Civil and Social Impairment

Policies Impose Deadweight in Communities

When youth are placed in the adult criminal justice system, their community suffers and loses civic cohesion. When a returning citizen looking for a second chance cannot sign a lease, find employment, or access affordable housing, for instance, a neighborhood loses one more community member to homelessness. Job creation, too, may be hindered when an entrepreneurial young adult cannot start a business because of an offense he or she committed at age 16. The aggregate effect of the 44,000 conviction-related restrictions adds up to harm communities. These restrictions are especially intolerable for youth placed in the adult system, who will live their entire lives without basic rights because of a decision made during childhood.

These policies have a disproportionate impact in communities of color. According to the NY Times , there is a whide gap in the number of black men and black women (ages 25-54 years of age) in major urban centers, due largely to bomming incarceration numbers. For every 100 black women, there are 83 black men in communities; for white women, the number of white men are at parity. This gap disrupts marriageability, two-adult wage earning households, and child poverty rates. While unemployment is already disparate between White (4.5% unemployment) and Black (8.8%) adults, unemployment numbers don’t include the incarcerated population. If you add this population to the unemployment rate, the black male unemployment rate would jump to 19% according to the Washington Post.

Loss of Right to Participate in Democracy

When tried as adults instead of in the juvenile justice system, any conviction will result in a youth having permanent marks on an adult record. For thousands of youth convicted of felonies, for instance, this has led to losing the right to vote, before even becoming eligible to do so. In fact, 5.85 million Americans are unable to vote because of felony convictions, with thousands having been adjudicated as youth under the age of 18. While states are beginning to reconsider their laws on this issue, the loss of your right to participate in democracy is a serious and lifelong consequence for far too many youth who received adult convictions in their childhood.

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Campaign for Youth Justice c/o Mindspace
1301 K Street NW, 300W
Washington, DC 20005