That's because GPS doesn't restrict those wearing it, so it doesn't actually prevent crime. But it can provide metrics for authorities to check on the location of an offender to ensure they're where they're supposed to be, which is exactly what's needed in truancy cases. It's certainly a superior alternative for truants than juvenile detention!
It's nearly a truism that jails and prisons fill up when society's other institutions fail, and two of the biggest crime-generating failures IMO involve our indigent mental health systems and public schools. This blog has focused more in the past on the mental health system's contribution, but here during graduation season, it's worth considering in more depth the role public schools play in contributing to crime, or rather in failing to prepare kids to have and exercise better options.
The group America's Promise, founded by former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, last month produced a public policy report on the high school dropout crisis (pdf) in America, and even though I knew things were bad, the numbers shocked me:
Powell's group says that one US kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. A chart on page one analyzing high school graduation rates in the '03-'04 school year shows national graduation rates for all students are just 69.9%, but in the 50 largest cities kids graduated at only a 51.8% rate.
Some of this is skewed by race, but in the big picture tens of thousands of kids of all races are poorly served by public schools. Nationally black kids ranked the lowest, graduating at an abominably poor 53.3% rate, while white kids' graduation rate was a still anemic 76.2%.
Dallas ISD has the worst dropout rate in Texas among large cities, according to America's Promise, but all the big Texas cities fell far below the already-abysmal national average:
Dallas: 44.4%I'd concur with America's Promise that, "If three out of every 10 students in the nation failing to graduate is reason for concern, then the fact that just half of those educated in America’s largest cities are finishing high school truly raises cause for alarm." Even for those who graduate, there's a real question whether US high schools have adequately prepared them for the work force. But in the modern economy, what future awaits the masses of folks who never even complete high school?
San Antonio: 51.9%
Fort Worth: 55.5%
Why does this matter for the criminal justice field? Most American kids who drop out of high school have two things in common: They have few marketable skills and have never learned how to work hard. Bottom line: That makes it a lot more likely they wind up selling drugs or burglarizing your house for a living instead of getting a job, paying taxes, etc..
A study produced in 2007 (see chart on p. 19 of the pdf) promoting school choice in Texas calculated that, "Although the chances that any one individual will be incarcerated are small, the probability is more than twice as high for a Texas high school dropout as it is for a Texas high school graduate."
Straight-up illiteracy is a key criminogenic factor. It's long been known, for example, that while dyslexics make up about 10% of students, they make up 30% or more of those in prison.
As far as reducing crime, an even more important subcategory are kids with incarcerated parents, who tend to be 6-8 times more likely than their peers to wind up incarcerated themselves. Making sure those kids stay in school and have real opportunities to succeed might be the single most important contribution society could make to reducing future crime.
Obviously, it should be said, most dropouts don't go on to commit crimes. My own belief is that it's not the diploma per se that makes the difference, but more often influences at home and whether the kid acquired basic reading and math skills before leaving school. (Beyond that, in my experience, for most people their most important learning is either autodidactic or happens on the job.)
It's not really a surprising assertion that illiteracy and ignorance reduce legitimate economic options, or that that uneducated youth are more likely to commit crimes, but when school districts in major Texas cities suffer dropout rates this horrendous, the raw math of the problem becomes overwhelming.