The United States established the juvenile justice system over a century ago to divert delinquent youths from severe punishments facilitated by criminal courts. Such a justice framework targeting emphasized the idea of rehabilitation, as opposed to punitive measures, based on the unique needs of youthful offenders. It is crucial to point out that the juvenile justice system views deviant minors as persons in need of assistance while disregarding the act that led to their arrest.
Consequently, this justice system is considerably different from criminal or adult courts, which seek to penalize wrongdoers. The need for focusing on the needs of the victims, communities, and young offenders has led to the adoption of the restorative justice model. As will be revealed in this paper, some of the notable restorative justice strategies include mediation and victim assistance, and involvement.
Moreover, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the juvenile justice system has put in place measures for preventing recidivism and re-entry. This paper finds it imperative to investigate the restorative strategies, as well as different approaches the juvenile justice system should consider to prevent cases of reoffending and re-entry among youthful offenders.
Restorative Justice Strategies in Juvenile Justice
The restorative justice model has been embraced considerably in most of the contemporary juvenile justice systems. According to Shen and Antonopoulos (2013), the restorative justice framework applied in the juvenile justice system provides room for the victim of a juvenile offender to negotiate with the criminal face-to-face to facilitate restitution. The victim-offender mediation is a new approach to ensuring a fair balance of the needs between the casualty and the wrongdoer since the two parties negotiate on the terms of restitution to recompense the damage or loss arising from the offense.
Additionally, restorative justice in the juvenile justice system has been applied to establish an equilibrium regarding the demands of the juvenile offender and the community (Syukur & Bagshaw, 2015). Particularly, restorative justice programs help to ensure that the youthful wrongdoer remains in the community under close supervision. The safety of community members is guaranteed through consistent monitoring actions that aim at preventing recidivism and eventual re-entry into the juvenile justice system (Wilson & Hoge, 2013). Community-based restorative justice programs concentrate on enhancing the relationship between the public and juvenile offenders who are allowed to join the society, thus enhancing the process of rehabilitation.
Mediation is one of the strategies of restorative justice applied by the department of juvenile justice in the U.S. Mediation processes in restorative justice involves neutral third parties responsible for facilitating communication, as well as negotiation geared towards promoting voluntary decision-making by individuals in conflict. During mediation, both the trained mediator and parties in conflict adopt a horizontal form of relationship (Paul & Schenck, 2017).
The horizontality of this affiliation implies that mediators do not offer remedies. Instead, they help in the identification of interests and the exploration of potential agreements (Shen & Antonopoulos, 2013). Furthermore, as Syukur and Bagshaw (2015) reveal, mediation as a restorative justice strategy prioritizes the needs of the involved individuals before considering facts regarding the dispute.
The mediation procedure starts with the juvenile offender accepting responsibility for the delinquent act against the victim. Additionally, youthful wrongdoers are required to demonstrate the willingness to correct their mistakes by repairing the damage caused. Furthermore, they should consent to take part in the victim-offender mediation process by assuming an active role. The realization of an agreement in a mediation process should be founded on the assessment of the responsibilities taken, the fulfillment of needs, and the outcomes or impacts on offenders’ emotional health (Bergseth & Bouffard, 2013). Therefore, mediation in restorative justice provides an avenue for the moderator to oversee negotiations between the victim and the offender, hence facilitating restitution.
Victim assistance and involvement is also another restorative justice approach that has been embraced significantly in the juvenile justice system. Victim assistance programs focus on providing services to the offended group in the process of recovering from the crime committed by a juvenile culprit (Crocker, 2016). This strategy ensures that the justice process proceeds smoothly. Shen and Antonopoulos (2013) identify various purposes of victim assistance programs in restorative justice, including the provision of legal representation to casualties of juvenile delinquency and offenses, the satisfaction of injured parties and offenders’ physical and psychological needs, as well as facilitating the reintegration of the latter into the society as restored individuals (Bergseth & Bouffard, 2013).
Victims’ rights advocates assert and lobby for the rights of any offended individuals to assume leading roles in the administration of justice (Richards, Bartels, & Bolitho, 2017). Community participation or involvement in restorative justice mainly appears in the form of support groups that focus on addressing personal and collective crises that may emerge from victimization (Armstrong, 2014). The involvement of advocates and the community in restorative justice facilitates the provision of assistance to both the victims of juvenile crimes and offenders in a way that promotes justice and positive relationships after restitution.
Encouraging Youthful Offenders through Restorative Justice
The juvenile justice system may embrace various approaches that can offer support and encouragement to the offender. The purpose of restorative justice is to rehabilitate offenders while at the same time streamlining the process of community re-entry to prevent recidivism (James, Stams, Asscher, De Roo, & van der Laan, 2013). By encouraging offenders to reform, the department of juvenile justice in the U.S. plays a major role in reducing cases of juvenile delinquency, which poses a significant menace to American society. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss the extent to which the juvenile justice system can encourage minors through restorative justice.
