The truth about crime prevention is more complicated less utopian than some liberals would like, but far more promising than conservatives will admit. Prevention can work and that it can be far less costly, in every sense, than continuing to rely on incarceration as out first defense against violent crimes. Instead of simply insisting that prevention is better than incarceration, then, we need to pinpoint more clearly what kinds of prevention workand why some programs work and others do not, the most encouraging efforts share important characteristics; there are reasons why they work, whether the target' population is abusive families, vulnerable teens, or serious juvenile offenders who've already broken the law. Likewise, there are reasons why other programs fail, no matter how fashionable or popular they may be. Given what we've learned about crime prevention in recent years, four priorities seem especially critical: preventing child abuse and neglect, enhancing children's intellectual and social development, providing support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents and working intensively with juvenile offenders. These aren't the preventive strategies that can make a difference, but they are the ones that offer the strongest evidence of effectiveness. And they also fit our growing understanding of the roots delinquency and violent crime.
The first priority is to invest serious resources in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The evidence is compelling that this is where much of the violent crime that plagues us begins, especially the kinds of violence we fear the most. It is known that most abused children never go on to injure others. But the correlation between later violent crime and childhood abuse is strong and consistent, especially for the most serious kinds of violence. It turned out that being abused or neglected had little effect, if any, on minor forms of delinquency. But for serious delinquencyand violent crime in particular it...
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