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Crime Rates and Youth Incarceration in Texas and California Compared: Public Safety or Public Waste?

NCJ Number
Mike Males, Ph.D.; Christina Stahlkoph, Ph.D.; Daniel Macallair, M.P.A.
Date Published
June 2007
6 pages
A comparative analysis is conducted on youth imprisonment trends and practices in the states of Texas and California.
Home to 22 percent of America's youth, Texas and California have vastly different youth incarceration policies. Texas's youth sentencing policies over the past 10 years emphasized increased imprisonment for younger offenders for less serious crimes. From 1995 to 2006, Texas has increased the number of youth incarcerated under the age of 18 by 48 percent. In contrast, California increased the overall age of young offenders committed to youth correctional facilities and diverted many juveniles who formerly would have been imprisoned, thereby reducing the total number of juveniles incarcerated in youth prisons by 75 percent. Under incapacitation theory, the significantly higher rates of youth incarceration in Texas should have produced an accelerated decrease in the crime rate relative to California. However, as this analysis indicates no such differential effect occurred in the crime rates of the two States. This result suggests that juvenile crime control policies emphasizing incarceration and similar punitive measures need to be reconsidered, and that Texas's current youth incarceration policy is unjustified and unnecessary. This paper explored the radically different youth incarceration practices between Texas and California. Figures, tables, and references