The juvenile justice framework should persuade offenders to participate in restorative justice programs by providing equal opportunities for access to a fair hearing. Most of the victims of juvenile delinquency and antisocial behavior lack awareness regarding restorative justice in juvenile judicial processes (Shen & Antonopoulos, 2013). As a result, many offenders fail to undergo a rehabilitation procedure facilitated by a trained mediator who oversees the communication and negotiation between the victim, the community, and the offender. Thus, the juvenile justice system can encourage offenders to take part in restorative justice by embracing the rehabilitation model at all stages of the justice process regardless of the victim’s and offenders’ background and the nature of the offense.
Furthermore, providing easy access to restorative justice may require the juvenile justice system to ensure that detention centers and youth prisons have a supportive environment for the rehabilitative model (Crocker, 2016). Moreover, according to Bergseth and Bouffard (2013), encouraging juvenile offenders to participate in restorative justice prompts the development, support, and broader application of recuperative measures, as well as the increased involvement of victims within the juvenile judicial system. Hence, the accessibility of restorative justice to youthful offenders in pre-sentence, out-of-court, and post-sentence contexts is imperative as far as their rehabilitation is concerned.
Raising awareness is also an appropriate measure, which the juvenile justice system can apply to encourage offenders through the restorative process. According to Paul and Schenck (2017), responsiveness regarding the possible benefits of restorative justice and understanding the position or the rehabilitation model in the juvenile justice framework goes a long way in encouraging offenders, victims, and the community to embrace it.
Consequently, developing key messages, producing, and delivering a communication approach that facilitates the dissemination of information regarding the importance of restorative justice to offenders and other stakeholders is crucial. Furthermore, defining restorative justice can encourage juvenile offenders to adopt the model due to its suitability in the wider justice system since it is easier to rehabilitate youthful offenders compared to correcting and punishing adults (Crocker, 2016). Creating awareness and understanding regarding the use of restorative justice among youthful offenders can persuade them to embrace the process because it offers an array of benefits in comparison to the retributive process.
Moreover, the provision of quality restorative justice processes is an approach, which the juvenile justice system can employ to encourage young offenders to reform. As Paul and Schenck (2017) argue, this justice framework must ensure that restorative justice is safe, competent, and concentrates on the needs of the injured party, criminal, and the public. Additionally, facilitators need to be adequately trained to oversee victim-offender mediation sessions, thus guaranteeing the application of the best course of action by all individuals involved (Syukur & Bagshaw, 2015).
Through this restorative justice strategy, offenders feel encouraged to change their evil ways. Furthermore, the juvenile justice system should support the implementation of programs established by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to create a balanced restorative justice framework (Crocker, 2016). This balanced approach to recuperative justice as championed by the OJJDP concentrates on three key areas, including accountability-based measures of sanctioning to provide fair restoration of victims, offender rehabilitation and reintegration strategies, and improved community safety (Richards et al., 2017). The establishment of quality and balance in various areas of restorative justice plays a central role in encouraging offenders in the juvenile justice system to embrace advanced rehabilitation processes.
Different Approaches the Juvenile Justice System Should Adopt to Prevent Reoffending and Re-Entry
In the U.S., each state has a functional department that operates under the federal juvenile justice system. A central role of the juvenile justice system is to curb cases of reoffending among minors who have committed acts regarded as offensive if conducted by people above the age of 18 (Baglivio, Jackowski, Greenwald, & Howell, 2014). Reoffending or recidivism refers to the commission of a criminal act by an individual already identified to have committed at least one other offense (James et al., 2013). In executing the function of preventing recidivism, various departments of the juvenile justice system in the U.S. apply approaches ranging from non-custodial sanctions such as restorative justice to investments in the social reintegration of offenders.
Embracing non-custodial sanctions is one of the strategic approaches for curbing the issue of reoffending and re-entry among youthful offenders. According to Baglivio et al. (2014), the adoption of non-custodial sanctions is a better way of encouraging juvenile offenders to abstain from antisocial behaviors and preventing recidivism compared to incarceration or retributive methods. According to Armstrong (2014), non-custodial methods of preventing recidivism concentrate on strengthening the connections between the offender and members of the community instead of creating relationships that increase the possibilities of reoffending.
Furthermore, as Bergseth and Bouffard (2013) assert, non-custodial sanctions not only reduce recidivism rates among minors but also cut prison costs while at the same time alleviating the issue of prison overcrowding. Therefore, the juvenile justice system should consider various ways of mitigating reoffending and re-entry through non-custodial sanctions.
The observation of the appropriate international standards and norms such as the Tokyo Rules can bolster the involvement of the community in rehabilitating offenders, thus promoting a sense of responsibility among them in society (Armstrong, 2014). The juvenile justice system should also undertake the regular review of sentencing and social inquiry reports to facilitate the adoption of non-custodial sanctions such as restorative justice in situations where imprisonment is not necessary. The juvenile justice system should also consider utilizing the “untapped resource” of probation and community service to enhance the social reintegration of offenders while enhancing community safety (Baglivio et al., 2014).
