Modern social order is maintained through rules and regulations that aim to deter unlawful behavior, however punishments and rules may vary based upon the group that is being addressed especially those who are underage. This issue has been argued since the commencement of the Juvenile court system in 1899 and continues to be an issue today. According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, before the twentieth century, children who committed crimes were tried and punished as adults. During the progressive era, many people were migrating to the United States and as a result, the children of these poor migrant families began to wander the streets and started engaging in criminal activity (2008). In this day and age, society has a different way of dealing with juvenile criminal behavior, one of them being Juvenile Detention centers. Juvenile detention centers are secured housing facilities for juvenile offenders. The primary purpose of juvenile custody is to keep youth who have committed crimes away from the public. However, judges often sentence juveniles who have just violated probation orders or are in noncompliance with a court order. Detention continues to be the popular solution to juvenile deviance amongst justice officials , the public and justice officials despite the increasing costs and attention devoted to alternatives of custody (Hogeveen 2005). Separated from adult prisons, juveniles spend their sentences in detention centers as forms of rehabilitation for their crimes. However, while there are ample funds allocated to detain and restore juvenile delinquents, the juvenile justice system lacks programs and policies that could easily improve the quality of life of thousands of juveniles. Although juvenile detention serves its purpose by incapacitating/detaining criminal offenders under the age of 18, it has often been proven to be inefficient.
According to Hogeveen, “Early juvenile institutions in the United States were based on the teaching of life and trade skills. The idea behind teaching skills was that criminality was a result of the social environment and often was a survival mechanism. If youth were taught other skills, they were more likely to make meaningful contributions to society upon their release”(2005). In “Sense and Nonsense About Crime Drugs and Communities” Walker argues concerning past approaches to criminal justice policies. In the past, crime policies were made based on instinct and assumptions and not on actual science or evidence based studies, this is what caused most programs and interventions to be unsuccessful. Modern day research suggests that reform strategies need to be customized on a case to case basis. Walker states that there are four steps to creating a healthy evidence based crime policy. First, “It needs to demand empirical evidence of the effectiveness of the policy”, this will eliminate all assumptions and “wishful thinking” so that the policy is actually based on scientific facts rather than personal feelings and opinion. Second, “it sets a very high requirement of experimental or quasi-experimental research design in which subjects are randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The third element of evidence based policy is the requirement of replication”. Youths detained during the late 19th century were subjected to a general reform program that promised a solution to juvenile delinquency all across the board. Evidence based policy is important because it utilizes different people and different control groups which in the end will go to show that the past methods as used in the 19th century were ineffective and this is why they have failed. The last step of evidence based policy planning is that ,” the findings of available evaluations need to be subject to systemic reviews of studies.” To ensure that the policy is effective, analysts must review all available studies so that the policy would not be based on only one study.
A good example of a failed program is the Cambridge-Somerville (Massachusetts) Youth Study from 1930s to 1945. The study selected boys who lived in youth facilities ages 5 to 13 years old and were put into a treatment group. Children in the control group were assigned to a counselor and were referred to receive services such as academic tutoring, medical attention, referrals to boy scouts as well as other community programs. After 10 years, the findings were that there was no difference, but 30 years later criminologist Joan McCord tracked down the participants and interviewed them. She found that the program had no impacts on juvenile or adult arrests. In fact, her studies showed that those boys were “more likely to have been convicted of a felony, to have died at a younger age, or have been diagnosed as an alcoholic, schizophrenic, or manic depressive than those not receiving treatment”(Walker 2011). The study was not very well planned out and was planned on wishful thinking, raising the expectations of the lower class youths by imposing middle class values upon them. The program also lacked frequent follow up to ensure program progress and see what changes needed to made to improve. Robert Hoge (2001) argued that when it pertains to youth, an aggressive level of Case Management organization is very important to case planning in institutional settings. The main goal of the program should be to provide a wide range of analysis of risks and needs connected to young offenders’ patterns of offending, and create a format for linking the findings of the evaluation with decisions about treatment planning. James Finckenauer (1992) suggested that effective treatment starts with rehabilitation programs that are made together with the offenders and tailored to their individual needs and particular risks. In recent years, some agreement has been reached about the success of programs that are matched to the needs and conditions of each offender.
