Your child is facing criminal charges. It's a day you never thought you'd experience until you got that phone call. You're wondering if it's going to change your child's life -- and your own -- forever.
At the same time, you're determined to look at the positives. You want to know the facts. You want to know your legal options. You want to fully understand the situation and exactly what it means. You know that's the only way you can all move forward.
With that in mind, here are four important facts about incarceration of children in the United States.
1. It's incredibly common.
Juvenile incarceration is stunningly common when you compare the rates in America to the rates elsewhere. For every 100,000 people in that age group, 336 are behind bars. In England, the rate is just 46.8 individuals. In Finland, it's 3.6.
2. It's expensive.
Each case may vary a bit, but one report said that the average cost to hold one juvenile offender for a year was $88,000. That's vastly more than many people earn in a year. It's also an incredible financial burden when you consider that there are 70,000 such offenders in jail.
3. Some believe it makes future incarceration more likely.
There are those who argue that jail time makes crime less common in the future because young people fully understand the risks and ramifications. They won't do it again because they won't want to serve that time again.
However, some have pointed out that it could actually raise adult incarceration rates. Jailing children at such an important time in life could interfere with their development and future economic ability, perhaps leading them back to criminal activity.
For instance, your child may be going into the senior year of high school. Missing it harms social development, educational advancement, future job opportunities and future wages. If your child would have become a doctor and now winds up without a college degree, working for minimum wage, is he or she more or less likely to commit crimes again in the future?
4. It makes high school degrees less likely.
Perhaps the above projects too far into the future and there are many other variables to consider. That's fine, but studies have shown that data supports at least one element: Those who are incarcerated are more likely to quit high school without graduating. Statistically speaking, your son's or daughter's education level is far more likely to be lower than that of his or her peers after a conviction resulting in jail time.
These four pieces of information should tell you one key thing: Your son or daughter is at a crossroads. The results of this case could drastically impact his or her life, as happens to many others in this country. Be sure you know all about your legal options with so much at stake.