Pensacola News Journal
June 17, 2017
$18.2 billion. This number represents the CDC’s estimated annual cost of youth homicides and physical assaults in this country today. To put that number in perspective, it’s 9 times more than the annual budget for the entire Florida department of corrections.
It’s no classified secret that violence, both directly and indirectly, has a detrimental effect on everyone. It cultivates fear in the community, while suffocating educational, judicial, and medical systems. It undeniably stunts the growth of local business, and slips a financial chokehold on the resources necessary to achieve community goals.
The findings from the latest CDC report have no doubt illuminated the grim reality of how violence has culturally infected the youth of this generation. Although solutions have been identified, it certainly won’t be an easy fix with respect to reversing a critical trend of this magnitude, but the stakes are way too high to not fight this thing head on.
From a fundamental standpoint, preventing youth violence is actually more simplistic than it is complicated. They cite that both community and family engagement are two crucial components of the strategy.
We know that kids crave acceptance on virtually any level they can realize it. But when they’re home is an unhealthy environment, and there is no access to additional educational opportunities, after-school programs, and positive mentors, this acceptance they seek could come in the form of drugs, gangs, and of course, violence.
Fortunately, the CDC has identified 6 strategies for preventing youth violence, that range from promoting healthy family environments to intervening to lessen harms and prevent future risks. A new study now indicates that every $1 invested in youth programs can return as much as $64 in benefits from future labor earnings, and a reduction in criminal justice, education, and healthcare expenses. A return-on-investment so glaring, that you don’t have to be Warren Buffet to recognize that kind of value.
It’s often said that it’s our youth of today that will be our future leaders of tomorrow. But if we are continually losing these potential leaders to graveyards and penitentiaries, then what will “tomorrow’s America” really look like?
Take it from me, I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life behind the razor-wired fences of state prison, and during my incarceration, I’ve seen countless dorms flooded with young men serving decades for committing violent crimes. But here’s what is so frightening. So many of their stories are eerily similar, in that a life of crime and violence started when they were “kids”.
I think it’s safe to say that if we don’t commit to doing whatever it takes to break this vicious cycle, then “tomorrow’s America” will enter the unfortunate business of closing schools and converting them into prisons.
Florida Dept. of Corrections