Good Essay On Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative
Juvenile crime has always been a major problem in the United States. The country has witnessed a relatively large numbers of crimes committed by persons under the age of 18 years. These have ranged from serious crimes such as murder to small and petty crimes such as pickpocketing and vandalism. Over the years, the high levels of juvenile crimes have been attributed to different causes including the type of parenting, peer influence, environmental learning, and poverty among others. However, the last few years have seen the rates of juvenile crimes significantly go down. One problem that has persisted in spite of the overall levels of juvenile crimes down is a high detention rate of the juvenile defenders. The statistics on the total number of juveniles who have been detained and incarcerated in various detention and correctional centers is very high. For example, just as recent as 2010, the total number of juveniles in various detention centers across the country was roughly 71, 000 (Sickmund, 2010). In addition, it is estimated that every year, more than half-million youths are brought to detention centers (Sickmund, 2010). This has elicited debate on whether it is indeed appropriate to incarcerate juveniles or whether alternative methods of punishments or restriction from the rest of the society should be utilized (Austin, Dedel & Weitzer, 2005). The debate has even made its way to the law corridors of various states with suggestions being raised that alternatives to detention that have much better outcomes than detention itself should be enacted.
The reliance of America on juvenile detention and incarceration is widely documented in literature. First of all, it emerges that although the number of juvenile crime rates in America are only marginally higher than the next ranked nations, the custody rate (both correctional and detention) is almost five times as high as the next ranked nation which is South Africa. For example, statistics show that 336 out of every 1000000 youth in America are under custody while in a country such as South Africa, this rate is 69 per every 1000, 000 youth (Austin, Dedel & Weitzer, 2005). This problem of juvenile detention seems to be evenly spread across the states with each recording significantly high rates of detention for youths arrested for committing juvenile crimes.
One of the aspects that have prompted frequent calls for the exploration and utilization of alternatives to detention is the high rate of maltreatment in juvenile centers (James, 2003). Studies show that there is a lot of maltreatment that happens in juvenile detention centers (Tarolla et al., 2002).
The other reason why there has been intensive debate on juvenile detention is the finding that detention is no more effective than other means of punishment such as probation or alternative sanctions when it comes to reducing the criminal tendency of adjudicated youth (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000). In fact, some studies seem to suggest that correctional placements in actual sense exacerbates criminality (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000). Another finding that elicited the class for alternatives to detention to be enacted is the one that shows that detention and incarceration is even more ineffective when it comes to less serious offenders (Tarolla et al., 2002). Studies seem to indicate that incarceration and detention heighten the recidivism among young people with less serious offending history and lower risk profiles (Holman & Ziedenberg, 2006).
These findings are clearly solid enough to warrant and give credence to the push for alternative means to juvenile detention to be enacted (Altschule, 1994). Several alternatives have already been suggested although many of them remain untested and their viability, therefore, unproven.
One program that has been utilized in the state of South Dakota and that can help to alleviate the problem of high juvenile detention rates is named “Juvenile detention alternative Initiative” (JDAI) (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative., 2007).
This program offers a different response strategy to juvenile crime that leads to fewer youth detention and lock ups. This program was at the beginning initiated in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. The success of the program saw it spread to other areas of South Dakota. So successful was the program that a little time after it was initiated, it was officially taken over by the court system of the state (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative., 2007). This was in order to broaden the use of the program that state officials saw as very promising.
The Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative substitutes youth lockups with other measures that are seen to be equally if not more effective (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative., 2007). Some of the measures that are prevalently used include electronic monitoring bracelets, home detention, shelter care and evening attendance centers.
This is a sample program that can be utilized in states all across the nation. The program has already recorded favorable results when it has been utilized. As shown earlier, detention and incarceration are becoming increasingly not effective. Detention no longer acts as a crime deterrence measure and, in fact, it has been seen to facilitate recidivism. This could perhaps be attributed to the fact that youth in detention centers are usually exposed to their peers who are at higher crime risk and who have in fact engaged in more serious crimes (Austin, Dedel & Weitzer, 2005). Ultimately, these high-risk juvenile offenders may promote higher criminal tendencies in lower risk juvenile offenders such that by the time they are released, they have not been rehabilitated, but have in fact become more crime prone.
