Surprise! Juvenile Crime Has Plummeted in California.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that juvenile crime has plunged mysteriously:

Over the past decade, the state’s numerous expanded juvenile halls have become near-empty monuments to a costly miscalculation — a mistake compounded each year as the number of young offenders plummeted. Some California counties are spending $1,400 a day to incarcerate each juvenile, or $500,000 annually, up from $400 a day or $150,000 annually just eight years ago….Unlike the surge of violence a generation ago, the plunge in juvenile crime has received relatively little attention and has spurred few demands for action.

My, that is a mystery, isn’t it?

With bigger facilities and fewer wards, the costs of juvenile detention spiked. The Chronicle requested and reviewed juvenile hall and camp populations and spending data from 14 diverse counties, and found that the annual cost of detaining youths increased in each one since 2011, ranging from 29 percent to 214 percent. “It’s really the opposite of what we thought it would be,” Varela said. “We’re all kind of scratching our heads over what we’re going to do with all the extra space.”

….Systemically, there is no clear explanation for why the crime rate dropped, and continued to decline through the 2008 recession and to the present day. Though there’s no consensus, many are eager to offer theories and take credit. Possible reasons include a decline of lead poisoning in children, which reduced the toxic effects on young brains, and pivotal shifts in the street drug trade, including diminishing demand for crack cocaine and strict laws that sent dealers who might recruit young people away for decades.

Give it up, folks. It’s lead. And that’s a very good thing, since it means the drop in juvenile crime is permanent. It’s time to scuttle all that extra space in juvenile hall.

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate