Juvenile Justice System: Correction and Sentencing

Non-Academic Sources

The source by Rovner explores the problem of juvenile sentencing to life without parole. The issue is highly relevant to discuss because it shows that the juvenile justice system treats young people harshly and prevents them from having an opportunity to improve and have a positive outlook on life and become valuable members of society. The author also underlines the importance of considering racial disparities, childhood experiences, and mental health issues when sentencing youth offenders.

In the ABC News article, Keneally reports on the resentencing of offenders sentenced for crime as a juvenile, which is a step toward shifting the focus of the juvenile justice system. For example, the article includes the case of Alvin Kennard, who was 22 when being sentenced for life for stealing $50.75 from a bakery, and now has spent 36 years in prison. Such cases are innumerable and must be considered during the sentencing of young people.

In The Conversation article, McGregor suggests that youth crime is a phase, and that sentencing to prison time is often counterproductive. While the author explored the issue in the Australian context, the problems remain the same. Young people in detention come from complex and unstable backgrounds, and sentencing them to prison leads to the increase of reoffending of their needs remain unaddressed.

The NCSL juvenile justice guide book for legislators is targeted at addressing the psychological needs of young offenders. The source is valuable for helping legislators understand that without treatment, children may continue on the path of delinquency. Mental health issues contribute to the increased risks of offending, which is why screening and treatment should be fundamental components of juvenile justice interventions.

Annotated Bibliography: Academic Sources

Researchers have explored the issues that juveniles experience at correctional facilities to have an all-encompassing look at the critical limitations of the system. The following annotated bibliography presents five academic sources that can be used for exploring the issue to a greater extent.

Young, Susan, et al. “Juvenile Delinquency, Welfare, Justice and Therapeutic Interventions: A Global Perspective.” BJPsych Bulletin, vol. 41, no. 1, 2017, pp. 21-29.

The researchers focused on the international perspective of juvenile delinquency and explored the justice, welfare, and therapeutic interventions targeted at improving the lives of young people at correctional facilities. It was revealed that the existing legal frameworks in different countries were insufficient for managing the problems that the target population faces. The need for high-quality psychiatric interventions as well as legal frameworks is associated with the intention of reducing recidivism rates. Instead of the punitive approach, scholars proposed to integrate life improvement and educational plans that would provide juvenile offenders with resources to have more opportunities after being released.

Grigorenko, Elena, et al. “Improved Educational Achievement as a Path to Desistance.” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, vol. 165, 2019, pp. 111-135.

The authors explored the connections between learning difficulties or disabilities and the increased likelihood of juvenile delinquency. The study is essential for understanding that young people may resort to violence and other criminal activities when they lack resources that could enable them to have a successful life. Moreover, the highly strict treatment of juvenile offenses complicates the situation as young people are trapped in a toxic environment that does not give much room for growth and improvement. Therefore, the researchers proposed a focus on behavioral and educational therapies in order to reduce recidivism rates among young people and provide them with positive life opportunities post-release.

McCarthy, Patrick, et al. “The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model.” New Thinking in Community Corrections, vol. 2016, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-35.

In order for young people who have committed crimes to acknowledge their wrongdoings and improve in the future, the authors proposed to implement a community-based program as an alternative to the merely punitive system of dealing with juvenile offenders. The current model that is used for dealing with young delinquents fails to protect the public as well as ensure that young people who have committed crimes can become valuable members of society after being released. The researchers propose to engage adults into the development of young people, facilitate peer group interventions, offer more significant opportunities for academic success, as well as engage in decision-making activities that can facilitate the development of positive life skills.

Leiber, Michael, and Jennifer Peck. “Race in Juvenile Justice and Sentencing Policy: An Overview of Research and Policy Recommendations.” Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, vol. 31, no. 2, 2013, pp. 331-368.

In sentencing, juvenile offenders are highly likely to encounter stereotyping and prejudice as contributors to developing a sentence. Race differences play a major role when it comes to finding a punishment for an offender as Black youths are more likely to be arrested compared to Whites across all types of offense. Sentences also favy depending on race, with Black young people getting longer and more punitive sentences compared to their White counterparts committing the same crime. Therefore, the researchers call for the need to review the existing sentencing policies in order to take race out of the equation and focus on the fair treatment of all juvenile offenders regardless of their race.

