In a policy paper published exclusively by The Chronicle of Social Change, juvenile and criminal justice consultant Tracy Velázquez argues that it is time for U.S. systems of justice to explore the notion of creating a third court process for young adults, one that balances the need for accountability with the reality that jeopardizing the future of young lawbreakers is the best way to produce career criminals and intergenerational poverty.
This young adult system would rely less on incarceration, more on treatment and skill-building, and would shield offenders from a lifetime of collateral consequences in the education and job marketplace.
Says Velázquez: “Some will argue that such a system would coddle those who have transgressed against fellow citizens and would be unfair to victims. I’d submit that the least effective way to reduce crime is to continue placing thousands of young adults on a trajectory away from employment and positive life opportunities, and toward a future with limited educational and employment options, continued justice involvement and dependency on the social safety net.
As participation in restorative and participatory justice programs shows, many victims, who themselves are often young adults of color, have come to believe that our current traditional processes do little to improve community safety or help them heal.”
CLICK HERE to download a copy of Young Adult Justice: A New Frontier Worth Exploring