Criminologist Megan Kurlychek of the University of Albany says it best: "The average teenager who steals an iPod or is arrested for possession of marijuana - why do we make that define their lives?" Kurlychek is referring, in part, to a recent study which indicates that more than 30 percent of all youth will be arrested by age 23.
The arrests stem from a variety of criminal accusations, from truancy and underage drinking to assault and homicide, as Donna Leinwand Leger reports for USA Today.
Certainly, underage drinking is a much less serious offense than homicide. But convictions for any crimes go on criminal records, and these criminal records follow young people around as they apply for college, look for work, and hunt for places to live.
According to another criminologist, "There's a lot more arresting going on now," a statement that mirrors today's "tough on crime" policies - policies that have pushed the percentage of youth arrests to more than 30 percent, compared to the first study conducted 40 years ago, which showed 22 percent.
In North Carolina, as in many other states, underage drinking charges can result in the loss of your driver's license, on the front-end, and, later, the loss of your chances to attend the college of your choice, or to find a good job after college.
Employers and others look up applicants' criminal records as a matter of course, and applicants with criminal records face a distinct disadvantage compared to those who do not have records.
Source: USA Today, "Study: Nearly 1 in 3 will be arrested by age 23," by Donna Leinwand Leger, 12/19/11