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Study: Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. Youths Will Be Arrested by Age 23

Startling Numbers Are a 'Wake-Up Call' That Can Harm Health of Youth and Community
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Why the Rise in Arrests? continued...

From the 1920s through the 1960s, the proportion of the population that was incarcerated remained remarkably stable at about 100 inmates per 100,000 people, researcher Robert Brame, PhD, of the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, tells WebMD. Today, Brame says, that figure has soared to 500 inmates per 100,000 people.

More aggressive treatment of offenders has led to a decline in the crime rate, Brame says: “I think it’s pretty clear that some violent crimes have been prevented by having people locked up in prison.”

But he questions whether the expense of incarceration -- $25,000 to $30,000 per person per year -- is the best use of the money. Perhaps the funds would be better spent on programs that not only could lower the crime rate but carry other benefits as well, such as stopping a person from committing a crime in the first place, Brame says.

“Criminologists and economists are wrestling with that question right now,” he says.

Brame, the father of three young children, says he and his colleagues usually publish their research in journals read by criminologists, not pediatricians. But they wanted to reach out to pediatricians because they’re especially well-suited to heading off problems.

“Our main purpose in this paper was to get pediatricians to think about this and maybe have a broader discussion with their patients than they otherwise would have.”

Young people might feel more comfortable talking with their pediatrician than their parents about such issues as drug use, Brame says: “The pediatrician has training and skills to connect that person with appropriate programs and interventions.”

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