Through different forms of rehabilitation rather than punishment, the problems within the juvenile detention centers could be solved, providing better living conditions for society as a whole. In recent years, there has been a shift in centers away from a punitive purpose and towards the rehabilitation of offenders. Juvenile detention centers offers incarcerated juveniles Opportunities to continue their education, Physical activities and exercise programs, Access to library resources, and allotted visitation with family members. According to the National Institute of Justice, One program that has been said to be effective is “Project BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development)”; which is a violence prevention program designed for youths in detention centers. It helps youth in detentions centers overcome obstacles such as gangs,violence, crime and drugs. Beginning in 1993 in the Nancy B. Jefferson (NBJ) Alternative School of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC) in Chicago, The program was designed as intervention for youth who have come in contact with the juvenile justice system. In efforts to reduce recidivism (the likelihood that the offender will reoffend after being released) and diminish the prospects that youth will become adult offenders, Case Managers provide a reentry program and follow-up with case management services to ensure that upon release the juveniles enroll in school and engage in constructive activities.
In 2000, a study was conducted by which found that participation in project BUILD had resulted in lower rates of recidivism. While the program did not significantly reduce recidivism by a large amount, there were lower rates of recidivism when comparing those who participated in the program and those who didn’t. “Among those who participated in the program, 33 percent returned to detention within 1 year, compared with 57 percent of non-Project BUILD youths.” In addition, participants who returned to detention centers took approximately 2 months longer time to recidivate (9.6 months) as opposed to those who did not participate in the program who took 7.6 months to recidivate. This is not much of a of a significant difference but it did prove to reduce recidivism rates. The ultimate goal is to create behavior that would keep them out so this goes to show that even though the program had merely just began a little under a decade ago, much work is needed to see improvement. Thus, an intervention is required in order to restore the balance and justice for juvenile delinquents. Observing the “impact model”(Welsh 2013) as a model for interventions as discussed in Criminal Justice Policy and Planning , it’s important to observe and identify the causes of the issues within juvenile detention centers, as well as a policy/program to counteract or solve these problems, along with a new course of action to produce better results. Spending more resources on violent offenders and deterring crime within non-violent offenders would benefit juveniles and society alike. In outpatient programs and educational interventions, juvenile delinquents stand a better chance of positively turning their lives around, and actually becoming rehabilitated.
Some of the issues that stem from juvenile detention centers are the disproportionalities that exist within them. Firstly, juvenile detention centers are private institutions and are thus profitable for those who own them. While there is regulation by the government, politically, it sensible for juvenile detention centers to remain open and continue to push people through the system because it’s simply more profitable in the long-run. Additionally, people will argue against government funding for educational programs for delinquents. Taxpayers often have apathy for delinquents, and don’t believe that their tax money should go to improving their lives. Still, this thinking is backwards, and dangerous; while it is difficult for some to sympathize with delinquents, it is also unfair for non-violent offenders to lose the opportunity at ever leading a normal life from a very young age. Furthermore, overcrowding has become a significant problem, and there is a huge schism between the punishments given out and the crimes being committed. If 70% of juvenile delinquents are non-violent offenders, there is no reason for there to be a lack of space in detention centers because not every crime warrants time to be served. Secondly, is the racial disparity that have been made apparent within detention centers. Minorities of all kinds make up the class of offenders who are detained in these detention centers, and minority youths are currently being incarcerated at an extremely high rate. A study done of juvenile court judges of felony cases found that, “racial characteristics had a dramatic impact on judicial decisions to incarcerate minority offenders”(Hogeveen 2005), even when factors like weapon use, victim injury, and socioeconomic were controlled. Incarcerated youths are often held in terrible conditions with limited work or education options, and poorly trained staff. While the conditions for male juvenile offenders are horrendous, institutions for adolescent girls’ are often neglected entirely by policymakers and politicians because adolescent females make up such a small percentage of the offending population. Girls in institutions remain “too few to count” and are the “forgotten few.” Very few programs have been designed to meet the unique needs of the female offender population. Interventions and risk management tools that have been developed by men for boys are often applied to female offenders without reference to the gendered nature of adolescent development. Moreover, the small number of incarcerated girls is frequently invoked to deny them access to treatment programs. This cycle of disregard for the needs of young female offenders has created additional problems that plays a role to their inferiority in society as well as in the juvenile justice system.
