The Juvenile corrections system has various methods to support the underlying goal of rehabilitation and reform. This system affects the entire community in its successes and failures; members of the society should take time to understand what efforts are being made to reform these young offenders and what obstacles must be eliminated to make it more effective. The following paper will attempt to summarize community based treatment, confinement of juveniles and programs used to follow up with those released from institutions.
Juvenile corrections are divided into two categories identified as Community treatment and Institutional treatment (The Core 2005). Community treatment is the more prominently used method. The primary goal of this program is to provide care, protection and treatment of the juvenile in need (The Core 2005). Programs used within Community treatment are probation, restitution, vocational training, and treatment service such as drug or alcohol counseling. These programs may be used alone or in conjunction with one another.
Probation is used for those juveniles who are not a threat to the community and better served by allowing treatment within the community. Those given probation enter into a contract of sorts with the court. The offender agrees to obey rules and not break the law in exchange for not being placed into confinement. Should the juvenile offender break the rules they understand they may be place into a confinement center to complete their treatment. Probation allows the juvenile to avoid the negative effects of confinement and promotes rehabilitation while maintaining normal community contact (The Core 2005).
While on probation an offender may be required to obtain treatment services. Treatment services such as anger management or substance abuse counseling allows the juvenile to work through issues that contributed to their social unacceptable behavior. The overall goal of the juvenile system is reform and this makes these programs essential in the success of the juvenile offender. While these services allow the juvenile to deal with underling issues educational/vocational training provides another key to success. Educational/Vocational training allows juveniles with learning disabilities to overcome them.
Education is important to good social development and makes sense to find methods to aid these juveniles in overcoming the frustration brought upon by a disability. Vocational training gives the juvenile direction and useful skills to use in the work place. Those old enough to work will put these skills to use with an employer. Those who have gainful employment are less apt to return to bad decisions that got them into trouble. While these programs are successful, important, and most commonly used there are those juveniles who will experience loss of freedom in detention centers.
Institutional treatment is used for those not found suitable to participate in community treatment. While this method of treatment is reserved for the more serious offenders there are issues that further complicate the successful reform. The operation of detention centers is expensive and budgetary cuts most often mean services are inferior to treatment programs in the community. In some cases the program a juvenile needs does not exist. Many of the facilities are overcrowded this contributes to increased likelihood of an assault occurring and decline in health conditions (The Core 2005).
Yet another issue is the removal and placement into confinement. These juveniles who already suffer from poor social skills and low self esteem begin to form their own society and rules among themselves. This further removes the juvenile from the ability to return to a community. This in itself is counterproductive to the idea of reform and rehabilitation. Research has found that in facilities where the offenders and staff are closer this offender code is lessened. The juvenile justice system must seek to correct this issue in order to be successful in the pursuit of reform.
Efforts must be made to modernize facilities to provide full services and programs. Ensure adequate training and education of staff in dealing with juvenile issues. This lessens the likelihood of injuries due to assaults because of the inability to adequately supervise the offenders. Shorting of detention times can further reduce the formation of informal organizations within the facility that can further separate offenders from normal social behavior. Programs, education, and treatment are essential to the juvenile offender’s success. These programs must be equal to those provided to juveniles in community treatment.
While it is important institutions seek to correct these issues it is equally important that follow up is done with these juveniles when they are released. This is accomplished through the use of intensive aftercare programs. The Intensive aftercare program is defined as a balanced, highly structured, comprehensive continuum of intervention for serious and violent juvenile offenders returning to the community (The Core 2005). These programs are important to the successful transition and reintegration of the juvenile into the community. The State of Colorado uses a step down method.
As the juvenile comes within 60 days of release they are given a supervised trip to the community (The Core 2005). When they approach 30 days to release they are given an overnight or weekend pass at home. Upon their release they are required to do several months of day treatment that gives them structure. Trackers are used to monitor their nights and weekends. Those who are successful in progression through the program realize a reduction in supervision for once a week to once a month. The state of Virginia takes another approach in their program.
The Virginia method is to use a group home to assist in the transition from institution to community (The Core 2005). A juvenile is placed in one of two group homes for a period of 30 to 60 days while programs and services are initiated. The step down method used is formal and for the first two months after release from the group home, staff contacts are made five to seven times per week. During the next two months staff visits are made three to five times per week. The final step and last 30 days require staff visits three times per week. The two programs demonstrate a different approach in the amount of supervision.
While the Colorado method seeks to reduce contact to once per month the Virginia method continues a high level of supervision to completion of the program. Regardless of the methods used the importance of these programs is the ability to assist the juvenile in their transition back to the community. This transition can be difficult and complicated by stigmas left from the incarceration. The community and schools made be reluctant to accept these juveniles and a mediator needs to provide relief to the juvenile by intervening. The juvenile needs support and continued services and programs to be successful.
These programs are essential to bridge the gap from the institution to the community (The Core 2005). The most effective programs available to juvenile justice system is the community based treatment programs such as probation. When it is not possible to use these programs, detention becomes the reality for some juveniles; however there is some concern that these institutions need some reform to be more effective. The juvenile offenders who have completed their time in detention require a method to transition back to the community. The Intensive aftercare program addresses this issue and works to reintroduce the juvenile into their community.