Ashford, Jose, and John Gallagher. “Preventing Juvenile Transitions to Adult Crime: A Pilot Study of Probation Interventions for Older, High-Risk Juvenile Delinquents.” Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 46, no. 8, 2019, pp. 1148-1164.

For young people who have already been arrested for committing a crime, it is vital to ensure that they do not transition to adult crime in the future lives. The authors propose a case management framework that would address the basic needs of juvenile offenders and equip them with resources to be more successful in future life and avoid reoffending. The interventions should be targeted at helping young people transition to a new life post-release.

Literature Review

The topic of juvenile offending has received exponential attention in the research field, with the majority of studies underlining the importance of helping young offenders become valuable members of society and have resources for life and work. The current legal frameworks that deal with juvenile offenders focus predominantly on punishment as the main method of preventing recidivism. What many fail to understand that juvenile offenders have been consistently identified to have a high prevalence of mental health issues compared with the general juvenile population (Young et al. 21). Therefore, an approach to managing the criminal behavior that uses punishment as the central tool is more likely to lead to further reoffending because the mental health of young people remains unaddressed.

Evidence-based treatments for addressing the mental health issues of juvenile offenders represent one of the main vehicles for reaching the desired outcomes for the population. Additional concerns are raised with an elevated suicide rate among young male offenders, which has also been linked to mental health issues that remain unaddressed (Young et al. 22). For young people in prisons, relieving the adverse influence of such mental health conditions as PTSD is essential for lowering their likelihood of living a poor quality of life.

All of the interventions implemented in the case of juvenile offenders should place emphasis on the regulation of their emotions and giving them opportunities to manage their well-being in a safe and self-sufficient way. Overall, alternative interventions that place emphasis on mental health stability are more favored among researchers who studied juvenile delinquency due to the need to be more aware of the adverse impact that youths’ mental health, education, and opportunities have on reducing the risks of reoffending.

The findings of Young et al., who focused on the global perspective of addressing juvenile delinquency, were supported by Grigorenko et al., who underlined the importance of educational achievement as a way to desistance and the preventing of recidivism. The authors criticized the US juvenile justice system for its emphasis on punishment as the primary method of addressing the problem of juvenile offending. However, it is the educational intervention that can yield the most beneficial results because it is associated with the attainment of long-term skills that help young people be more aware of their actions and develop solutions that would encompass various spheres of life, including mental health.

Moreover, Grigorenko et al. (2019) noted that learning difficulties have always gone hand-in-hand with juvenile delinquency. This points to the fact that legislators involved in the juvenile justice system must recognize the need to address the mental well-being of young people because they are unable to deal with it on their own (McGregor). Education and training are the desired methods of helping young offenders grow as individuals because poor school performance and school truancy have been connected to delinquent behaviors. In addition, expulsions, suspensions, and drop-outs have been linked with offending in serious offending.

The “school failure” hypothesis suggests that prolonged times of academic failure among young people starts a chain of negative occurrences, which can include a poor self-image and self-perception, detachment from school and peers, marginalization from academically successful students, harassment, stigmatization, and the increased likelihood of drop-out (Grigorenko et al., 2019). When young people experience the mentioned adverse implications of poor educational outcomes, they are more likely to resort to offending as a response to low self-esteem and the lack of peer recognition. Therefore, young offenders are challenged by their inability to be effective in education and use crime and violence as methods of dealing with their poor self-perception and the inability to be successful in life.

Based on the findings of Young et al. and Grigorenko et al., it can be concluded that the current methods of dealing with juvenile delinquency are ineffective. McCarthy, Schiraldi, and Shark (2106) suggested integrating alternative solutions into ensuring the positive future of youth justice through involving the community in terms of helping young people to be more successful in life after being released from prison.

The approach that the researchers propose is profoundly different from the outmoded framework of juvenile justice that focuses on punishing young people, living a limited room for improvement. It is necessary to integrate a different model that incorporates “moral, ethical, and human imperative with fiscal prudence, safer communities, and better youth outcomes” (McCarthy et al. 17). The recommended steps comprise of four key action domains, such as reduce, reform, replace, and reinvest.

