Juvenile Justice System and Prisons Review

Introduction

Vibrant and healthy societies are concerned about reducing the crime rates and also on the rehabilitation of the individuals whose crimes had resulted in incarceration. From time to time many studies have come up with the issue of psychological problems in juvenile prisoners. However, the estimated percentage of these psychological problems prevalent in the youth is still unknown. This is due to the lack of reliable national studies in this area. According to research, almost 20% of the general population has psychological problems. This percentage goes up as high as 60% in the case of juvenile prisoners. Moreover out of this almost 20% have severe mental problems (Cocozza, 1992).

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The juvenile justice system demands the prisoner to go through various settings before serving his time. He has contact with the police, lawyer, judge, rehabilitation programs and incarceration sites, etc. Each of these settings constantly victimizes the child and makes him remember the crime he has done. Even during the detention, the child has to go through various things and eventually develops some kind of psychological problem. Even after the child has been released and now parents want to take some kind of action in order to help their child, they do not present proper information.

Hypothesis

“Is there anything the juvenile justice system can do in order to treat and reduce the number of psychologically ill youths present in their prisons?”

In order to present a hypothesized model, this report will first discuss some facts about psychologically ill patients present in juvenile prisons. Why do these youths have psychological problems in the first place? Moreover, this research will also discuss the kind of behavioral difference is seen in such youths. In the end, the report gives various measures which the juvenile justice system should take in order to reduce the number of psychologically ill patients present in their prisons.

Research Questions

The following research questions are answered in this report.

  • Why do youths develop psychological problems after having any kind of contact with the juvenile justice system?
  • What is the relationship between the use of alcohol and delinquency among youth? What behavioral difference is seen in such youths?
  • What measures should the juvenile justice system take?

Significance of the Study

The main question of this report is; is there anything the juvenile justice system can do in order to treat and reduce the number of psychologically ill youths present in their prisons? All the research questions are based on this main hypothesis. As this report will not only help the juvenile justice system to treat the psychologically ill youths present in their prisons but also reduce the number of patients, therefore this is a very important topic. Detecting and treating the psychologically ill patient at a very early stage helps him to get better earlier. If a youth develops any psychological problem and it is not detected. As time passes by it becomes difficult to treat a patient if he is not detected in the earlier stages. Therefore, this is study is not only important for the patients but also for the juvenile justice system.

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Methods

For the past two years, juvenile prisoners are getting more attention. The United States civil rights division did various studies to find out psychological problems in juvenile jails. The studies also pointed out the lack of correctional facilities (Butterfield, 1998). Congress also amended a lot of things in order to have a system that screens children with alcohol and other problems. Corrective measures were also put forward (Manisses Communications Group, Inc., 1999). People are now recognizing the psychological problems related to juvenile prisoners. The most crucial and challenging issue faced by juvenile justice is not providing more beds or security. The main issue according to the secretary of Florida is, ‘providing specialized services such as mental health and substance’ (Bankhead, 1999).

There is still not much information available about the psychological problems in juvenile prisoners. A proper system that will demonstrate how this service is coordinated all over the country is almost zero. Moreover, information on what kind of service these children are getting is also not available.

The youth in the juvenile jails or in the juvenile justice system are at a very high risk of any psychological problem. These psychological and mental problems might have been responsible for their criminal behavior. Again it is also responsible for the failure of any rehabilitation programs (Loeber et al., 1998; Lynam, 1996). If these psychological disorders are not treated properly then the child usually does not adjust during the time he serves in jail. Moreover, this also results in negative behavior. Such children either start using drugs, alcohol or get involved in some other illegal activities. These children cannot take part in any recreational activities and even if they do, the results are not conducive. All of these factors lead to the risk of the child either committing that crime again or get involved in new ones.

In 1992 a review of all past studies on this topic was done. All of them had different points so as to which factors lead to this behavior of a child. However, they concluded on the same point, that the children in the juvenile justice system had more psychological problems than the children in general. Moreover, the study also concluded that the main cause of this aggravated situation is the lack of proper instruments available in the justice system to detect and monitor any psychological problems in prisoners. Lack of research in this area was also a major contributing factor. (Otto et al, 1992). The former studies which were conducted in this area also did not have much information. Any planning of psychological help that these children might need was also not defined (Jensen et al., 1995; Shaffer et al., 1996).

