Youth Correction Centers

Parole is also an area in need of the help of scientific knowledge. A long-range program of research could be initiated, for example, to study the behavior of released inmates over a prolonged period of time. Very little is known about the details of parole violations. Such research might form the basis of valid prediction instruments which could serve as a source of guidance in selecting parolees. On a broader scale, research would shed light on a field about which too little is known. (Seiter And West 2003)

Both public and private institutions for delinquents generally assume that there will be follow-up treatment for children released from the institutions. Parole is the usual name given to the follow-up supervision and treatment. Some children are paroled under the supervision of a staff responsible to the committing juvenile courts; in other cases the staff is responsible to the superintendent of the institution that has released them. The institution may turn over the parole supervision of its released children to state or local departments of welfare.

The philosophy of parole is that it is the most effective way to bridge the gap between the institution and the return to the community. Parole is divided into two phases: The determination of when and under what conditions parole is to be granted. The supervision and guidance afforded individuals who are placed on parole. The parole officer's job is to help find work for the parolee, help him make friends, and guide him into legal recreational activities so that at the end of the parole period the parolee is law-abiding, and reasonably certain of self-respect and self-support.

In a model parole program, the parole service begins to operate when the child reaches the institution. While he is there contacts are maintained with the child's family and community through the parole officer. Whatever agency is responsible for recommending or granting parole keeps in constant touch with the child's progress. When the agency decides the time has come to grant parole, it may do so since the statutes regarding commitment and parole conditions are intended to permit discretion to the paroling agency. (Haapanen And Britton, 2002)

Where institution and parole services are well integrated, the administrators of institutions rely upon parole experiences to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in institutional programs, and thereby to modify their programs so as to prepare children more effectively for the return to the community. The reformatory movement started about a century ago. With the advent of the penitentiary, imprisonment had replaced corporal punishment. The reformatory concept was designed to replace punishment through incarceration with rehabilitation.

This new movement was aimed at the young offender, aged 16 to 30. Its keystone was education and vocational training to make the offender more capable of living in the outside world. New concepts--parole and indeterminate sentences--were introduced. An inmate who progressed could reduce the length of his sentence. Hope was a new treatment dynamic. (Kennedy, 2005) Most recently built reformatories, now called youth "correction" or "training" centers, are built to provide only medium or minimum security.

These centers usually emphasize academic and vocational education and recreation. Some supplement these with counseling and therapy, including operant conditioning and behavior modification. The buildings themselves are central to the program in providing incentives. The effectiveness of such centers is highly dependent on inmate selection, placing a heavy responsibility on the classification process. Facilities and programs in the youth correction centers vary widely from institution to institution and from State to State.

While some provide a variety of positive programs, others emphasize the mere holding of the inmate. Youth institutions include at least two types of minimum security facilities, work camps and training centers, which present a series of dilemmas. In work camps, outdoor labors burn up youthful energies. (Kennedy, 2005) But these camps are limited severely in their capacity to provide other important needs of youthful offenders. Moreover, they are located in rural America, which is usually white, while youthful offenders frequently are not.

The other type of minimum security youth center has all the training facilities, fine buildings, attractively landscaped surroundings, and extensive programs. These, too, usually are remote from population centers. In the near future, it is to be hoped, these three purposes will be assumed by small and infinitely less expensive community correctional programs. The Youth Authority Plan For the past nine years a new corrective approach to the vexing problem of juvenile delinquency has been quietly gaining momentum throughout the United States.

The new approach, known loosely as the Youth Authority plan, stems from a model act originally proposed by the American Law Institute. To date, five states—California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Texas, in that order—have embraced the Youth Authority idea through legislation. Other states are showing interest in similar legislation; the Federal Government has adopted a new youth correction bill, and still more states are picking up features of the plan without actually setting up Youth Authorities.

The Youth Authority program, though comparatively young, now has been in operation long enough to warrant serious study. Is it the answer to the critical problem of how to deal with troubled boys and girls in a manner that is likely to straighten them out rather than embitter them for life? Its advocates think it is at least a start in the right direction. Undoubtedly, they say, many features of the plan are greatly superior to the old and inexorable method of treating erring youngsters as if they were adult criminals.

On the other band, even the most enthusiastic Youth Authority boosters—and their candor is a healthy sign —will admit that there are numerous weaknesses in the plan. No one claims that it is a quick, easy cure-all for all the complex problems that stem from the cases of youth in trouble. Nor do they contend that all of the old system was evil or inadequate; the chief advantage of the youth plan, they say, is its liberal use of the best professional knowledge, the penetrating insights into the human mind, developed over the past decade.