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Emerging Adult Offenders Need Jobs, Not Prison

We can all remember some crazy times as emerging adults, the troublesome post-teen years.  Possibly, underage drinking in a park. Maybe fighting in the street. These instances are almost rites of passage for 18-34 year-olds.  Today, these instances and other youthful mistakes are turning our kids into criminals. In a country of second chances, a country founded on revolution and it’s passion, we need to have better solutions to misbehaving.  

Our punitive reactions to crime are endangering future American stability. Nearly half of Black males are arrested by the age of 23 while White males don’t fare much better at 40%. Females are the highest rising number of arrests surpassing 26% of all offenders. Scores of studies try to prove that a lack of education leads to prison-the school to prison pipeline. But if the high percentage of young males is being arrested with or without college then we have a different problem in America.  Our 18-34-year-olds need assistance to grow up and out of their bad surroundings and habits. They’re too young to lock up. We need a socially and economically strong generation to keep America strong.  

The majority of sentences for non-violent crimes can be career-based.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41% of men made $30,000 or less and only 14% of women were homemakers.   Emerging adult jobs have quickly disappeared as the older generations, past 35 years-old,  work multiple minimum wage jobs to pay the bills. Even in cities where it appears that jobs are plenty 2.3 million emerging adults are out of work.  That’s 17% of all emerging adults in mid to large cities. How are these “kids” who can’t afford college, can’t get a good-paying job supposed to stay on the right track, the law-abiding track if you will? 

At the same time, Building Trades are desperately in need of workers.  There are currently, 300,000 job openings in the construction trades.  These jobs pay above-average salaries, are mostly union, have pensions, health insurance and are lifelong careers.  There are 251,774 small businesses across America that are manufacturing some form of products.  Due to the pressure to go to college instead of going to work, 89% of American manufacturers can’t fill thousands of vacant jobs.  The vacancy rate for these businesses is over 500,000. So we now have 800,000 jobs for these emerging adults to step into instead of an orange jumpsuit.  

A new national bill could follow similar guidelines to parole-keep a job and stay out of trouble.  The bill would need to be national due to the extreme differences in crime and punishment throughout our state systems.  If we are all Americans and Constitutionally equal so must our laws be. An Emerging Adults Law could directly enroll this age contingent into trade school (unions already have these programs in place).  Instead of insisting 18-34 year-olds go back to school or enroll in college they can become apprentices and journeymen. If construction jobs are not available then they are hired through a database of businesses willing to hire through a national partnership program with the caveat that they make $15 an hour or more.  As online jobs become a new norm, the database would need to match those in rural areas without cars to these specific jobs. One stipulation is these workers must have good attendance and must stay employed for at least three years from their final court date. Emerging adults need to understand that businesses spend millions in training people to work and we cannot continue programs like this if businesses lose out. 

Community service isn’t the answer either. You can’t eat volunteer hours and they don’t pay the rent or legal fees. Get them to work out their own futures one paycheck at a time. 

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