Progresso Latino and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island (ACLU RI) have sent a letter to Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and the Central Falls City Council urging the repeal of the City’s juvenile curfew law. The letter was prompted by the publication of “The Curfew Myth” by Ivonne Roman, writing on The Marshall Project, a criminal justice blog.
“A systematic review of research literature on juvenile curfew programs was published in 2016 by the Campbell Collaboration, a nonprofit that synthesizes research studies for policy-makers. Campbell examined over 7,000 studies on juvenile curfews and synthesized the 12 most rigorous studies. The report stated that, ‘evidence suggests that juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization. The average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive – that is a slight increase in crime – and close to zero for crime during all hours. Similarly, juvenile victimization also appeared unaffected by the imposition of a curfew ordinance.’”
Beyond not working, curfews criminalize ordinary behavior and primarily target youth of color.
“Curfew ordinances … make perfectly innocent activity – walking, talking or traveling outside – illegal,” says Progresso Latino and the ACLU in their letter. “By doing so, they give police virtually unbridled discretion to stop, detain, harass and search teenagers. This can only encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
“The ordinance’s racial impact also cannot be ignored. Across the country, curfew ordinances seem to be enforced most often in black and Latino communities, and Rhode Island is no exception.”
“Although the penalties in the City’s ordinance might seem relatively minor, enforcement of the ordinance can have the unfortunate and deleterious effect of leading young teens into the judicial system at an early age. … Even minor penalties can quickly turn into major ones when a parent fails, or finds herself unable, to pay any fines imposed.
“Our organizations certainly understand the City’s interest in seeking to protect teenagers from violence at night, but it should be up to parents, not police, to enforce curfews for their children, and for police to instead focus on enforcing the criminal laws on the books. Police time that is spent looking for … young people after some arbitrary nighttime hour arrives is time spent away from truly protecting the public.
“In conclusion, we believe that of all the interventions to address the problem of teenagers ‘hanging around doing nothing,’ police and judicial involvement are among the most toxic and counter-productive. There are many ordinances already on the books to deal with misconduct by juveniles – whether committed during the day or night. Imposition of a virtual house arrest against the innocent and guilty alike should not be in the arsenal.”
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