Juvenile Incarceration:

Criminology and criminal justice Research:

What is the most pressing problem within juvenile justice today? Well, before I get into what I believe is the biggest issue in juvenile justice, lets do a recap. After several decades of bad news of juvenile justice system, the statistics began to show a few positive trend in the late 1990s, however many challenges still remain. Youth murder and sexual assault from 1975 to 2005 declined 55% and 81% respectively. Despite the overall decrease in criminal activity, young men in adult correctional facilities increased twofold from 1990 to 2005. Many may not even know that all states can transfer teenagers to adult court where they face adult sentences, including life without parole. In 2000, more than 2,225 youth received sentences of life without parole. one very big issue is that many juveniles in adult prisons are in isolation and lack appropriate education, exercise and diets. The staff used to dealing with adult inmates may be ill equipped to help and manage young men whose development stage and behavior differs from adults. We as a society deal with juveniles differently than we do adults, and that is one issue why we can get a good grip on this situation. For example; Legislatures have moved to criminalize teenage sexual behavior with the premise that teen females require extra protection because they are immature and incapable of making an informed decision to engage in sexual activity. Interesting enough, dichotomy result in treating boy’s behavior as adult while treating girls as young children. neither approach is consistent with our understanding of adolescent behavior and developmental stagers. However, Recent research neurodevelopment science utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrates that adolescents’ decision-making behavior is influenced by the limbic system and amygdale (the impulsive/aggression areas of the brain). These processes migrate to the prefrontal cortex where executive decision processes occur. As the brain is still in development stages during the adolescent period, it is like plastic and subject to experiential influences including psychological trauma. Despite the strong evidence on this alone, adolescents are subject to immature decision making, new laws hold teens accountable for crimes as though they were functioning adults. We are simply misguided in truly understanding this issue. Now what is the most pressing problem within juvenile justice you ask? Well despite the decrease in crime from juveniles, gang involvement and offending remains a significant challenge. No matter what state you live in, gangs are found in all areas of the country. Rural, suburban and urban. Most research is done on urban gangs, and it gives the impression that it is just a city problem. The causes are very similar when it comes to delinquent behavior. Most gang members engage in criminal activity before engaging in a gang and escalating their criminal behavior. There are programs that have a single focus such as police suppression of gangs have little, long-term effect on gang violence. Traditional methods have failed in reaching gang members, a comprehensive community-wide approach may help to decrease gang activity. This includes mobilizing existing organizations with little to no extra funds. The next best step to make towards understanding gangs, juveniles and behaviors would be to modify the agencies to better address gang problems. This would include having the use of outreach workers, while increasing access to schools and economic and social opportunities, can help. However not only does our society and justice system need to be better equipped to handle this issue, but the youth that are affiliated with the gang also needs to be ready to corporate effectively. For example; Using motivational interviewing techniques, health care provider can explore the youths interest in moving away from the gang. to successfully leave a gang, that individual must believe he can leave. This is the step the first step a juvenile must take, including spending less time with the gang by developing excuses for the lack of involvement. Finally once the youth becomes involved with the juvenile justice system, the theoretical aims for providing rehabilitation so that the youth can leave the system and become a contributor to the community. The Rehabilitation theory addresses six major risk factors for recidivism, also known as Criminogenic needs. In order of importance: A history of antisocial behavior/low self control, personal attitudes/values and beliefs supportive of crime, pro-criminal associates and isolation from anti-criminal others, callous personality factors and substance abuse. Every one of these major risk factors has has a solution to create a foundation for the youth. Identify those who need treatment. Target the criminogenic needs that i listed above and ignore personal problems such as self-esteem. Use styles and modes that match the learning styles of the offenders. Include behavioral and social learning processes, cognitive behavior therapy, Professional Discretion/Override: Adhere to ethical guidelines and professional conduct, and allow professional override in certain circumstances. Last but not least, Program Integrity, Professional training, staff supervision, evaluation of outcomes and fidelity to the model that has been shown to be effective. I Strongly believe that having more involvement of the community and the departments reaching out to the youth in a more effective way as I have explained could indeed solve this gang problem for good.