A Systemic Problem
UTEC believes that poverty and prejudice are the primary forces that propel our young people to join gangs and engage in other risky and destructive behaviors. While the circumstances that lead to these behaviors may differ, out-of-school young adults living in poverty usually lack positive relationships with adults in their communities to serve as mentors or role models.
In addition to the lack of effective support networks, young adults who become gang or criminally involved tend to have higher rates of educational interruption and eventually drop out of school, which further compounds the problem. The level of educational attainment dramatically decreases once a young person has contact with law enforcement, particularly when incarcerated as a juvenile. A further challenge is that many young adults living in poverty need to provide financial support to their families and often put their education or long-term goals aside to do so. Due to interruptions in their education, they have lost time to develop skills and do not see themselves on a path toward secondary/post-secondary education or have clear plans for stable employment.
In short, criminal activity leads to a disruption of education, which eventually leads to increased likelihood of further criminal involvement and decreased employment opportunities.
- If impact young adults are productively engaged in UTEC activities and supports for an extended period during the critical ages of 17-25, then by 25, they will have the skills and resilience to maintain stable employment and avoid further criminal activity.
- If we are able to specifically target and serve those impact young adults (through the age of 25) who are most likely to recidivate and cause harm in our communities, success will also translate into a significant return on investment from a public health, public safety, and economic development perspective.