Importance Of Rehabilitation For Juvenile Offenders Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Criminal Justice Type: Essay Paper: #35442849 Related Topics: Juvenile Detention, Juvenile Probation, Imprisonment, Recidivism
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Rehabilitation for Juvenile Offenders

Discipline, punishment and prisons are in many ways as old as the history of humanity. Nearly every society has had some form of confinement or some method of punishing those who break the laws of society. The modern world, however, has experimented heavily with the concept and notion of discipline and punishment, along with the programs and methodologies inherent within these two things. However, the issue in its entirety becomes far more complex with juvenile offenders, as punishments for them can range from halfway house facilities to minimum security work camps to high security detention centers. With juvenile offenders in particular, there has been an aggravated struggle to make punishments more effective. For juvenile offenders, methods of punishment really need to reflect the social standards of the societies from which they originate. In this case, for juvenile offenders the absolute objective has to always be an attempt at rehabilitation. Just as research demonstrates that for adult-offenders rehabilitation is key in minimizing recidivism rates, for juvenile offenders the need for rehabilitation is even greater.

If imprisonment for juvenile offenders can manifest in a range of ways from detention halls to actual prison-like facilities; however neither of these arenas are permanent. Thus for juvenile offenders, most of them will actually be released back into society, making rehabilitation an absolute necessity. "Imprisonment shows society's abhorrence for certain antisocial behaviors and incarceration removes individuals from the community for a period of time. Most offenders however, are eventually released from prison. Thus, another goal of incarceration is that imprisonment will serve to deter offenders from engaging in further criminal behavior" (Bonta, 1999). When it comes to adult offenders, one can see the dangerous and ineffective pattern that society is leaning towards: longer sentences as a means of deterring people from crime. However, there's an intense moral and financial cost to society when longer sentences become the norm, regardless of whether the sentences occur in prisons or juvenile detention halls. Detention or imprisonment does not have an effective rate a reducing recidivism: thus using these forms of punishment as a means of deterring criminal behavior really has no empirical support (Bonta, 1999). Such a finding should not be underestimated. Juvenile offenders are either going to go along one of two paths: they're either going to straighten up and become contributing members of society, or they're going to engage in crimes that are even worse as adult offenders. Given how expensive juvenile detention centers actually are, there needs to be a more effective use of the collective money of society so that juvenile detention centers aren't merely places for young offenders to hang out, before they are released into society, commit more crimes as they get older and then become wards of the prison system. When it comes to the adequate treatment of young offenders, one only needs to look to the adult prison system for guidance on what to do. This prison system has demonstrated that when it comes to adults, rehabilitation is the way to go. Offender treatment programs have proven to be more useful in minimizing criminal behavior, rather than bolstering the length and severity of punishments for criminal acts (Bonta, 1999). Thus, if rehabilitation is effective at minimizing recidivism rates for adult offenders, then this is probably especially true for juvenile offenders, as young offenders are still in development and are more malleable.

When the juvenile system focuses more strongly on rehabilitation it becomes a win-win situation for nearly everyone in society. A stronger focus on rehabilitation means that time spent incarcerated can be minimized and the needs of delinquents can also be better addressed, and an opportunity to become more productive members of society scan also occur. Furthermore, society doesn't have to incur the costs connected with incarcerating young offenders. When punishments is focused on it can generally cause "… more repeat offenders, and ultimately, depriving both society and the offenders themselves of their full potential" (The League of Young Voters, 2009). This is because when it comes to juvenile offenders; it's often the case that the criminal acts are merely symptoms of a larger emotional or psychological problem. Punishment just addresses the symptom, but not the larger problem, thus creating a situation where the youth is likely to reoffend.

On the other hand, rehabilitation creates a situation where offenders can better understand their behavior and where it originates....


