Since the inception of the Juvenile justice system it has had critics those who side with its current vision of how to deal with offenders. Throughout the years the juvenile justice System has undergone several transformations. However, I believe the Juvenile Justice System is due for another change. Currently, the Juvenile Justice System is at a cross point; to focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation or focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Should we rehabilitate offenders or punish offenders? What is the correct answer? Personally, I believe that the Juvenile Justice System should focus primarily on the rehabilitation of offenders. In this paper we will explore why I believe this focus will benefit the Juvenile Justice System, how this will impact law enforcement, probation, corrections, and intervention programs, and we will also explore the opposing side’s opinion.
Rehabilitation is defined as: (1) to bring (someone or something) back to normal, healthy condition after an illness, injury, drug problem, etc. (2) to teach (a criminal in prison) to live a normal and productive life (Merriam-Webster).
In our society's criminal justice system, justice equals punishment. You do the crime, and you do the time. Once you have done the time, you have paid your debt to society and justice has been done. Because our society defines justice in this manner, the victims of crimes often seek the most severe possible punishment for their offenders. Society tells them this will bring justice, but it often ...
When looking at this definition I found a common denominator: normal. What is normal? According to whose standard? Most offenders in the Juvenile Justice System often do not have a normal life. I believe, in order to find the answer to this question you must get to the root of the problem. There are many factors that lead a juvenile to engage in delinquent behavior, which will eventually land them in the Juvenile Justice System. Some of the factors that lead to delinquent behavior include; family make up, economic stress, family break up, family delinquency, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect.
To understand a child, and the reasoning behind their behavior will only assist in explaining why the juvenile justice system should focus primarily on rehabilitation rather than punishment. The so-called traditional family-with a male breadwinner and a female who cares for the home-is a thing of the past (Siegel & Welsh, 2005).
Currently, the traditional family is composed of one parent, often a single mother working multiple jobs, while children are left at home unattended for several hours at a time. It is undeniably true that family plays a large role in a juvenile’s delinquent behavior. However, I believe that although a juvenile may have been raised in adverse conditions most of his or her life; they still have the ability to adapt to a non-delinquent life. The American Dream is something that millions, including those from around the world strive to achieve.
However, the American Dream is not the same for everyone, for some this dream may include: a hot meal, somewhere safe to lay their head, a drug free life style, and even a life outside the justice system. This form of the American Dream can be reached by millions if the juvenile justice system switches it primary focus to rehabilitation. Of course, if the Juvenile Justice System redirects its focus to rehabilitation it will have a ripple effect on other department within the Justice System. Law enforcement would have the ability to be more involved with the community, getting to know at risk juveniles and their family can be a stepping stone to building stronger law enforcement/community relationships, all the while not compromising the safety of the community. As with any change in direction the success rate of this new mind set of the juvenile justice system will take some time to produce any results.
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The initial success rate may be dismal, however with time all departments of the juvenile justice system will benefit from less offenders. Most important, the juveniles in the system will benefit from less offenders in the system.. This will create a domino effect across the juvenile justice system. Having available resources to invest in those offenders already in the system and haven been categorized as high risk to be involved in delinquent behavior, can truly provide these juvenile with a real life changing opportunity. Within the court system it is understood that “there is no one answer with respect to rehabilitation for anyone. Juvenile rehabilitation is an art and not a science. What works for one kid may not work for another” (PBS.org ).
This statement is a rational statement that I personally believe as well. Rehabilitation is not a magic wand that will correct the behavior of any offender by simply waving it.
However, I do believe that even if a juvenile goes through the court process, probation, and the corrections department, that juvenile still has a chance to succeed. There are also organizations that believe this as well. As stated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s vision they believe that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have the opportunity to develop into healthy, productive adults (The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013).
Speaking from a personal level, I used to be a juvenile delinquent. Getting involved in behavior that quickly landed me in the juvenile justice system; I learned the hard way that this was not the life style I wanted. I understand that some juveniles will never learn this, however, I am grateful to the justice system for my successful outcome.
Although the road to success was not easy and I may have complained a good portion of the way, if it were not for the additional programs, probation officers, and counselors available to me; I am not quite sure if my outcome would have been what it was. I was given second, third and fourth chances to succeed in life. I know that others will argue that my scenario may not a typical out for most offenders who enter the juvenile justice system. As stated in this article published on Yahoo! Voices on October 30, 2009 “Methvin (1997) confirms that failure to punish juvenile offenders meaningfully upon their first crime was a primary factor in determining whether a youth would become a habitual offender He then expands on this point, linking repeat offenders with more serious crimes, as shown in the study conducted by criminologist Wolfgang (1945, 1958) in which he compiled records of… 9,945 males born in 1945 and attending school in Philadelphia between the ages of 10 and 18… 7% were chronic offenders, with 5 or more arrests by age 18” (Yahoo! Voices ).
America has a problem with juvenile offenders. Yes, it would be easy to lock them up but that costs too much and does little to rehabilitate the juvenile. If detention homes were a deterrent, then crime levels committed by juveniles wouldnt be so high. Removing then from the general public will keep them out of trouble but when the time comes to release them, they cant be stopped from doing wrong. ...
The idea of not dealing directly with the offense and punishing the offender to deter any further criminal behavior is a good arguable point. However, we cannot stereotype all juvenile offenders based on past experienced. As I stated before I was given multiple opportunities to correct my criminal behavior. When I refer to opportunities these include punishment: incarceration. If I were treated just as another typical juvenile offender and handed the same cookie cutter punishment, my chances of successfully exiting the juvenile justice system would have been dismal. I understand that my personal experience with the juvenile justice system may seem like a biased argument, however, others agree with my point of view as well.
“Washington, DC –Two new surveys supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation show strong public backing for the rehabilitation of youthful offenders and a greater willingness of taxpayers to pay for rehabilitative programs than for the incarceration of offenders in jail (Models for Change ).
The notion of taxpayers willing to pay for anything extra may seem absurd. Why would anybody willing pay more taxes? The fact is that the benefits of such programs outweigh any dollar amount. A personal observation, I am positive that most parents with a child in the juvenile justice system would be willing to pay for their child’s “get out of jail card.” I also understand that my point of view will not be favored by everyone and this point will continually be a topic of debate, however, if the juvenile justice system assisted in creating a functioning, contributing, active, productive member of society, is this not sufficient proof that a collaboration of resources, time, and effort to rehabilitate a juvenile offender is worth it? I personally believe so.
The Effectiveness of Mediation with juvenile offenders "The courts of this country should not be the place where the resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end - after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried . . . ." Juvenile crime and delinquency are increasingly growing social problems in the United States. The current ...