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Prevent Juvenile Delinquency

Almost all youth participate in some form of delinquent behavior.  For instance, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey approximately 71 percent of students (grades 9-12) reported having consumed alcohol and 22 percent reported having participated in binge drinking. It is important to note that while youth from every community participate in risky behavior, young people in poor communities are more likely to face multiple risk factors that can lead to contact with the justice system. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, many youth are criminalized because of their experiences with failing foster care and mental health systems. Further, children and teens of color are imprisoned at almost three times the rate of their white counterparts – suggesting that they are unfairly targeted for arrest and confinement.

Preventing delinquency that can lead to “deep end” contact with the system is a critical component to ensuring that youth grow into productive, successful adults; and while opportunities to rehabilitate young people who engage in delinquent behaviors are very important, the efforts that prove most successful are those that address the multiple-risk factors often experienced by young people in poor communities; leading to preventing youth from engaging in serious delinquent behaviors in the first place. Youth who succeed have a clear sense of identity, a positive sense of self-worth, opportunities to achieve, and they are more likely to avoid risky behaviors that can have lifelong impacts. Young people who engage in delinquency are often also at increased risk for drug use and dependency, dropping out of school, incar­ceration, injury, early pregnancy, and adult criminality.[1] Policy that leads to early prevention and intervention efforts through strong community-based, school-based and family focused programs have been shown to prevent drug use, delinquency, anti-social behavior, and early school drop-out. Policies that prepare youth for adulthood both create opportunities for young people and savings for taxpayers.

[1] Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and Intervention Programs for Juvenile Offenders. Available Online


Fact sheets from the Prevention Institute's Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) describe how violence affects other health problems and community concerns, such as chronic diseases, mental illness and poor learning.