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Youth arrests and incarceration increased in the closing decades of the 20th century but have fallen sharply since that time. Public opinion often lags behind these realities, wrongly assuming both that crime is perpetually increasing and that youth offending is routinely violent. In fact, youth offending is predominantly low-level, and the 21st century has seen significant declines in youth arrests and incarceration. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of youth held in juvenile justice facilities fell from 109,000 to 25,000—a 77% decline.
As The Sentencing Project marks 50 years since the era of mass incarceration began, states working to end this overly punitive era can learn important lessons from both the rise and then the sustained fall in youth arrests and placements.
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