Jailing young people who pose a low risk to society is counterproductive and increases their risks of offending in the future, according to research from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Kathy Park, the Chief Executive Officer of NCCD, outlined her concerns that the juvenile justice system is letting down some young people in an op-ed on juvenile justice this week
NCCD has been working on feasibility studies in child welfare and juvenile justice with two counties in California and young people in the adult justice system within the state. The project entails assisting three state or local governments or nonprofit organizations in addressing positive youth development, with a focus on its juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
She wrote that the juvenile justice system was created to “ensure public safety while helping youth overcome difficulties and become successful members of their communities.”
She said the system has also become a way of getting more intervention to help younger people and some juvenile courts make decisions to imprison kids with the aim of getting them the services they need.
“This raises grave concerns. Young people should be placed in secure facilities only when they present a safety risk to the community,” she said. When young offenders don’t pose a substantial risk to public safety, they risk being damaged by being incarcerated, she argues.
“Young people who are at low or moderate risk of committing a serious offense in the future, regardless of their needs, should remain in the community. Their needs will be best met, and most effectively addressed, outside the formal justice system,” Park wrote.
Her article claims taking kids away from their homes harms them and incarcerating young adults can result in their development being impaired, thus failing to take responsibility for their actions and failing to mature. “The deficits increase as young people spend more time confined and separated from their communities.”
Park argued that interventions work considerably better in the community, allowing kids to take part in family-behavioral and cognitive-based therapeutic interventions, mentoring and positive community connections.
Her final argument is that incarcerating young adults harms communities by exacerbating the risk of further offending and leaving a generation of school drop-outs who have no job and are more likely to negatively impact public safety. She backed a call for the reform of the juvenile justice system.
Calls for a reform of the juvenile justice system have been gathering pace in the last two years. In any given day in the United States, as many as 70,000 children are held in residential juvenile centers. As many as two thirds of them have been charged with nonviolent offenses. Another 10,000 are being held in adult jails. Each year more than 250,000 people under 18 are dealt with in the adult criminal justice system.
“The more you treat people as criminals at younger and younger ages, the more damage you’re likely to do to their psyche,” stated Niaz Kasravi, director of the criminal-justice program at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Incarceration at an early age can ruin your life. If you are a teen facing a possible jail sentence, it’s vital to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.