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Youth Rights 101, Part 5: When Going Outside Is a Crime

Written by Katrina Moncure Feb 21, 2012

This is part of the Youth Rights 101 series. Please check out Youth Rights 101: Introduction for the rest of the series and more information.

Aren’t curfew laws necessary to keep kids safe and out of trouble? Should kids really be out so late?

The real question is, should anyone be out so late, of any age? Why is it so questionable for 16-year-olds to be outside late at night, that some cities and counties have set youth curfew laws legally requiring them to stay home during certain hours, while 36-year-olds outside late are presumed innocent?

Some claim curfews are to keep youth safe from dangerous city streets, yet the 36-year-old, who is no safer on those streets, need not fear arrest for such “self-endangerment”.

Curfews don’t make cities safer and, when enacted for that supposed purpose, are an admission that the city is unsafe and its officials don’t care to do anything real about it. You don’t keep people safe by treating them like the criminals. Using curfews for this reason is to say that, if a teen is attacked late at night, it was her own fault because she “shouldn’t have been out”. This is victim blaming!

If curfews are the answer to an out of control crime problem, wasting already-insufficient police resources on innocent teens only gives real criminals of any age less chance of being caught! So it is unsurprising that, even though many cities still look to curfews for crime reduction, curfews have shown to be useless in that area!

Some have claimed curfews help parents enforce their own curfews, yet this forgets that not all parents want this “help” (especially since some curfews punish parents whose kids violate it), that law enforcement should not get involved in a simple matter of household rules. And even so, it is up to the teens themselves when to be out, not the parents, and certainly not the government.

For something so simple as the right to move around, to go outside your house, why is this simple right for youth so often denied in many places and in jeopardy in others? Why doesn’t “innocent until proven guilty” apply to teenagers? It comes down to, as with most or all anti-youth policies, seeing youth as some “other” kind of people entirely, who aren’t as entitled to the rights and respect of the majority, and that what freedoms they do have can be sacrificed (without their consent as they’re too young to vote) to give the voting public the illusion of safety and therefore score political points for those in charge.

What do you think? What are some other ways youth are harmed when their ability to go outside is legally inhibited? Tell us in the comments!

See Also:
Curfew FAQ
Our Curfew page
Our Curfews and Status Offenses forum
Our Curfews blog posts and articles
Our Curfews papers and research
Alex Koroknay-Palicz’s Testimony Against the Montgomery County Curfew

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