Just Kids: When Misbehaving Is a Crime

Just Kids: When Misbehaving Is a Crime

Exposing teenagers to the juvenile justice system for status offenses such as skipping school, running away from home, or violating a curfew disproportionately punishes underserved youth, who frequently experience bias and harsher discipline, and LGBT teens, a report from the Vera Institute of Justice finds. The report, Just Kids: When Misbehaving Is a Crime, found that girls often are exposed to the criminal justice system for less serious offenses than boys and are kept in facilities longer for the same offense; that African-American and poor kids are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school; and that LGBT teens are more likely to be stopped by police, arrested, and convicted for the same behaviors as their straight peers. According to the study, involvement with the justice system only increases teens' future risk of engaging in delinquent or criminal behavior. Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the report recommends a number of reforms, including approaching all youth misbehaviors through the lens of youth development and needs; eliminating court as an option for status offense cases; and developing a robust continuum of services designed to meet the needs of youth and families in their communities.