Reforming the Juvenile Justice System

Most states employ rehabilitation programs for juvenile offenders, but many of them fail to implement such programs, not only because of concerns regarding the ineffectiveness of rehabilitation in reversing criminal behavior, but primarily because of budget constraints. In California, juvenile cases are handled as such: “24% of cases are dismissed; 4. 3 % are committed to the CYA for higher security incarceration; 40. 3% are placed on probation; 10. 5% are assigned to foster care family or group homes; and 18. 9 % are sent to county camps (boot camps)” (Devins, http://www. homestead.com/ddevins/files/CAAJEessayAPA. htm? x=12&y=18).

The last two options, considered to be rehabilitative efforts, constitute the lion’s share of the fund for juvenile cases. Nationally, the estimated cost of sending a juvenile offender to boot camp for a year is around $31,000, while the cost of raising a child in a foster or group home is about $47,000 (Devins, n. d. ). These estimates include “the cost of probation along with social work support, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol counseling and rehabilitation, job-skill-development programs, and private schooling” (Devins, http://www.

homestead. com/ddevins/files/CAAJEessayAPA. htm? x=12&y=18). Meanwhile, the average cost of sending a juvenile offender to prison for a year is estimated to be only $24, 500. There are other discrepancies in the system as well. According to Ken Huntley of the Excell Center (considered to be one of the top-performing group homes in the country), there is a huge difference between the best juvenile facilities and those which have not performed well. For one thing, it has been discovered that some group homes squander their funds instead of spending them on the children in their care.

The other issue is that the opening of institutions such as group homes is often blocked by people who do not want to have “criminals” in their neighborhoods. A common misconception of the general public is that rehabilitation is unrealistic and impractical, with little or no evidence to support that there is a successful and adequate way of rehabilitating offenders. Many feel that criminal offenders, regardless of the crime or the age of the offender, should be made to complete their sentences; and that policies that decrease or diminish sentences as incentives for participating in rehabilitation programs undermine the judicial process.

However, people who dwell on the “issue of security” forget the human side of the equation. Let us take, for example, the 12-year-old boy in Florida who was sentenced to a life in prison by a Florida criminal court. This child has been given a severe punishment. Barely into his teenage years, his life has just been declared to be officially over. “How can we improve the rate of successful transition into adult society by the group of people who should be the most receptive to education and reformation, the teenage criminals? ” (Devins, http://www. homestead. com/ddevins/files/CAAJEessayAPA. htm? x=12&y=18).

Juvenile rehabilitation gives youth offenders the chance to successfully modify their past criminal behaviors and become productive citizens of society. The government should look into the budget allocation for juvenile cases and focus on the implementation of programs that will allow juvenile offenders to rehabilitate and turn their lives around, instead of relying on punishments such as incarceration to ensure the public’s security. Just as American society puts an emphasis on the reduction of crime, it is necessary for them to remember as well that the fate of America’s children is also of utmost importance.

Work Cited

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. (2006). Reforming the Juvenile Justice System: Rehabilitation Needs to be the Priority. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Retrieved from < http://www. cjcj. org/jjic/reforming. php> on November 22, 2006. Devins, D. (n. d. ). “The Juvenile Justice System: Incarceration or Rehabilitation”. California State University, Stanislaus. Retrieved from <http://www. homestead. com/ddevins/files/CAAJEessayAPA. htm> on November 22, 2006.