It is true that a lot of research has been done in this area in the last two years than it was done many years before that. However still, the background and the history of the mental health of a child remain the main point in considering his current and future psychological problems and their treatment. No proper instrument and scientific data are available in this area (Cocozza and Skowyra, 2000; LeBlanc, 1998; Nicol et al., 2000; Towberman, 1992; Wiebush et al., 1995).

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More and more children are now entering the juvenile justice system. It is important the reasons why children are doing illegal activities. However, as mentioned above the psychological problems these children develop during their serving time are also of great concern and probably one of the major reasons for recidivism. These children often develop long-term mental problems and substance abuse problems which is again the main concern. Many studies have concluded that children present in the juvenile justice system are more prone to substance (alcohol etc) abuse than general children. It was found that out of the children who come in contact with the juvenile justice system, almost 150, 000 are identified to have psychological problems. Almost 225,000 were detected as suffering from alcohol abuse. Almost 95, 000 were suffering from other forms of substance abuse (Cocozza, 1992). According to Bilchik, the problems are aggravated due to the inadequate juvenile justice system (Bilchi, 1998).

The juvenile justice system needs to intervene in case of children suffering from alcohol abuse resulting from any psychological problems. It has been identified in many studies that the main reason for a youth’s recidivism is substance abuse. It has also been identified that that three has been an increase in the number of alcohol abuse cases and therefore an increase in criminal activities in youths has also been identified. The national survey has also concluded that there has been an increase in substance abuse among young people. It has been estimated that the number of youth participating in these illegal activities plus the number of youth getting involved in alcohol abuse will grow significantly in the next 5 years. As mentioned before the main reason for this lack of response from the juvenile justice system is not only the lack of proper detection equipment but also fewer resources. The juvenile system of the United States has been planning to get tougher in order to deal with such problems.

It is evident that proper treatment of youth in case of substance abuse can decrease the rate of delinquency and recidivism. This growing abuse in youth can be due to various reasons. Family problems, physical or sexual abuse, any psychological problem, educational performance burden, etc. Even though the researchers have not been able to draw a direct proportionality link between alcohol abuse and delinquent behavior of youth, however, it has been concluded that they are co-related. Substance youth has lead to many violent crimes in youths. The increasing number of youth homicides and suicide is another result of drug abuse.

In a report by Beck and Kline, it was found out that almost 39% of the youth were under the influence when they committed their current crime. All of these were under the age of 18. Almost 57% of them said that they had used some kind of drug in the past month. In another study, it was found that almost 87% of the youth were suffering from heavy drug abuse even before they entered the juvenile justice system. Almost 14% used alcohol regularly and almost 4% were occasional drinkers. Another study done in Washington D.C concluded that youths who are suffering from either drug abuse or alcohol abuse are more likely to commit a crime than the ones not suffering from this. It also concluded that drug users often committed property and personal crimes. In order to get drugs, they often attacked the other person.

The table below shows the relation between alcohol abuse and delinquency among youth.

Type of substance used Carried gun to school Participated in gun activities Threatened to harm another Got into trouble with the police
liquor 76.4 68.4 51.7 65.3
marijuana 71.1 59.7 36.7 54.2
inhalants 38.2 26.9 13.8 18.1
cocaine 37.2 19.4 6.8 12.8

Table: association between threatening activities and alcohol use. Source: Crowe, n.d.

The justice needs some changes in order to cope with the alarming increase in alcohol abuse resulting in psychological problems among youth. Moreover, proper medication and detection facilities should be available within the premises of the juvenile jails so that a child can be tested at any time. In order to help a person with psychological problems, constant attention and care have to be taken. This care has to be more in the case of youth. It should be noted that the youth in the juvenile jails or in the juvenile justice system are at a very high risk of any psychological problem. These psychological and mental problems might have been responsible for their criminal behavior.