The “Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative” uses techniques that can help reduce the risk of recidivism and facilitate rehabilitation.
The use of home detention is a preferable option when compared to the official detention. Being detained at home provides time for the juvenile offender to reflect on what they have done and chose to make changes in their lives. Unlike federal or state detention, lower risk juveniles are not mixed with counterparts who are more damaged criminal-wise (Austin, Dedel & Weitzer, 2005).
The other measures used by the program also have similar effects. Electronic monitoring bracelets prevent the youth from going out there and engaging in delinquent behavior that may land them in trouble again and by being restricted in terms of movement, they are given the chance to sit down, reflect on their actions and chose a strategy forward path.
Shelter care and evening attendance centers are also better options when compared to actual detention. These centers are accompanied by counseling services and facilities that give the much-needed counsel to juvenile offenders (Rutherford & Bengur, 1976). This is a service that is obviously not present in actual detention centers. In these centers, young offenders are given important life lessons that they can use to help them get out of the life of crime and delinquency (Rutherford & Bengur, 1976).
In addition, when these youths are exposed to these alternatives to detention, they do not face the risk of mistreatment and bullying that characterizes detention centers across the nation (Barry, 2005). These measures simply give the juvenile youths a better chance of being rehabilitated and at the same time ensure that the safety and the wellbeing of these youths is guaranteed (Rutherford & Bengur, 1976).
The rolling out of this program to all states should not be a major issue given its relative simplicity. Investing in such a program is a worthy cause and, in fact, it is hugely affordable to many state governments. State governments should re-direct the enormous amount of funds that are used for juvenile detention and incarceration to detention alternative programs that offers much hope for juvenile crime reduction (Aizer & Doyle, 2013). Since the program has already been proven to be effective in South Dakota, it should also work in other states since as explained earlier, juvenile offending patterns do not vary much across the 50 states in the nation.
Although overall juvenile crime rates in the nation have gone down significantly, it is clear that a very large of youths arrested for juvenile crimes inadvertently end up being detained. Detention includes those youths awaiting trial for various crime offenses as well as those who have already been convicted. A lot of research has been conducted on this issue and from this research, it is clear that detention is no longer effective and, in fact; it is perhaps making the problem of juvenile crime even worse. It is therefore recommended that alternatives to detention be immediately established and enacted to act as substitutes to the hugely ineffective detention. This paper has shown a sample program that is already being utilized in South Dakota, and that is named “Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative”. This program which includes measures such as home detention and electronic bracelet offer much better outcomes when compared to juvenile detention. It is recommended that that states across the country adopt this program and completely do away with detention.
Altschuler, D. M. (1994). Tough and smart juvenile incarceration: reintegrating punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. . Louis U. Pub. L. Rev., 14, 217.
Aizer, A., & Doyle Jr, J. J. (2013). Juvenile incarceration, human capital and future crime: Evidence from randomly-assigned judges (No. w19102). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Austin, J., Dedel, K., & Weitzer, R. J. (2005). Alternatives to the secure detention and confinement of juvenile offenders. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Barry Krisberg. (2005). Juvenile justice: Redeeming our children. Sage.
Holman, B., & Ziedenberg, J. (2006). The dangers of detention: The impact of incarcerating youth in detention and other secure facilities (p. 9). Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.
James C. Howell. (2003). Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. Sage.
Jonson-Reid, M., & Barth, R. P. (2000). From placement to prison: The path to adolescent incarceration from child welfare supervised foster or group care. Children and Youth Services Review, 22(7), 493-516.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. (2007). Detention Reform Brief 1: Detention Reform: A Cost‐Saving Approach. Annie E. Casey Foundation. http://www. aecf. org/upload/PublicationFiles/jdai_facts1. Pdf.
Rutherford, A., & Bengur, O. (1976). Community-based Alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration (Vol. 53, No. 8). US Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
Sickmund, M. (2010). Juveniles in Residential Placement. Montana, 17(210), 204.
Tarolla, S. M., Wagner, E. F., Rabinowitz, J., & Tubman, J. G. (2002). Understanding and treating juvenile offenders: A review of current knowledge and future directions. Aggression and violent behavior, 7(2), 125-143.
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