Juvenile Corrections Essay

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Juvenile Corrections

Juvenile corrections encompasses the portions of the criminal justice system that deal with juvenile offenders. Many of these facilities and programs seem to mirror jails and prisons, but juvenile corrections are not meant for long term sentences. Sometimes sentences for juveniles are only several weeks long. Juvenile corrections also have a strong focus on rehabilitation because studies have shown that juvenile offenders are more prone to rehabilitation than adult offenders. These programs and services were aimed to help to teach these youthful offenders how to better deal with situations and how to avoid entering the into the criminal justice system again. (wisegeek)

The judges who handle these juvenile cases specialize in working with juvenile offenders and their crimes. Others who specialize in juvenile crime are a part of the juvenile corrections system as well. This includes social workers, probation officers, as well as others. Their aim is usually not to punish the juveniles alone, but to use the punishment as a way to rehabilitate them as well. (USLegal) Historical Background of Juvenile Corrections

The origins of juvenile corrections are not entirely clear. Juvenile and adult offenders have been treated differently for some time, but what ages are considered to be juvenile has changed over time. The United States’ perspective on juvenile ages and law was greatly influenced by English law. In the 1700s, William Blackstone, an English lawyer, published his Commentaries on the Laws of England, where he identified that young persons are incapable of committing crime. Generally, anyone under of the age of seven was incapable of committing crime. Any child over the age of 14 was able to be tried as an adult. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are a gray area, but were generally not held accountable for their actions unless it could be shown that they knew what was right or wrong. Punishments for being found guilty of crime included the death penalty, even for juvenile offenders. (ABA, 2011)

The juvenile corrections system began to change and be reformed in the nineteenth century. “Social reformers began to create special facilities to rehabilitate troubled juveniles, especially in large cities”, (ABA, 2011, p 5). These reformers stated that they wanted to protect these juvenile offenders by keeping them separate from the adult populations because they were better able to be rehabilitated. The first court system for juveniles in the United States started in 1899 in Illinois. These courts also aimed to rehabilitate the juvenile offenders. They had juvenile court systems in most states by 1824. The courts became the “guardians” of the juvenile offenders, or their “parens patriae”. These court proceedings were considered to be civil matters and not considered to be criminal matters. Their basic focus was on rehabilitating the juvenile offenders. (ABA, 2011)

The juvenile courts changed again in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967, the case of Gerald in In re Gault, the Supreme Court granted many juveniles some, but not all, due process rights in the course of their court proceedings. This included the right to be notified of their pending charges, the right to have an attorney, the right to protect themselves against self-incrimination, and the rights to confront and cross-examine their witnesses. Three years later, in In re Winship, the Court also established that the accused must be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In 1971, in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the Courts ruled that juries are not required for juvenile proceedings. In most cases, the judge in charge of the juvenile corrections department will hear the case, judge the offender, and sentence the offender. (ABA, 2011)

Recidivism Rates in Juvenile Corrections

When it comes to measuring a correctional agency’s facilities and programs, recidivism rates are most frequently used. These rates guide spending and funding decisions aimed to effectively combat crime. While there is no standard rate that is aimed for, the idea is to try to reduce the recidivism rate or even keep it the same opposed to raising it. When the recidivism rates are not progressing in the manner expected, these agencies must try to find other avenues and strategies that will make a positive impact on the recidivism rates, and in the long run, these juvenile’s lives. (CJCA, 2011)

“The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) defines recidivism as a return to incarceration within three years of the offender’s date of release from a state correctional institution.” (Schelle, 2012) The 2011 recidivism rate for all juvenile offenders was 36.7%. The recidivism rate for African American juvenile offenders was 43.8%. Eighty-two percent of the juveniles who recidivated did so with a new crime, and the other 18% returned because of technical violations. “Of all juveniles released in 2008, 40.9% of males returned to IDOC, while only 15.8% of females returned,” (Schelle, 2012). Surprisingly, juvenile sex offenders had the lowest recidivism rate at 13.6%. (Schelle, 2012)

