fast Facts

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  • There is a perception that youth commit the majority of crime in the nation. The truth is that adults commit the majority of crime in America. In 2008, 12 percent of violent crime and 18 percent of property crime nationwide were attributed to youth. According to the FBI, youth under age 18 accounted for 15 percent of all arrests.
  • There are over 2,500 youth serving life without the possibility of parole in the United States. There are none in the rest of the world. Source: The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
  • 95 percent of youth prosecuted as adults will be released back to their communities before their 25th birthday. Unfortunately, by virtue of being prosecuted in the adult system, these youth are less likely to get an education or skills training, and their adult conviction, a felony, will make it harder for them to get jobs. Source: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention- June 2010
  • While African-American youth represent only 17 percent of the overall youth population, they constitute 30 percent of those arrested, and an astounding 62 percent of those prosecuted in the adult criminal system. They are also nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence. Latino children are 43 percent more likely than white youth to be waived to the adult system and 40 percent more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. Source: Campaign for Youth Justice
  • 77 percent of children exposed to a school shooting and 35 percent of urban youth exposed to community violence develop PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- as compared to 20 percent of soldiers deployed to combat areas in the last six years. Source: National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Research suggests that one-in-three girls, and one-in-six boys are subjected to some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Source: Childline Gauteng, n.d. As child abuse is a secret crime, notification statistics profoundly under-estimate the scope of the problem. Source: Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse
  • Children in early elementary school with a history of exposure to violence and/or are victims of violence score significantly lower on IQ and reading ability (on average, over seven points lower on IQ and nearly ten points lower in reading achievement.) Source: Violence exposure, trauma and IQ and/or reading deficits among urban children. Arch Pediat. Med. 2002;156;280—85
  • States spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil. Unless we focus our efforts on early intervention and prevention, rather than punishment, we are robbing thousands of youth each year of their futures and our country of vital human resources.
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