Unfortunately, the paper is gated, but a new study by Wiley and Esebensen found that “being stopped or arrested not only increases future delinquency but also amplifies deviant attitudes” among young people (ages 9 through 15). This analysis indicates that the authors feel their results are not necessarily “water tight” and that some police contact is “often unavoidable if crimes are to be prevented” but “that such police contact needs to be handled with utmost care to avoid the apparently harmful effects documented here – for example, they suggested that police avoid aggressive questioning of youths in public places.”
I was unaware of the formal “labeling” theory, but suffice it to say it is one I am sympathetic towards. As I said then, treating young people like criminals often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Absent evidence of a crime, young people (minors especially)* should be given not only every presumption of innocence possible, but the presumption that they are well-intended, positive contributors to society. Unless and until they prove otherwise, this must be the default when interacting with agents of the state, police officers in particular. Should the police require contact in pursuit of a crime, the young person should be seen as a positive contributor towards the solving of that crime and treated accordingly until such time that they prove to be otherwise. It seems unwise to create a new criminal or social deviant in the pursuit of an existing one.
I welcome any co-blogger or reader to submit a more thorough analysis should they have access to the full paper.
To compliment the data-driven study, I offer this anecdote, offered by a high school student from New York City on his personal interactions with stop-and-frisk:
This was collected as part of ChangetheNYPD.org‘s “Where Am I Going” campaign, which shares “the stories of people who believe they can achieve many things, but are not always given the hope and empowerment they envision.”
* To me, it seems obvious that this should be the norm for everyone. Unfortunately, that ship seems to have sailed, so I focus my attention on young people at this point.
[photo credit: ThinkProgress.org]