Juvenile Justice Essay Example

The biggest fear of parents is for a child’s life is failure, discontentment, and pain. Factors such as these can be experienced first-hand in the juvenile justice court system. The juvenile courts contain several issues causing a juvenile to be mentally unwell, repetitive in delinquent ways, and physically unwell. The lack of depth of information during young offenders’ cases can result in a lack of success, depression, and even the worst outcome: recidivism. Because of recidivism and failure to complete court-mandated orders, the juvenile court system should take every aspect into account to formulate an effective treatment for youth offenders.

The juvenile court system has quite an amount of cases in which could be manipulated to reform certain aspects. Troutman relates that in prior history in 1899, when Cook County of Illinois created the juvenile justice system due to 575 arrests of youths. After the newfound idea, juvenile justice systems were established throughout America in a time span less than thirty years (199). Mears et al. go on to explain the purpose of the formation of the system was to seek an equilibrium between punitive punishment and rehabilitation for the youth offenders and had to be done by exploring the morals and mentalities of these children (461). The juvenile court would serve as a “surrogate parent” to the broken children by protecting them “from adult sentencing and a lifetime of crime” (460). Brooks et al. note that in the 1980’s, the politics and society were afraid of the modern youth’s violence. Twenty years later, punitive practices were more prevalent, but the court also remained in the search for the correct balance (42). The youth justice court persists to reform time after time, but still, the balance has yet to be found.

Due to the faults of the court, many cases are seen more than just one time. Recidivism is the leading effect of the shallowness of the court. Brooks et al. acknowledge the youth that comes before the juvenile court system are high risks and have most likely dealt with mental health problems, abuse, and learning disabilities (44). However, a strong foot needs to be held despite these issues. “Failure to address behaviors can lead to perpetual recidivism” and can lead to the youth not knowing the severity of their actions (Zeola et al. 175). Ryan et al. reiterate of the greater part of youth offenders, who were presumably going to be arrested again within five years of the first arrest (14). These arrests would continue to build up a criminal record which hinders further education, deeper relationships with family and society, and the number of social services received.

The components of recidivism are numeral and seem to never end. Ryan et al. list the risks that may cause a youth offender to become a repeat offender: being in a minority group, gang activity in a community where the offender resides, number of offenses, and age of the first arrest (8). Mallet adds that as the amount of court offenses increase, so does the recidivism rate by 1.5 percent. The author also includes as age increases, offenders are 1.3 times more likely to offend again. Studies show that men and blacks are more likely to become repeat offenders (Ryan et al. 15). Mallet reports that as a part of a minority group, a youth would be more likely to be taken into custody. Even if being unintentional, these racial issues cause tension within the minorities (National Research Council 18). The juvenile justice court cannot control any of these aspects that cause recidivism; however, the court can assess the offender more than just an offender to find a better balance for rehabilitation and punishment.

Mental health plays a large role in delinquency rates and repetition rates. Mallet reports that mental and behavioral issues cause a more excessive rate of delinquency. The author also points out that depressive and hyperactive issues go hand in hand, thus resulting in misconduct. Upon entering the juvenile justice court, most adolescents with psychiatric issues have not been recognized (McCarter 252). Of the youth already in detention centers, twenty-three percent satisfies the qualifications of mental health disorders (251). Van der Put and de Ruiter emphasize that if neglected as a child, the adolescent is more likely to recidivate (2). Zeola et al. report that if referred to a specialized psychiatric plan, youths will be less likely to become repeat offenders. Also, such solutions also can lower legal system entanglement and expenses paid by society (167). McCarter agrees that if a juvenile is enrolled in treatment, the recidivism rates are little to none and that if the said youth does recidivate, it will be less likely to be a felony. If the court implements a mandatory screening for all adolescents, these issues can be found before trial and give a better perspective for the judges to form a sentence that is more fitting, less expensive, and safer for society.

Despite the efforts of the juvenile court system, the public has an everlasting feeling of the trials not being enough. Brooks et al. write about how society seeks a solution that will lower expenses and costs of negative outcomes (43-44). The most successful handling of young offenders is proven to be community-based treatments because it is cheaper, does not produce negative outcomes, and produces less recidivism (Lockwood et al. 462). Ryan et al. provide a solution called in-home probation that is also cheaper than detention facilities and causes a lowering in recidivism rates (15). Lockwood et al. share about how social distance can affect a teen’s success in community-based treatments:

For judges and treatment administrators who dictate where juvenile offenders attend treatment, this study indicates that these officials should consider how different the communities to which they will send young offenders are from where the young offenders currently reside. If there are multiple options for the type of treatment facilities that are deemed appropriate, priority should be given to facilities that are situated in neighborhoods similar to the home neighborhoods of the juveniles. (473)

Lockwood et al. go on to explain that social distance can cause failure by expulsion or dropping out, and the average youth only travels 4.2 miles (469). This is not a large interval; however, being away from home and from a comfort zone can affect a youth immensely, yet judges fail to realize these mistakes.

At times, the juvenile justice system can sentence an offender to a detention facility, which is one of the most ineffective treatments a youth could receive. Brooks et al. list the responsibilities of society when a juvenile is put into jail: the health, the safety, and the development of the offenders (44). Not only is this a burden for society mentally, but also financially. Juvenile correction centers require $241 per day per youth to provide necessary care (Ryan et al. 8). After these expenses, the children still may not obtain the help that is needed. The National Research Council explains that “youths who are confined are exposed to sexual abuse, extended isolation, use of restraints, untrained staff, and inadequate health and education services” which may explain why recidivism rates only grow after being placed in such a facility (21). Ryan et al. confirm that corrections cause mental disorders to continue, recidivism rates to rise, and mortality rates to increase (8). The authors also claim that as a youth is incarcerated, connections with others become more difficult and misconduct will persist after release. As a community, the question of why these centers still exist will arise very rapidly.

Some people often argue that punitive practices, rather than rehabilitation, are more effective. Brooks et al. write about a sociologist from the 1970’s who said, “nothing works” (43). Mears et al. confirm this statement by arguing the failures of the juvenile court system and the differences between the actions and the founders’ ideals (462). The authors also explain how the general society does support punitive measures, and the people definitely support tough punishment when it comes to violent offenders (463). Ryan et al. back up this claim by writing that these violent offenders need punitive punishment to protect the public (8). The world is afraid of today’s youth and upcoming youth. The only obstacle being faced is the choice between sympathy and empathy. Despite the mind-boggling decisions, research shows that everyone agrees youth offenders should be at fault for the misconduct (National Research Council 19). This makes it rather difficult for the court to choose “programs at a local-level” due to the incapability of serving imperative services (24). Punitive measures are what the public begs for, especially when fear is involved.

Juvenile court systems are disappointing the families, the communities, and the futures of the young offenders. Although many years of reform shaped the juvenile justice system, this still is not enough. The court does not provide adequate mental health services, sentencing for the youth, or solutions to the doubts of society. Due to these issues, recidivism has not stopped and continues to grow with age, offenses, and even race. The mentally unwell are being punished when rehabilitation is needed. The youths of minorities are being punished when all that is necessary is in-home probation. An enormous amount of money is being spent on correctional facilities that are not effective. If this amount was spent on group homes or community-based programs, one could only imagine the progress of a youth. The youths, families, and communities are in need of a solution only the juvenile court system can allow.


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