Risk-Focused Juvenile Crime Prevention

Risk factors for juvenile delinquency have been identified from multiple studies. These risk factors are different for older and younger juveniles. When focusing on the individual juvenile between the ages of 6-11, delinquency risk factors include; being male, having a low IQ, having antisocial attitudes and beliefs, dishonesty, having medical and physical problems, hyperactivity, exposure to television violence, petty offenses, having poor attitude and performance at school, and substance use. In this same age group, the child’s family environment can also include risk factors as well. Some of these risk factors are; being in a low socioeconomic status or poverty, having antisocial parents, having poor relationships, receiving harsh or inconsistent discipline, having a broken home, being separated from their parents, and having abusive or neglectful parents. (Przybylski, 2008)

For children between the ages of 12 and 14, the individual risk factors include; general offenses, having a low IQ, displaying antisocial behavior, committing crimes against others, using physical violence, being male, displaying risk taking behaviors, displaying aggression, having low concentration, restlessness, and general offenses. Other factors also include having a poor attitude in school, academic failure, having weak social ties, and gang membership.

Living in a community with high neighborhood crime, drugs, and disorganization are also factors. In this same age group, the child’s family environment can also include risk factors as well. Some of these risk factors are; lax or harsh discipline by parents, lack of adult or parental supervision, lack of parental involvement, having antisocial parents, having poor relationships, coming from a broken home, living in poverty, being abused, and experiencing family conflict. With all of these risk factors being mentioned, “It is important to recognize that risk factors cannot be used to identify which particular children will grow up to be offenders,” (Przybylski, 2008, p 84).

There are also protective factors that may help counter-act the risk factors mentioned above. These include the individual juvenile; having a strong attitude or being intolerant toward deviance, having a higher IQ, being female, having more positive social skills and orientation, and understanding the sanctions for any transgressions. Some familial protective factors include; having warm, strong, and supporting relationships with caregivers, good monitoring by parents, and the general support of the juvenile’s friends by the juvenile’s parents. Other protective factors include; the juvenile being committed to their education, gaining recognition for extracurricular activities, and having friends who are also against deviant behavior. (Przybylski, 2008)

What Rehabilitation Efforts Work for Juveniles and Which Do Not

There has been much research on what programs work to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. The general results have been that the majority of the programs have no real effect on the juvenile recidivism rate aside from a few exceptions. The reason why juveniles have lower recidivism rates is believed to be because juveniles are not completely aware of the ramifications of their actions and do not always understand the true damage they inflict on their victims. (Lieb, 1994)

The results of multiple studies indicate several approaches to rehabilitation that do not work. Those include; visiting a probation officer one time per month, diagnostic assessments, behavior modification for any complex behaviors, broad discussion groups, attending school as a single approach, field trips, work programs, psychodynamic counseling, and therapeutic camping trips. The research used 50 different juvenile correctional programs and came to the conclusion that the results were, “far from encouraging,” and “correctional treatment has little effect on recidivism,” (Lieb, 1994, p 5).

The results showed that some behavioral approaches received more positive results. An analysis used 90 residential and community programs for juvenile offenders. The analysis concluded that, “Behavior approaches had the most success in reducing recidivism although the effects were so small that “they could not reject the null hypothesis.” Group therapy and transactional analysis programs were more likely to produce negative effects,” (Lieb, 1994, p 5). What does seem to work is using correctional treatment and service utilizing three principles that include; getting service to the high-risk juveniles, paying attention to the risk factors mentioned above, and using different styles of treatment depending on the needs and learning styles of the individual juvenile offender. (Lieb, 1994)


ABA. (2011, June 29). The History of Juvenile Justice. Retrieved November 29, 2012, from American Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/publiced/features/DYJpart1.authcheckdam.pdf

CJCA. (2011). Recidivism Committee. Retrieved December 2, 2012, from Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators: http://cjca.net/index.php/initiatives/recidivism-committee

Lieb, R. (1994). Juvenile Offenders: What Works? ; A Summary of Research Findings. The Evergreen State College. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Przybylski, R. (2008). What Works; Effective Recidivism Reduction and Risk-Focused Prevention Programs. Denver: RKC Group.

Schelle, S. (2012). Juvenile Recidivism 2011. Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Correction.

USLegal. (n.d.). Juvenile Corrections Law & Legal Definition. Retrieved November 22, 2012, from USLegal.com: http://definitions.uslegal.com/j/juvenile-corrections/

wisegeek. (n.d.). What is Juvenile Corrections? Retrieved November 22, 2012, from wisegeek.com: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-juvenile-corrections.htm

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