Opinion: Locking teens up won’t make our city safer. It will have the opposite effect, and here’s why.

By Donna Cooper & Anton Moore, for The Inquirer | February 15, 2024

Former Stoneleigh Fellow Adam Serlin’s economic analysis and Kevin Bethel’s work on the Philadelphia Police Department School Diversion Program are featured in a guest commentary encouraging investment in alternatives to incarceration for young people.

While it is incredibly welcome news that gun deaths in Philadelphia decreased in 2023 from the peaks of the COVID-19 years, there is so much work that needs to be done to prevent people — especially our young people — from going down the path that leads to violence.

Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s selection of Kevin Bethel as police commissioner is a good one because — as the former chief of school safety — he has the right mindset and experience to invest in our children. Commissioner Bethel recognizes that the brain isn’t fully developed until a person’s mid-20s, which means young people make reckless decisions at 16, 17, and 18 years old that they would likely never make in adulthood. When those reckless decisions are nonviolent offenses, it is undeniably better to give children and teens the structure to learn from and make amends for their poor choices, not lock them up.

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View Adam’s Analysis