U.S. Attorney General Invites Professor to Give Testimony
Task Force Seeks to Raise Awareness About Children's Exposure to Violence
Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology
UT Dallas criminologist Dr. Alex Piquero will offer testimony on the cost and benefits of crime prevention during an April 24 hearing led by the U.S. Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.
Piquero, an Ashbel Smith Professor of criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, received an invitation to speak at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., where task force members ranging from practitioners to family advocates will hear from experts about the problems associated with children’s exposure to violence in the United States, both as victims and as witnesses.
Piquero said he is honored to speak at the forum, which will be the task force’s final hearing.
“Anytime you get to testify before a government task force it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s important and a humbling honor because you can bring science to the discussion to help inform policy. And any time science can be used to make better decisions, that’s always a good thing.”
The task force is part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, a project that aims to prevent children’s exposure to violence, decrease the negative effects of the exposure, and raise awareness about the issue.
More than 60 percent of children surveyed in a 2009 Department of Justice study were exposed to violence within the past year either directly or indirectly. Long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm can result among children exposed to violence. They’re also at an increased risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life, according to the Defending Childhood Initiative website.
Piquero said long-term repercussions could lead to a culture of tolerance, in which violence and crime are seen as acceptable ways of dealing with problems.
“We want people dealing with problems and seeing how to solve issues and arguments that emerge not through violence and fists, but through discussion and understanding,” he said. “We’ll always have a difference of opinion, and diversity is a good thing. But we want people to have less reaction with anger and more reaction with compassion.”
The task force will issue a report this fall to the Attorney General that will cover its findings and policy recommendations.
Piquero said the group aims to develop ideas that can affect policy “to reduce kids being exposed to violence and more generally help them develop into productive, good citizens.”
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