The first step in intervention is identifying and acknowledging the issue at hand. Juvenile detention centers are counter-intuitive, and produce more violent and negative minors into society, to lead lives of crime rather than productive ones. Statistics indicate that juveniles who spend time within detention centers are more likely to assume mental health problems, less likely to become employed, and less likely to obtain high school or college educations. The social learning theory indicated the ways in which behaviors are learned, through the use of incentives and expectancies. Social learning theory suggests that expectancies in their basic forms (environmental cues, outcome expectancy, and efficacy expectation) promote the adaptation of specific behaviors, which make it possible to understand and predict patterned behaviors within similar individuals (in this case, juvenile delinquents). Expectancies deter certain behaviors and promote others; personal knowledge regarding consequences, self-competency and social norms are all taken to account during decision-making. Additionally, the use of incentives promote improvements or better behavior. Incentives provide motivation, which makes them an important aspect within the decision-making process as well (Rosenstock, I. 1988). Incentives and expectancies, collectively, play a notable role within the behaviors of juvenile offenders. Providing a basis for a solution to the juvenile detention problem, I believe the social learning theory should be taken into consideration when creating a program or policy for society’s troubled youth. “Criminal Justice policy and planning” (2013) exhibits an example of an effective way of planning and implementing an intervention. Weed and seed, which was a federally funded strategy intended to plan anti-drug resources in communities known to have high levels of crime. The four key components used for this strategy which were Weeding, seeding, enhanced coordination, and community policing. Two main components of this crime intervention that would be useful in the juvenile justice system is weeding out and seeding. Weeding refers to identifying and prosecuting the criminals in the targeted area. In regarding juveniles, I believe weeding would work in the sense that they would identify the children with behaviors of concern and treat them through counseling and social programs where they can learn to live as law abiding citizens rather than grow into a life of crime. Seeding works on integrating offenders into society with programs and initiatives to prevent them from breaking the law again such as after school programs, literacy classes, and other human services (Welsh 2013). Through both stages of this intervention, juveniles would have a better chance of turning their lives around and not cycling in and out of detention centers or jails. The objective of this intervention is to decrease the amount of juveniles in detention centers, decrease recidivism rates, and truly assimilate the juveniles back into society successfully. A study conducted by Hagoveen (2005), suggested that mentoring has the potential to provide alternative adult support and guidance, which is often lacking in the lives of juvenile offenders. Mentors often may be able to help juveniles gain access to resources in the community that are necessary for successful transition such as but not limited to counseling, employment, and medical services. This is more likely to occur when the juvenile system staff members also serve as informal mentors. Staff members are familiar with the juvenile justice system and with the resources available to juvenile offenders, making them ideal mentors for the troubled youth. Thus, a thorough approach to mentoring that engages multiple social contexts may be important for successful mentoring of juvenile offenders. Mentors can help to strengthen other protective factors in the lives of youth. For example, mentors can assist youth in negotiating the school system, help resolve conflicts between youth and their parents by communicating youths’ perspectives to their parents, and model positive behaviors like encouraging participation in their communities. For young offenders, mentoring appears to be an intervention that holds great potential, especially when the families of the youth are involved.
Some recommendations for further research would be to consistently follow up with the current findings for further validation and to conduct further research in the area including a focus on mental health as a risk factor for juvenile delinquency. Working in conjunction with other juvenile justice agencies such as the department of probation, social services, department of education, etc. can greatly impact the rates of recidivism, given than all have a stake in this and they are all linked to one another in some way. If the department of Education has failed a youth by not providing its needs which led to delinquent behavior, the juvenile justice system will be able to find that out by having open communication with these other agencies and therefore can come to a resolution. Another area of further research could be examining ethnicity or race considering socioeconomic status. Based on studies, youth from a lower socioeconomic status are be at a higher rate of recidivism. If possible, it would ideal for future policymakers to actually talk to the juveniles who are recidivating and hear directly from them what is not working and what can be done to help them be successful. I also suggest that a larger sample group be used for future research. The larger group will allow for more factors to be dealt with on a case by case basis instead of results to being generalized to the overall juvenile population. Though this may take time, it is important to continue to research the topic of juvenile detention centers for much needed modifications and revisions until the desired outcomes are achieved. Juvenile delinquency poses a problem for society; detention centers are producing criminals rather than rehabilitated individuals, and in return, creating an unsafe society with more criminals. Juvenile detention centers, evidently, do not promote rehabilitation or restoration, and put the lives of these juveniles at risk for years to come. By overpopulating juvenile detention centers with non-violent offenders, society is conditioning juveniles to become criminals well into their adult life. Walker defines this as selective incapacitation—only certain crimes should warrant punishments that result in jail/detention center sentences. The answer for this is simple; once in the justice system, it is extremely difficult to get out of it. The Juvenile Justice system can be viewed as quicksand. Once a youth is detained and has gone through the system, their chances of going deeper into the system are higher, even when controlling for their prior offenses. Therefore, by keeping these juveniles out of the system in the first place, it is easier to solve the problems that come with it (recidivism, racial disproportionality, etc).Truly, not all of the current policies and laws are ineffective, but as the world changes and evolves, so should the policies and procedures to ensure that they stay effective and meets the needs of the parties of interest.