In the reduction domain, the researchers suggested limiting the reliance on youth prisons for only individuals who have committed serious crimes and thus have posed significant risks to public safety (McCarthy et al. 19). Programmatically, it is vital to expand dispositional alternatives, predominantly in both family-centered and community-based programs (Rovner). Practically, it is essential to give a general sense of commitment to the need of young people and not institutions that fail to provide solutions to keep young people from prisons.

In the replacement domain, the researchers recommended replacing youth prisons with smaller, non-correctional programs that will focus on changing people’s lives, especially in terms of discriminating against individuals of minorities (Leiber and Peck 331). Finally, in the reinvestment domain, McCarthy et al. recommended investing more financial resources in expanding the options available to young people instead of supporting institutions that punish them (5). Child welfare and support systems are the desired areas of investment because they can help delinquent youth to be greater integrated into society and recover from the traumatic events associated with their offending (McGregor).

Recommendations

Based on the findings of the annotated bibliography and literature review, it is revealed that the existing juvenile justice system is ineffective in preventing the offending or facilitate fair sentencing of youth. Juvenile offenders who resort to crime are more likely to have complications in mental health and educational attainment. Young people who experience difficulties in learning are less effective in managing their negative self-image and thus use crime as a response to personal issues (Rovner). The fact that the existing juvenile justice system focuses on punishment as a method of managing criminal behaviors of young people shows that governments do not understand the underlying issues that lead to offending.

In order to reduce the occurrence of criminal behaviors and prevent reoffending among young people, it is necessary to change the perspective on the justice system in general. As recommended by Grigorenko et al. (2019), both education and training are essential for facilitating a positive self-image among young people and providing them with resources for a successful life. Through being confident in their own capabilities and knowledge, young people are less likely to resort to crime as a response to complications that prevent them from seeking positive opportunities (McGregor).

Young et al. also suggested that the mental health of young people had to be included in the interventional procedures of addressing youth delinquency (23). The higher is the prevalence of psychological issues among young people, the more likely they are to be violent or commit crimes. It is essential that the juvenile justice system recognizes the need for ensuring both educational (training) and mental health interventions to provide an all-encompassing approach toward addressing the needs of young people who are likely to commit crimes.

Juvenile Justice System

In the context of a youth correctional facility, the unique and multi-dimensional nature of juvenile offending should be considered. At this time, juvenile justice is highly limited by the lack of attention to how sentencing is carried out as well as what methods are implemented to prevent children from committing a crime. Unfair sentencing is also an issue; as mentioned by Leiber and Peck, Black young people are more likely to be arrested and sentenced to spend more extended periods of time at correctional facilities compared to white offenders. The disproportionate presence of minority young people in juvenile justice systems shows that the current methods of management and prevention are ineffective and fail to target the unique needs of young people from different backgrounds.

Therefore, the current juvenile justice system has to change for the better through integrating interventions that focus on what young people need in order to recover from offending and become valuable members of the community.

The historical reliance on the capabilities of correctional facilities has resulted in the abuse of power, poor conditions of life, as well as limited public safety outcomes because prisons fail to offer offenders a perspective on their future. The regimes and schedules are isolating and harsh for young people, which causes them to develop a sense of anger on the system. Therefore, the model of juvenile justice is highly flawed, thus unintentionally facilitating poor choices and impulsive behaviors on the part of youth offenders (McCarthy et al. 4). A complete shift in a system is needed to address the unique needs of juvenile delinquents.

The first step toward ensuring fair treatment of juvenile offenders is associated with the reduction of sentencing overall (Keneally). This solution can ensure that young people who committed minor crimes or those that posed no threat to public safety are managed with the help of educational and mental health interventions or community service instead of being integrated into the prison system (McCarthy et al. 6). In the second step of reforming, it is recommended to “reform the culture, configuration, and decision-making processes so that the entire system comes to focus on achieving positive outcomes for every youth. To so means both programmatic and practice reforms” (McCarthy et al. 19).

