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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #14239: Youth crime
Until two years ago, Clearing, Illinois was a tranquil suburb of Chicago. But residents grew alarmed when they noticed armed teenagers on the streets, giving gang signals and shouting at passing cars. Then came a series of burglaries and graffiti messages on storefronts. By the time local authorities realized they had a gang problem, it was too late. Last December, two 13-year-old girls were shot outside their school as they sat in a car with two members of a local gang, the Ridgeway Lords.
Nearly all 50 states have recently passed laws that allow youths aged 14-17 to be tried in court as adults. In about 25 states they have passed laws to punish parents for their children's behaviour. And in 146 of the nation's largest cities, they have imposed curfews to reduce juvenile violence. When you look at the spectacular rise of violent crime among young people recently, it's easy to understand the concern. Over the past decade, there has been a decline in adult murders in the US, while murder rates have surged for youths between 14-17.
For young offenders who aren't sent to prison, the punishments vary: some are ordered to perform community service, others are placed in job training programs, still others sent to youth prisons. But the Republicans in Congress want to reverse a basic principle of juvenile justice: the separation of young criminals from hardened adult criminals in prison. The reasons are partly financial - to reduce the cost of having separate prisons for young people - and partly psychological - to end what Republicans consider as society's overly protective attitude towards young criminals.
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