Home Opinion The Surprising Truth about Incarceration and Millennials

The Surprising Truth about Incarceration and Millennials

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Substance abuse education has led to many positive results. Primary among these is an increased awareness of the detrimental effects of substance abuse as well as an increased awareness of the tools and resources that are available to help individuals break free from substance abuse.

While there are many positive statistics, generational felony stats shows that there is still some work needed in the field of drug education, substance abuse prevention, and rehabilitation.

The Link between Drugs and Incarceration

The war on drugs seems to be a perpetual one. Although much information is provided about the destructive nature of substance abuse and the danger of drug addiction, a significant part of the US population gives into the temptation. The effect that this has on friends and family members is challenging.

Contrary to popular belief, substance abuse is not just a challenge faced by the young. In fact, substance abuse does not respect age or generation. The impact of substance abuse and incarceration crosses the gambits of generations.

Does The Younger Generation Commit More Crimes?

Still, the question may arise if the younger generation commits more crimes overall. The surprising answer is no. In fact, reports show that there has been a 23 percent reduction in the number of millennials arrested for crimes when compared to previous generations when they were at the age millennials are at now.

Surprising still is the fact that even though millennials are committing fewer crimes, the overall crime rate of Americans is higher than it was just two decades ago. This means that baby boomers and Generation Xers are engaged in more crimes than their children or even their grandchildren.

Millennials are better behaved than individuals 10 years their senior. This includes things like drug arrests, violent arrests, and alcohol arrests. However, there is one exception to this pattern. Millennials are getting arrested with greater frequency for marijuana use.

Reasons for This Generational Shift

There are number reasons why millennials may be committing fewer crimes, or at least getting arrested less than previous generations. First, millennials have the highest rate of college education than any previous generation. Second, millennials are characterized by an empathetic and conservative nature. As a result, they don’t have the stomach for crime, much less violent crime.

The economy may be another factor. Millennials have challenges finding employment. However, many are benefiting from the wealth that their parents gained. Additionally, changes in drug laws, for example, the legalization of marijuana in certain cities, means that millennials are not being charged and are not being arrested as often.

Millennials: The New Victorian Generation

Some argue that the decrease in incarceration rates among millennials is connected to a change in what is expected. Baby boomers and Generation Xers grew up during a period of elevated crime in the United States. As a result, many inculcated in their children the idea that shoplifting, bullying, binge drinking, or engaging in other risky activity was unacceptable. Since these parents expected or wanted something better from their children, their children have lived up to these expectations. In other words, it seems that millennials have just chosen to act better. This has led many to make comparisons between the current generation of young people and Victorian England where people were striving to obtain what has been described as “the morality that dignifies and symbolizes human beings.”

Future Efforts to Curb Criminal Activity

It is clear that societal pressures, education, and expectations can have an effect on the likelihood of a person to commit a crime, arrest rates, and incarceration rates. It is positive to think about this as it shows that humans have a level of control over their destiny.


Continued pressure from all sectors of life, including government, family, social services, and religious entities, will play a role in determining whether or not this downward trend in criminal activity and incarceration rate continues on to the next generation.