The third step recommended for improving the juvenile justice system treatment of young people is concerned with replacement. This step is concerned with shifting focus from punitive approaches to systems that consider the needs of individuals in the form of interventions (Keneally). They should be treatment-intensive and developmentally appropriate in order to emphasize the strengths that young people have and nurture them for reaching positive outcomes (Grigorenko et al. 113).

The engagement of families and communities is challenging; however, young people need the support of non-correctional staff in order to facilitate their integration into communities and becoming their valuable members. Improved educational achievement in any context is expected to improve the youth’s self-perception, which is essential for enhancing their quality of life and experiences.

The fourth step is concerned with the reinvestment of financial resources. As a result of the mentioned steps, the juvenile justice system will shift the focus from sentencing young people to serving time in prison to keeping them at home. In order for the shift from punishment to training to be as smooth as possible, a reinvestment of saved resources is needed into supervision and services to expand the array of options available to young people.

Capturing the savings from reducing the number of prisons and directing them toward building reliable services for the community is imperative for creating an environment in which young people can feel valued and accepted. Delinquent youth have the same needs as regular young people; however, because of the nature of their background and experiences, they need more attention and care when in terms with dealing with complex mental health issues or other challenges (NCSL).

Researchers have reached a consensus that the juvenile justice system is highly ineffective for eliminating the challenge of reoffending or unfair sentencing of young people. Globally, the history of justice system development has shaped a framework that enables punishment as the key method of dealing with offenders. The incorporation of psychiatric and developmental disciplines into the system is integral for facilitating a philosophy of therapeutic intervention for reducing recidivism as compared to punitive approaches (Young et al. 21). The approach toward managing juvenile offending that focuses on addressing the mental health and developmental needs of children is thus expected to be far less superior.

To support the interventions that focus on improving the mental health of young offenders, educational programs are also important. As suggested by the findings of Grigorenko et al., overcoming developmental obstacles among is possible with the help of programs that educate the youth on how to be valued members of society. The juvenile justice system should embed academic services into the existing frameworks. Young people who are educated and trained are more likely to have a positive outlook on their future after release as well as develop a sense of self-worth and the belief in one’s own capabilities.

In summary, the recommendations targeted at improving the lives of young people in the juvenile justice system all encourage dramatic shifts. Instead of sentencing young people who committed minor crimes to serve time in prisons, behavioral, educational, and mental health interventions are needed. Juveniles who offend are highly likely to have complex and unhealthy backgrounds as well as experience mental health complications. Because of this, increased attention to their unique needs is required, with considerations of health and psychological well-being embedded into the principles of the criminal justice system.

Works Cited

Ashford, Jose, and John Gallagher. “Preventing Juvenile Transitions to Adult Crime: A Pilot Study of Probation Interventions for Older, High-Risk Juvenile Delinquents.” Criminal Justice and Behavior, vol. 46, no. 8, 2019, pp. 1148-1164.

Grigorenko, Elena, et al. “Improved Educational Achievement as a Path to Desistance.” New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, vol. 165, 2019, pp. 111-135.

Keneally, Meghan. “Hundreds of Inmates Serving Life Without Parole for Crimes as Juveniles Left Waiting for Another Look.ABC News. 2019. Web.

Leiber, Michael, and Jennifer Peck. “Race in Juvenile Justice and Sentencing Policy: An Overview of Research and Policy Recommendations.” Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, vol. 31, no. 2, 2013, pp. 331-368.

McCarthy, Patrick, et al. “The Future of Youth Justice: A Community-Based Alternative to the Youth Prison Model.” New Thinking in Community Corrections, vol. 2016, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-35.

McGregor, Joel. “Young crime is often a phase, and locking kids up is counterproductive.The Conversation. 2019. Web.

NCSL. “Mental Health Needs of Juvenile Offenders.NCSL, 2015. Web.

Rovner, Josh. “Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview.” The Sentencing Project. 2019. Web.

Young, Susan, et al. “Juvenile Delinquency, Welfare, Justice and Therapeutic Interventions: A Global Perspective.” BJPsych Bulletin, vol. 41, no. 1, 2017, pp. 21-29.