Thinking About Emerging Adults and Violent Crime
In response to fears of an unrelenting crime wave, dramatic changes to sentencing policy, particularly for violent offenders, occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, more than half of state prisoners are serving time for a violent offense. Increases in the severity of criminal justice sanctions (e.g., decision to prosecute, reclassification of charges, use of incarceration, and lengthening prison sentences) for those convicted of violent offenses has fueled mass incarceration. Despite major reductions of crime, including violence, over the past two decades, an intense focus on violent offenders as distinct and different endures.
This brief summarizes research on violent criminal behavior over the life course. We focus special attention on emerging adults because they have the highest rates of both violent offending and violent victimization. First, drawing on a large body of longitudinal research on crime, we present the known ‘facts’ about violence. Note that this research literature uses criminal justice records of those officially sanctioned as well as self-reports of offending and victimization. Second, we discuss the experiences and consequences of living with violence. Third, we conclude with policy recommendations for responding to violent crime.
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