If any child has serious psychological problems, he should be diverted from the juvenile justice system, as it will only aggravate the situation. However, there are some youths who have serious psychological problems and due to these problems, they can commit violent crimes. Therefore, these youths should be kept in the juvenile justice system. Others who do not pose such a threat but are still psychologically ill should be treated properly. As the main reason, they got this illness was their contact with the juvenile justice system, therefore treating them there would be of no use. Secondly, still, there are no proper facilities available to treat such patients in the vicinity of the juvenile jails.

Results

In order to reduce the growing number of psychologically ill patients in the juvenile justice system, these youth should be taken out at the very first identification of this illness. Prolonging their stay can only aggravate the situation. This delay can also make it impossible to treat them like other illnesses, this illness also deteriorates by the passage of time. In order to divert them to other services, the juvenile system will need new services. For example PINS (person in need of supervision) is one of such services. It was formulated in 1985 in New York. It is a diversion service, which usually takes up psychologically ill youths and refines them into better human beings.

These youths are also associated with some kind of criminal activity but are not placed in the juvenile justice system in order to avoid deteriorating their situation further. Many countries have participated in this service. However, each country has given various suggestions on how to divert these youths in order to treat their psychological illness. These suggestions are taken one by one and if feasible is implemented also. Moreover, if the plan devised by any country is approved, it can deny the court to take charge. As these youths have done some kind of criminal activity, therefore, the justice system wants to punish them. These days as the justice system becomes stricter, they are trying to place these youths in adult jails and punish them accordingly. However, it ahs has been identified that these youths are doing these criminal activities due to psychological problems. Therefore PINS, with the approval of the state, denies the justice system to take hold of these kids.

One of the main reasons why these youths are not treated properly in the early stages of their illness is due to the absence of a proper screening system in the juvenile justice system. There is no proper screening or assessment available. The juvenile justice system should have proper equipment and data available so that the youth is checked as soon as he has the first contact with the system. The detection of this illness should be done as early as possible, as this will make the recovery easier and quicker. It should also be taken care that the initial assessment is very brief. If any youth is identified, he should then be sent for further tests. Moreover, the assessment should always be done in the vicinity of the juvenile justice system. Proper equipment should be present so that during any time of his imprisonment he is checked for any changes. The absence of proper tools for psychological illness detection is one major reason why youths are not detected early in their illness and are not taken care of accordingly.

The following points should be taken into consideration when dealing with such youths. These will help reduce delinquency and psychological problems among the youths in the juvenile justice system.

  • In all areas such as vocational, family, and education, the youth should be assessed. Whatever specific skill he needs should be determined
  • Each and every child is unique in his own sense. Plans should be developed for each juvenile. These plans should be in accordance with his needs and his family’s needs. These should also help rectify the psychological problem he has.
  • All the plans and goals should be in accordance with the needs of the youth. If he fails to succeed, the plans and goals should be changed accordingly without condemning the youth that he has failed. Moreover, the family should also understand. If the youth succeeds in accomplishing the goals set before him, then new goals should be defined. Either way, the youth should be encouraged.
  • Opportunities should be provided so that the youth can develop new skills. Moreover, additional skills should also be developed with the help of new programs.
  • The attitude, vision, and values of the youth could be changed accordingly. This can be done with the help of counseling.
  • It should be made sure that the youth is able to interact socially. For this purpose, training sessions should be held and an encouraging environment should be given which will help the learning and recovery process of the youth.
  • Proper medical attention should be given to the youth so that change in condition is monitored. Moreover, proper medications should also be given.
  • If the youth is addicted to alcohol or drug, he should be enrolled in substance abuse programs.
  • It should be noted that family participation in all this is very important. Sometimes, one of the reasons why a youth attempts to do a criminal activity, suicide or drug abuse, is because he is having problems in his family. For the treatment to be effective family participation is essential, which will also make the youth feel important.

