Don’t Abandon Us: Addressing Youth Crime and Trauma highlights the lived experiences of two people who spent decades serving prison sentences assigned to them as children. In a moment of growing concerns about crime, this short film underscores the importance of effective public safety strategies that identify and address the early traumas that afflict so many young people who come into contact with the criminal legal system must be a key element of any successful public safety strategy.
Decades of research show Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—early exposure to things like physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, family and street violence, and the loss of a parent to incarceration or drugs—correlate with increased risk of serious, persistent, and chronic criminal offending in adolescence and beyond. The accompanying brief provides additional context, research, and recommendations on ACEs to help advance juvenile legal system reform efforts focused on addressing trauma, healing young people, and building stronger and safer communities.
Key recommendations include:
- The federal government (US Dept of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) should develop standardized guidelines for trauma screenings and assessment to ensure all juvenile legal system agencies conduct appropriate screening and offer effective care.
- Federal, state, and local authorities must properly resource Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) and other trauma-focused responses that address the conditions that lead to unwanted behavior as they act to hold kids accountable.
Government, system stakeholders, and philanthropies should support public education about ACES and youth trauma to counteract calls for responses that cause more harm than healing.