With the absence of rehabilitation, it puts the youth in a situation where they are more than likely to repeat the delinquent behavior but in a worse and more aggravated manner. "Research conducted in juvenile justice settings around the world consistently shows that young people who come to the attention of criminal justice agencies have multiple problems and experience high levels of need across all areas of functioning…" (Irish-Tarbox, 2009).

With juvenile offenders many of the reasons connected to why they offend stem from the fact that they originate from broken or abusive families. The youths offend as a means of acting out or crying for help, or rebelling against the abuse and dysfunction that they come from. For many of these youths, just surrounding them by positive adults who have a more nurturing side can be absolutely powerful. When it comes to young offenders and rehabilitation, "a number of evidence-based practices have made a positive impact on reduced incarceration and recidivism rates for youth. Research shows that threatening and punitive interactions, incarceration, and punishment escalate the aggressive behavior of troubled youth" ( Rehabilitation is key because rehabilitation amounts to concerted steps to minimize the acts of offending and re-offending. Youths need to be diverted away from detention and incarceration, while minimizing the contacts that juvenile offenders have with one another while increasing the contact that they have with positive, well-trained adults. When troubled kids are just exposed to one another, it creates a skewed and imbalance relationship where they can spur on one another's delinquency.

"Evidence-based diversion programs reduce rates of incarceration and re-arrest, especially for lower-risk and first-time offenders. Other family-based programs are effective with chronic and serious youth offenders. At least three are cost-effective as well: Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC), Functional Family Therapy (FFT), and Multisystemic Therapy (MST).16-19 In each of these programs, youth receive intensive family-based intervention with adults who provide them with firm structure and supervision, prevent associations with deviant peers, make and fairly enforce clear rules, and teach and reinforce skilled behavior" ( The key parts of rehabilitation is to surround young offenders with caring adults who can provide things like encouragement, support, self-esteem, structure, protection and love. The absence of these factors is strongly connected to the reasons why many of these young offenders actually offend. Many of these young offenders have stories of scathing neglect and abuse: it's this neglect and abuse that breeds much of their renegade behavior.

Effective rehabilitation is an intricate and truly challenging process, and in order for it to be effective, those who implement it need to remember that it is an art and not a science ( Methods which might be effective for one particular child might not be effective for another: "Juvenile rehabilitation might be a lot like taking swings at a pinata. And the more swings you take, the better the chance is that you will hit it right and something will come out" (Kumli, 2014). However, as much as rehabilitation is an art form, it's important to bear in mind that there are trends to success: if one is able to reach a child early on, there's a strong chance the child will not reoffend. Rehabilitation, when done effectively, is focused strongly on behavior modification: experts who are well trained can be effective at modifying behavior when it comes to school attendance, along with alcohol and drug counseling, gang affiliation with respect to search and seizure (Kumli, 2014). When it comes to juvenile rehabilitation, there is a more multi-faceted approach which can be taken and which needs to be taken so that the results can be more positive and more effective, reducing the rates and the likelihood that these youths will reoffend. Within rehabilitation, counselors can help parents become better parents, one can help set up after-school programs and churches and other forms of safety nets before kids start to act out.

Rehabilitation can help illuminate the reasons why kids act out, and in taking to them, the reasons start to overlap, "A lot of it had to do with feeling like nobody else cared about them, or feeling disrespected by everybody else unless they belonged to something bigger than themselves, and the only thing bigger than themselves that they knew about was the gang" (Kumli, 2014). If these are the common reasons that youths start to act out, it becomes more and more important to reach them and to have community structures in place before these young people start to feel alienated and alone. The sooner these kids are reached with alternatives and opportunities to get their needs…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bonta, J. (1999, November). The effect of prison on criminal behavior. Retrieved from (2014). Building a More Effective Juvenile Justice System. Retrieved from

Irish-Tarbox, K. (2009, August 8). Rehabilitation and the Juvenile Justice System. Retrieved from

Kumli, K. (2014). Juvenile Justice: What Works? Retrieved from
Parsel, T. (2012, June 5). In Prison, Teenagers Become Prey. Retrieved from

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