For more than a decade, there has been a decreasing number in juvenile crimes Peterson (2012) but thousands of young people especially children around the globe are facing the juvenile justice systems and being incarcerated as young offenders committing a variety of crimes. There are more than 1 million children around the world in prisons, jails and detention centres (Human Rights Watch ,2016) for the reason; committing crimes. A key issue among the public is that how the ways, strategies and plans should be set up to mitigate the rates of juvenile delinquency and juvenile incarceration. Likewise, current approaches to solve juvenile delinquency are different from one country and another. In fact, higher juvenile incarceration rates would not be a good sign for society in terms of child rights and juvenile justice systems. Moreover, being imprisoned probably could not be a pleasant experience for children and youth. Therefore, in my point of view, the juvenile justice system should attempt to rehabilitate young offenders in youth facilities. In this essay, three reasons why juvenile delinquents should be rehabilitated in youth facilities will be focused: the causes of youth offending, the consequences of incarceration and the strengths of rehabilitation programmes.
A reliable paper has revealed that there are many factors that can influence and cause the young to commit crimes and become juvenile delinquents. According to Youth Court Judge Becroft (2009), there are more than five factors; individual characteristics, family, school or work, friends, biological factors and another risk factor such as poverty could lead to youth offending. Especially young people who have experience related to inadequate parenting, exposure to violence or trauma, poverty and who have delinquent peers are more likely to commit offences. These findings clearly state that what causes youth crimes and significantly points that youths are just the victims of their family and environment. As a result of these kinds of life experiences, they are likely to get mental illness, negative emotions and unusual behaviours which could lead them to become young offenders. So, if justice system tends to focus on mitigation of juvenile delinquency, it also probably needs to emphasise on mental status of young offenders. Juvenile delinquents thus probably need assistance, in terms of rehabilitation, correction and crime prevention through the special programmes. To be able to offer these kinds of supports for rehabilitation, youth facilities would be the most appropriate places for juvenile delinquents.
In addition to the reasons against imprisonment, incarcerating young offenders would not be the most appropriate solution to mitigate the juvenile delinquent numbers, prevent from youth offending and meet correctional purpose since incarcerating tends to negatively impact on young offenders. Assessments have been conducted on the consequences of incarcerating young people and how it has been working in terms of rehabilitation, mitigation and prevention of youths offending and correctional purpose. Abrams (Abrams 2013, as cited in Deitch et al. 2009; Fagan, Forst, & Vivona 1989; Schiraldi & Ziedenberg 1997) clearly spotted the consequences of incarceration that young people in prison are likely to be physically and mentally harmed by ill treatment of inmates and correctional staff such as abuse, rape and violent victimization in jails and that the young who spend more time in jail have higher potential to commit crimes and serious crimes in the future. These findings show that incarcerating young people has not been working effectively and it has failed to rehabilitate the young offenders as well as failed to meet crime prevention and correctional purposes. Therefore, young offenders should not be incarcerated; instead, they should be sent to youth facilities.
On the contrary with imprisonment impacts on young offenders, youth facilities for rehabilitation and crime prevention have been working well with many positive results. Peterson (2012) clearly states that three programmes which focus on the family with youth facilities called Functional Family Therapy, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care and Multi-systemic Therapy (MST) are scientifically proven as crime deterrence, even among youths with the highest risk of re-offending. Evaluation on the MST programme has proven that it can reduce 25 to 70 per cent of long-term rate of re-arrest and decrease the mental health problem of participants. Therefore, these kinds of programmes with productive outcomes are more appropriate for young offenders in terms of rehabilitation, correction and crime prevention. The strengths of youth facilities should be utilised for young offenders as well.
One different approach to juvenile delinquency is an argument based on punitive and restorative perspectives that call for enhancing juvenile penalties and urge for juvenile delinquents to hold accountability for the criminal behaviours (Austin, 1993). However, the implications of incarceration penalty should be considered and evaluated in terms of how incarceration could contribute to young offenders and community. Howell (2009) clearly states that punishment is not effective for juvenile offenders and the purposes of punishment should not be confused with rehabilitation. Moreover, sentencing juveniles to long terms of confinement is not cost-effective and it cannot reduce recidivism rates among juveniles. Therefore, in my point of view, it is not necessary to use the punitive approach such as incarceration which is an ineffective way and not the most appropriate way in terms of child rights, rehabilitation, crime prevention and correction.
To conclude, it is widely considered that juvenile delinquency should be addressed through youth facilities. This solution could probably be based on the research findings that clearly state about the risk factors such as family, environment and poverty which tend to impact on many young people, who become juvenile delinquents with anti-social behaviours. To heal youth delinquency, imprisonment could not be the appropriate way. This is because research has proven that incarceration has negative impacts such as increasing recidivism rate and physical abuses in prisons. In contrast with incarceration, there is the significant success and effectiveness of special programmes with youth facilities such as reducing re-offending rate, being able to heal mental health issues of young offenders would be a solution in terms of child rights, rehabilitation, crime prevention and correction to cope juvenile delinquency. For all these reasons, I stand with the point that the justice system should attempt to rehabilitate young offenders in youth facilities.
Abrams, L,S. (2013). Juvenile Justice at a crossroads: Science, Evidence, and Twenty-First Century Reform. The University of Chicago Press Journal, Social Service Review, Vol. 87, No. 4 (December 2013), pp. 725-752
Becroft, A. (2009). What Causes Youth Crime, and what can we do about it? [Cycle 1 Text Booklet]. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington.
Bochenek, M,G. (2016). Children Behind the Bars: The Global overuse of Detention of Children. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/children-behind-bars
Deitch, Michele,Barstow, A. Lukens, L., & Reyna, R. (2009). From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System. Special Project Report. Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
Forst, M, A. Fagan, J. & Vivona, T, S. (1989). Youth in Prisons and Training Schools: Perceptions and the Consequences of the Treatment Custody Dichotomy. Juvenile and Family Court, 40 (1): 1–14.
Howell, J,C. (2009). Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Peterson, J. (2012). Juvenile Justice Reform: A Blueprint. Youth Transitions Funders Group, Chicago. https://www.njjn.org/uploads/digital-library/A-Blueprint-for-Juvenile-Justice-Reform_Youth-Transition-Funders-Group.pdf
Ziedenberg., Jason, & Schiraldi,V. (1997). Risks Juveniles Face When They Are Incar-cerated with Adults. Report. Justice Policy Institute, San Francisco.