Washington courts registered 13,127 juvenile offenses in 2005, of whom 77% were boys and 76% of them had previous offenses and imprisonments (SGC, 2008). Of the total rate of recidivists, 72% were girls. Those convicted are given dispositions rather than sentenced. Information on race and ethnicity appeared inaccurate. While only 3.94% of the Washington population was African-American, African-American accounted for 13.11% of all recorded juvenile dispositions. This was a disproportionately high rate of 78.07%. Hispanic recidivists had a higher rate of 82.29%. Asian-Pacific Islanders had the lowest rate at 65.08%. Caucasians tallied at 69.23% and had a recidivist rate of 75.14%. First-time offenders were mostly aged 15, and younger than repeat offenders. Girls tended to commit the same violations at a younger age, also around 15, than boys. Juvenile recidivism was recorded highest between 15 and 17 (SGC).
The 11 primary categories of juvenile offenses in Washington courts were assault, drug, gross misdemeanor, manslaughter, misdemeanor, murder, property, robbery, sex, and other felonies (SG, 2008). Gross misdemeanors were the most common type of offense. Property crimes came in second for first-time offenders. These same offenders committed more serious violations previously, like robbery and drug offenses. Gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and property offenses were also the most commonly committed crimes among juvenile recidivists. Lowest crime rates committed by them were the serious ones, such as murder and sex crimes (SGC).
In some cases, adult criminal courts exercise jurisdiction over violent criminal offenses by those 16 or 17 years old (SGC, 2008). In 2005, about 78 juveniles were automatically referred or declined to adult courts. These adult courts are given this jurisdiction when juvenile courts exercise the discretion to decline that jurisdiction. About 64 discretionary declines were records in 2005. In such cases, juvenile offenders are tried as adults and not processed in juvenile courts (SGC).
Reducing juvenile recidivism has clear advantages. It will promote public safety and eliminate or reduce social, economic and personal costs (Wilson, 2007). Would-be recidivists will become economic assets to the community. Governments can save or direct saved expenses from recidivism programs to the needs of other sectors, such as education. And a reduced rate will communicate the government's concern for the welfare of adolescents and prisoners (Wilson).
Current solutions to the problem include government-sponsored programs and non-profit programs (Wilson, 2007). Government-sponsored programs conduct general programs and residential programs, provide multi-systemic therapy or MST, and perform community supervision. Examples of non-profit programs are the Children's Defense Fund, Street Law Reentry Program, and the Andrew Glover Youth Foundation. These programs have not reduced juvenile recidivism in a nationwide scale. The national rate has remained the same for the last two decades. Policy reforms are needed to avoid detaining juveniles unless absolutely necessary; restrict the transfer of juvenile cases to adult criminal courts; and stop Medicaid from requiring juvenile recidivists to reapply for services (Wilson).
A study found the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale or CAFAS as a significant tool in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders (Quist & Matshazi, 2000). CAFAS is a mental health assessment tool, which can predict recidivism among young violators. In a test, it was compared with other factors insensitive to rehabilitation, such as age, ethnicity, sex and the number of previous offenses. Higher scores predicted future offenses. Policy makers should use it to improve the allocation of resources. Both clinical and actuarial decision-making models have been used in studying adult recidivism. Clinically, a parole or probation officer uses personal past experience in dealing with offenders. The actuarial model has been found superior to the clinical model (Quist & Matshazi).
Although high CAFAS scores indicate higher probability of future offenses, low scores do not guarantee that re-offense would not be committed (Quist & Matshazi, 2000). Experts recommend a score of 60 as the minimum in determining which minors were higher risks than others. In addition, probation officers and judges make the primary decisions over juvenile offenders. This study points to mental health assessment techniques as useful and effective in targeting at-risk youth offenders. Consequent sharing of information with program developers and implementers will likely bring about accurate decisions in addressing the needs of juvenile offenders (Quist & Matshazi).
Even the most difficult and chronic released juvenile offenders can be helped by a long-term residential approach under the right conditions McMackin et al., 2004). This was the finding of an investigation undertaken with 162 delinquent youth who were discharged from a Massachusetts residential treatment center between 1976 and 1995. The research team used the data provided by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. These data said that a stay with the program for more than 11 months did not result in future convictions among all the released offenders (McMackin et al.).
About 59% of the released young offender-respondents were chronic violators (McMackin et al., 2004). Chronic offenders have 4 or more arrests before allowed to join the program. Chronic offenders tend to repeat their crimes. Yet results of this study revealed that those who stayed with the program for 11 months or more had lower rate of recidivism than those who stayed for less than 11 months. A cost analysis can realize a saving of almost $19 million if chronic offenders can be remained in placement for more than 11 months (McMackin et al.).
Even the most difficult and chronic juvenile offenders can benefit from a long-term residential program with the right conditions (McMackin et al., 2004). It must directly address the offending behavior in a supportive environment and strong family support. The young offenders under this residential program require safety and sufficient time to allow them to form healthy and strong attachments; academic or vocational success; review and analyze criminal history; develop proper social values; and establish family relationships. All these need time to develop or perform. Every juvenile offender possesses a range of vulnerabilities -- psychiatric, neurological, cognitive and environmental. These combine and contribute to social mal-adaptation. The costs incurred in entering a long-term residential care with this multifaceted environment can be recovered when future crime costs are prevented (McMackin et al.).
Juvenile offenders have mixed feelings and attitudes towards institutional confinement, according to another study (Abrams, 2006).But many of them attested to benefiting from the rigid structure and intensive cognitive requirements of the confinement. These were the results of a study recently conducted on the perception of 19 male juvenile recidivists at the Wildwood House and Cottage Grove. Their ages ranged from 14 to 18. They said they gained useful skills and information from the program. They also had the time to think. Interviewed Cottage Grove residents found the institution rules confining and strict but not deterrent to the benefits derived. They left Cottage Grove without adequately preparing for smooth transition to their respective homes. The treatment model and structure in both residences had some influence on the offenders' experiences. Wildwood House's less strict and more family-focused program conduced to positive relationships with adult family members and allowed for some "faking it" behavior. The individualistic and very strict program at Cottage Grove gave limited room for "faking it. However, it did not help the offenders to develop a personal sense of purpose in the program. Overall findings disclosed that environment and type of program affected the young offenders' experience and perception of residential care. However, few of them left without clear strategies to refrain from committing crime (Abrams).
Three concepts evolved from these findings, which can make institutions more effective in the task (Abrams, 2006). The first concept states that youth offenders experience confusion when dealing with adult intents towards their delinquent conduct. The staff of both institutions presented concepts without adequately explaining their meanings and relevance to the residents. Staff clinicians, social workers and others should first interpret clients' problems and situations before imposing a particular viewpoint about delinquency or its causes. The second concept states that security is not a significant deterrent to offenders, who are used to troubles and imprisonment. Only a few of surveyed juvenile offenders express apprehension towards future imprisonment. Almost all of those who resided in structured facilities sad they did not experience deterrence effects in the environment. Most of them had long histories of arrests for violent offenses. They were used to institutional confinement and placements. Moreover, the presence of trusted staff offered relief from family troubles and abuse. And the third concept states that they remain uncertain about their ability to change until they can use their newly-learned skills in real life situations. The lack of connection between what is learned inside the institutions and the actual work outside is the most important obstacle to lasting behavioral change. They left the institutions without the necessary strategies with which to deal with the environment, peers and family, which originally led them to criminal behavior. This called for transition and aftercare services. Offenders even face overwhelming apprehensions concerning their return (Abrams).
Findings of another investigation showed that 2,000 fewer crimes could realize a cost avoidance of U.S.$22 million in…