Saturday, December 3, 2011

Three Academics Dissect Montgomery County Curfew Proposal: County Should Table Plan Indefinitely

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an op-ed from three academics highlighting numerous problems with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's youth curfew proposal: 1) Catherine Gallagher, Director of the Cochrane Collaboration College for Policy, Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University, 2) Stephen Farnsworth, Associate Professor of Communication at George Mason University, and 3) Joel Censer, Public Affairs Officer at the Cochrane Collaboration College for Policy.

Their article might be the first commentary from professors that we've seen specifically addressing the MoCo proposal (excerpt below):
Three strikes on the Montgomery curfew

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council is scheduled to take up a much-debated proposal to establish a curfew for youths under 18. Such curfews hold appeal to many people, but there are reports the council is considering setting aside the plan indefinitely. There are three primary reasons that would be the smart thing to do.

First, youth curfews get the crime problem wrong. They target the wrong time of day, the wrong age group and the wrong type of crime....

Second, curfews aren’t effective. The Prince George’s evaluation found no significant drop in victimization and arrests among the targeted age group in the targeted time periods. This finding has been replicated in other analyses, some rigorous, some not as rigorous.

Finally, curfews in general — and the Montgomery County proposal in particular — get application, enforcement and punishment wrong.

History has shown that punitive measures are among the least effective ways to deal with youthful offenders. You might wonder what happened to the trend toward “scared-straight” and boot camp programs; both are no longer in vogue after being shown not just to fail to get offenders onto a more positive path but, in some cases, to facilitate recidivism....

The Montgomery proposal is certain to lead to inconsistent enforcement — common among jurisdictions that have adopted curfews....

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, a curfew supporter, has dismissed research findings like those discussed here, primarily because the studies were not conducted in Montgomery. This is a common fallacy in the social policy arena, akin to doubting whether appendectomies prevent death from infections because the evidence did not come from the county’s own hospitals.

The County Council should direct the county’s law enforcement efforts to respond to the crimes that exist, where and when they happen, and with practices shown to be effective.

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