Moreover, according to Wilson and Hoge (2013), the juvenile justice system should collaborate with appropriate departments to facilitate the effective implementation of diversion and restorative justice programs since such initiatives reduce the chances of recidivism. Specifically, they eliminate stigmatization and isolation arising from an offender’s contact with the justice system. As a result, the adoption of more non-custodial sanctions is a suitable strategy for reducing instances of recidivism and re-entry among juveniles.
Strengthening prison-based rehabilitation programs is also a crucial strategy for preventing reoffending and re-entry cases among juveniles. According to Richards et al. (2017), juvenile prisoners experience personal, social, and economic challenges that negatively influence their re-integration. As a result, juvenile justice departments must address issues that undermine the effective rehabilitation of offenders who are preparing to reenter the community.
Reinforcing prison rehabilitation programs should specifically focus on the full diagnosis and assessment of individual offenders, including the circumstances affecting their rehabilitation (Wilson & Hoge, 2013). Additionally, in collaboration with community-based agencies, juvenile justice departments should provide special programs before youthful offenders are released to ensure that they have access to after-care services and follow-ups.
According to James et al. (2013), the provision of meaningful and customized interventions in the various phases of re-entry, including entry, placement, transitional, and community-based aftercare, is important for addressing the problem of recidivism among young lawbreakers and their re-entry into the juvenile justice system. Some notable prison-based rehabilitation program categories that require reinforcement to curb recidivism and re-entry include physical and mental health care, behavior and attitude change, faith-based interventions, education, and vocation training and work (Baglivio et al., 2014).
Nonetheless, Wilson and Hoge (2013) emphasize the need for juvenile justice departments to strengthen the efficiency of pre-release interventions by focusing on improving the offender’s contacts with family and the community, preparing the society, and addressing the financial impacts of incarceration. Streamlining the process of re-entry planning is also identified as a vital strategy for reducing a youthful offender’s chance of reoffending after exiting incarceration.
As Richards et al. (2017) observe, juvenile justice departments should foster re-entry planning as an approach to mitigating reoffending by facilitating their application for conditional release, assistance in securing accommodation and employment, and the provision of halfway houses. Improving the performance of transitional and community-based aftercare programs is essential for addressing juvenile justice system issues related to recidivism and re-entry.
Moreover, enhancing post-release services and supervision is fundamental, especially when it comes to reducing cases of juvenile recidivism and re-entry into the justice system. The period of transition from incarceration to the community is usually difficult and frustrating to most offenders. According to James et al. (2013), it is appropriate for stakeholders in the juvenile justice system to improve the quality of post-release services, especially in the areas of repairing damaged relationships, dealing with social stigma and possible isolation, and compliance with the requirements of formal supervision.
Baglivio et al. (2014) also argue that the juvenile justice system should encourage the community to play the central role of socially reintegrating offenders through the establishment of social support, as well as control. Enhancing post-release services and supervision is necessary because it promotes the smooth re-entry of offenders to the community, thus eliminating chances of recidivism due to the community’s lack of collective backup.
For criminal justice reform to happen, the juvenile justice system needs to focus on how it treats youths. The mishandling of youthful wrongdoers by the juvenile justice system enhances their chances of recidivism and re-entry due to poor rehabilitation and post-release services. Executing the following suggestions will help to realize reforms in the criminal justice system.
Embracing non-custodial sanctions in the juvenile justice system is a crucial step in enhancing how youthful offenders are treated. This approach has a positive effect on criminal justice reforms. For instance, the move to opt for alternatives to incarceration offers offenders the chance to make better choices, positively change their lives, actively recompense the harm they caused, and make a positive contribution to society. Thus, the provision of restorative justice programs instead of punitive measures boosts the treatment of youthful criminals, thereby reducing their likelihood of reoffending and re-entry into the criminal justice system during adulthood.
Ensuring efficient prison-based rehabilitation programs and post-release services and supervision is also a crucial measure that is recommended for promoting the juvenile justice system’s treatment of youthful offenders. Improving the quality of these initiatives at various phases, including entry, placement, transitional, and community-based aftercare will be imperative because the approach is expected to enhance the treatment of juvenile offenders subjected to both retributive and restorative justice processes. This strategy will ensure that amid the application of punitive measures as advocated for in the American juvenile justice framework, upgrading the quality of rehabilitation programs facilitates the mitigation of reoffending at an early age before the issue is transferred to the criminal justice system.
Restorative justice provides an opportunity for juvenile offenders to undergo proper rehabilitation by creating a balance between the demands of the victim, the offender, and the community. Some of the remarkable strategies of restorative justice examined in this paper include mediation and victim assistance and involvement. These mechanisms offer an opportunity for the casualty, society, and the delinquent to communicate and negotiate matters regarding the dispute in a way that considers the needs of all parties involved.
The juvenile justice system may encourage youthful offenders through restorative justice by offering equal access to the process, raising awareness and understanding of restorative justice, and promoting quality and balanced recuperative justice processes. Moreover, addressing the issue of recidivism and re-entry, which undermine the attainment of reforms in the juvenile criminal justice system, requires the adoption of strategies such as non-custody sanctions and improved pre-release and post-release programs and services.
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