Why Kids End Up In Jail And What They Have In Common

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About 20 percent of kids in jail are there because of a violent crime and about 69 percent of those kids say they knew their victims. In addition, 44 percent of incarcerated youth were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when committing an offense and about 55 percent committed their current offense with someone else.

This information comes from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which released its latest bulletin called Youth Characteristics and Backgrounds that focuses on the characteristics of young people in jail to better understand the reasons why they’ve offended.

The Office looked extensively at jailed kids between 10 and 20 years old. Here are some other fascinating facts:

  • Although boys on average commit more serious offenses like murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery, girls have been arrested more than boys in the past decade.
  • The majority of kids locked up (51 percent) are 16 or 17 years old.
  • The demographics of children in jail are split rather evenly: 35 percent are white or non-Hispanic, 32 percent are Black or African American and 24 percent are Hispanic.
  • Fourteen percent of young people in jail say they have children.

The bulletin makes several suggestions for helping kids stay out of the system, such as developing programs that address a child’s specific needs, considering a child’s family situations and their future goals.

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