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Over the past decade crime -- and how to cope with it -- has emerged as one of the most important public policy issues in the United States Krisberg 1994 Given that males aged 18 to 24 comprise the single largest criminal element as measured by number of offenses arrest rates convictions etc in American society particular attention has focused on the problem of youth crime Krisberg 1994 Simon 1995 IACP 1996 Finckenauer 1982 Experts agree that the juvenile justice system -- which deals with offenders as young as 12 and as old as 24 -- is badly in need of reform Davidson Redner Amdur Mitchell 1990 Schwartz Barton 1994 On any given day more than 18000 young people are held in the nations public juvenile detention centers Schwartz Barton 1994 p 1 The majority of these youth are simply awaiting trial thousands more are already jammed into overcrowded long-term detention centers training schools and increasingly adult prisons As part of the effort to deal with the dual problems of rising youth crime and an overwhelmed juvenile justice system a variety of alternative programs have been proposed andor tried These include diversion from the justice system to outward bound type programs restitution programs etc and simple probation Davidson Redner Amdur Mitchell 1990 While both public policy opinion and empirical research tends to support the use of such alternative diversion programs for first-time non-violent offenders as well as for the youngest offenders both the public and national policy makers support the use of stronger get tough measures for the older ie over 18 years and repeat offenders Curriden 1995 Krisberg 1994 Schwartz Barton 1994 Get tough sentiments notwithstanding simply shifting the older youth offender population into the adult justice system does not appear to be a viable strategy The adult prison system faces even bigger problems of overcrowding and under-funding than the juvenile system Simon 1995 Schwartz Barton 1994 During the
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