Our juvenile justice system fails everyone—it fails youth because it rarely holds them accountable with age-appropriate responses known to be effective at changing behavior, and it fails to provide victims of crime with adequate support services that can help them return to healthy, productive lives.
According to NJJN's policy document, titled, “A House Divided No More: Common Cause for Juvenile Justice Advocates, Victim Advocates, and Communities,” several key misperceptions get in the way of taking a holistic view of youth who commit crime and those they harm. First, there’s an overlap between so-called “offenders” and “victims” that is often overlooked. Research has shown that many youth who commit offenses have also been harmed by crime, often more than once.
Second, that overlap is one reason why crime begets more crime: one study of over 5,000 youth published by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that youth who were the victims of a violent offense were three times more likely to commit a violent offense in the next twelve months than those who were not victims.
“There’s a common misperception about who is most likely to be harmed by violent crime,” says Sarah Bryer, who directs NJJN (see photo at left). “Stories in the press imply that the most common victims of violent crime are young white women harmed by strangers. But crime affects all communities. Black men and boys are more frequently the victims of violent crime than white women are, and women of all races suffer the majority of sexual and family violence. Yet the voices of communities of color and the poor—who are often the hardest hit by the cycle of crime—are often overlooked when it comes to making policy.”
What can voters and policymakers do right now to make the juvenile justice system more just? "A House Divided No More" contains five broad recommendations for advocates, policymakers, voters, and community members that will everyone work for a safer society and a justice system that is fair and equitable for all.
>>Download "A House Divided No More"
>>Download "Eight Tips for Juvenile Justice Advocates Who Want to Work with Victims & Crime Survivors," created through the Partnership for Safety and Justice’s Crime Survivors Program.
>>Download "Compensating Victims of Crime," created by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
Photoat top: David Rosen.