A proper way to deal with such youths would be to match the offender with the best treatment in the researches and then treat them accordingly. There are various models which can be implemented, such as bio-psychosocial or psycho-dynamic model (Keogh, n.d). The success of the treatments used is dependent on the belief of the youth. This belief can be created with loving and caring provided by the people in charge. It should be noted that the delinquency step taken by the youth was a result of frustrations and hatred, therefore giving him the opposite of this will probably help him do better.

According to Alvarez,

Before they can get in touch with more caring concerned parts of themselves, they have to begin to take other people more seriously… there needs to be a sobering down from the omnipotent destructive state where anything goes” (Keogh, n.d).

According to her, it is better to show love and concern to these children in order to help them recover faster. This was the first reason they were taken out from the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is getting even more stricter day by day, hence the concern these psychological treatment institution give can certainly help reduce the not only the number of crimes but the number of psychologically ill youth present in the society.

References

Bankhead, B. 1999. Q & A: Florida’s Bill Bankhead. Mobilizing Leadership in Juvenile Justice: Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (Newsletter) July(19):6–7.

Bilchik, Shay (1998). Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse Problems among Juveniles. Series: OJJDP Fact Sheet #82 : Juvenile substance abuse

Butterfield, F. 1998. Prisons replace hospitals for the nation’s mentally ill. New York Times (March 5):A1.

Cocozza, J.J., and Skowyra, K.R. 2000. Youth with mental health disorders: Issues and emerging responses. Juvenile Justice 7(1):3–13.

Cocozza, J.J., ed. (1992). Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System. Seattle, WA: The National Coalition for the Mentally Ill in the Criminal Justice System.

Crowe, Anne H. Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System. ISBN-10: 0788173758. Diane Pub Co; Spiral edition (June 1998)

Jensen, P., Roper, M., Fisher, P., Piacentini, J., Canino, G., Richters, J., Rubio-Stipec, M., Dulcan, M.K., Goodman, S., Davies, M., Rae, D., Shaffer, D., Bird, H., Lahey, B.B., and Schwab-Stone, M.E. 1995. Test-retest reliability of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC 2.1): Parent, child, and combined algorithms. Archives of General Psychiatry 52:61–71.

Keogh, Timothy. (n.d). Approaches To The Psychological Treatment Of Juveniles In Detention.

LeBlanc, M. 1998. Screening of serious and violent juvenile offenders: Identification, classification, and prediction. In Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 167–193.

Loeber, R., Farrington, D.P., Stouthamer- Loeber, M., and Van Kammen, W.B. 1998.Antisocial Behavior and Mental Health Problems: Explanatory Factors in Childhood and Adolescence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lynam, D.R. 1996. Early identification of chronic offenders: Who is the fledgling psychopath? Psychological Bulletin 120:209–234.

Manisses Communications Group, Inc. 1999. Advocates win MH amendments to Senate juvenile crime bill. Children’s Services Report (Newsletter) 3(10):1–2.

Nicol, R., Stretch, D., Whitney, I., Jones, K., Garfield, P., Turner, K., and Stanton, B. 2000. Mental health affects needs and services for severely troubled and troubling young people including young offenders in an N.S.W. region. Journal of Adolescence 23:243–261.

Otto, R.K., Greenstein, J.J., Johnson, M.K., and Friedman, R.M. 1992. Prevalence of mental disorders among youth in the juvenile justice system. In Responding to the Mental Health Needs Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, edited by J.J.

Shaffer, D., Fisher, P., Dulcan, M.K., Davies, M., Piacentini, J., Schwab-Stone, M.E., Lahey, B.B., Bourdin, K., Jensen, P., Bird, H., Canino, G., and Reiger, D. 1996. The NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC–2.3): Description, acceptability, prevalence and performance in the MECA study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 35:865–877.

Towberman, D.B. 1992. National survey of juvenile needs assessment. Crime and Delinquency 38:230–238.

Wiebush, R.G., Baird, C., Krisberg, B., and Onek, D. 1995. Risk assessment and classification for serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders. In Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders: A Sourcebook, edited by J.C. Howell, B. Krisberg, J.D. Hawkins, and J.J. Wilson. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 171–212.

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