Feb. 19, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 10

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    Issues of crime and punishment: Chicago Policy Review

    A proposed reauthorization of the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act of 1997 will not be effective anti-crime legislation unless it addresses the root causes of juvenile delinquency and incorporates gun-control regulations and childhood intervention programs, according to an article by Kristeen McLain, a graduate student in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies.

    "Guns are the number one factor behind the escalation in youth violence over the last 10 years, and yet this bill does not include any gun control initiatives," reports McLain in the Fall 1997 issue of Chicago Policy Review. McLain also proposes the addition of early childhood intervention and prevention programs to the bill (S 10), which currently allocates none of its $500 million block grant or $150 million formula grant funding to specifically support these types of programs.

    If passed, the bill would provide $2.5 billion in state grants during the next five years for such juvenile anti-crime initiatives as building juvenile prisons, prosecuting and punishing juvenile offenders, and the opening of juvenile records to the public. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the next few months.

    McLain, who studies child and family policy issues, suggests that the current bill stresses politically popular "get-tough" punishment and incarceration strategies over proven long-term crime reduction techniques. The current proposal fails to consider the multiple factors that increase the risk of violent behavior. "This bill will not reduce juvenile crime unless it includes comprehensive prevention measures, such as early childhood intervention, home visitations and mentoring programs," she said. McLain's research is one of seven articles addressing the theme of crime and punishment in the current issue of Chicago Policy Review. The other articles include "Battered Women, Sleeping Abusers and Criminal Responsibility," by Joshua Dressler, professor of law at the University of the Pacific; "Legalize It? A Demand-Side Strategy for the War on Drugs," by A. C. Pritchard, senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel, Securities and Exchange Commission; and "Last Chance for the Condemned: Do Media Matter in Gubernatorial Clemency Decisions?" by David Protess, professor of journalism at Northwestern. For article transcripts and subscription information, contact the Chicago Policy Review at 834-0901, or via e-mail at ppjou@cicero.spc.uchicago.edu.