Juvenile Total Institutions Total Institutions Prisons/Jails  Essay

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Juvenile Total Institutions

Total Institutions ( prisons/jails) juveniles. A. Discuss history B. Goals C. programming youth held . D. Issues/Problems Present facilities Below Guideline paper. 1. Students expected draw information class material scholarly sources journal articles, government websites, NPO websites.

Bortner and Williams (1997)

define a total institution as a physical location such as a prison or a reformatory where all the total needs of the residents are met. The needs of the individuals are mostly physical such as health, clothing, nutrition, shelter, etc. For juveniles, total institutions must be able to meet their educational and psychological needs as the youth. For an institution to quality as a total institution, the totality of the care that is provided in the institutions must be reflected in the round the clock confinement of the residents including holidays and weekends Shoemaker, 2009.

Goffman (1961)

argues that in many different ways, correctional institutions also serve as total institutions because they meet the physical, emotional and psychological needs of the residents. In addition to this, residents are supervised and accounted for during each period of the day or night.

For many years, there has been a fine line between the juvenile and adult justice systems and the history can be traced back to the 18th century where English lawyer William Blackstone differentiated infants and adults. He defined infants as children under the age of seven who were incapable of committing crimes. He also defined children over the age of 14 as being liable to suffer as adults if they were found guilty of a crime. Between the ages of 7 and 14 was a gray zone but it was stated that if the child knew the difference between right and wrong, they could be convicted for the crime committed though in juvenile institutions. The current system of juvenile justice was, however, established in the 19th century when social reformers began to create special facilities for juveniles who were troubled. The first to be formed was the New York House of Refuge in 1825 which was followed by the Chicago Reform School in 1855. This paper deals with total institutions for juveniles and looks at their goals, programs available for the youth and the issues or problems that are present in these facilities ABA Division for Public Education ()


The goals of the juvenile courts was first defined by Judge Julian Mack in 1909 who was one of the first judges to preside over the first juvenile court that was set in Cook County in Illinois. The goal of the juvenile justice system was thus to ensure the child was aware of the crime they had committed and that they were now in the face of the power of the state. However, the child was also made to know that the actions that were taken by the court were in the best interest of the child and not in any way prejudiced. In this way, the juvenile justice system could be able to bring reforms in the children once they served time for their crime.

The social reformists who were the designers of the juvenile justice system stated that they designed the system to provide protection, care and training for children when the other guardians had failed to play their part "Commonwealth v. Fisher," 1905.

Therefore the juvenile justice system was majorly focused on the need for supervision and rehabilitation of the offender's behavior rather than the offenses that were committed in order to deter future criminal behavior.

The hearings in juvenile courts were thus more informal and social workers, psychologists and probation officers took the place of prosecutors and lawyers to reform juvenile delinquents who were more of a family or social problem than a criminal problem. These parties examined the social history and backgrounds of the children and their families in order to create an accurate assessment of the child's needs and then develop a treatment plan to change the behavior of the delinquents and since the time for reform varied with each child, children are given indeterminate sentences.

Programs available for the youth in juvenile total institutions

Social workers, psychologists and probation officers are the major leaders of reform of juvenile delinquents. They are thus scheduled to run psychiatric, social work and reform programs whereby the juvenile delinquents are taught about the law and violent juvenile offenders are treated in ways which address their mental, emotional, and psychological health and provide them with the secure environment that promotes care towards their reform. These mental health service programs help the delinquents deal with severe problems of emotional and behavioral nature and they also provide crisis intervention services, individual therapy sessions for the delinquents, psychotropic medication evaluations, substance abuse education and adolescent treatment.

Juvenile facilities also offer education programs where the youth are given a chance to continue with their education. There are also special education programs where those with a disability are also able to continue with their education. Some juvenile facilities also offer write to read program where local and renowned authors visit the institutions regularly to inspire them to read, learn and in time change their lives. This program gives the delinquents access to relevant, informative and high-quality books which they are able to read in the institutional libraries or checkout to read in the classrooms or housing facilities. This program is supported through grant funding and has been known to inspire some delinquents to become authors.

The mind and body awareness program is also available in most juvenile total institutions. This program teaches the youth the importance of meditation and yoga and how they can use it to lead a better life by being able to deal with their emotional and psychological stress. "The beat within" is also another writing and conversation program where workshops are conducted in each of the living units and a magazine which features articles written by the youth is published very week. This program aims at inspiring juvenile delinquents to become writers.

Other juvenile total institutions also conduct gender specific programs which are especially for females in custody while others collaborate with religious institutions to provide programs that help the youth get in touch with their religious lives. Other programs include anger management programs and programs for the prevention of violence, grief programs to help the youth deal with grief, vocational programs to train them towards job readiness and placement opportunities, and planned supervised outings to help inspire and teach the youth.

Issues or problems present in juvenile total institutions

Austin, Johnson, and Weitzer (2005)

argue that overcrowding and ineffectiveness of juvenile total institutions are the major concerns. Over the past 15 years as the number of juvenile delinquents has been increasing, this has created extra strain on the facilities available for the incarcerated youth. As a result many facilities have become overcrowded with some having the issue of too many residents yet the beds are not enough. Overcrowding also creates an administrative issue where the administration is unable to handle the large number of residents which makes the facilities unstable and can increase violence in the facilities. Overcrowding also creates a strain on the programs and services provided for the delinquents most of which are grant funded which makes it difficult to provide the programs such as education and mental health services.

Polsky (1962)

posits that the existence and risks that are associated with a deviant subculture in juvenile institutions is the major reason for these juvenile total institutions being unable to reinforce and reform the youth. This is also supported by Gubrium (1997)

and Dodge, Dishion, and Lansford (2006)

who argue that in juvenile total facilities, criminal attitudes are further strengthened instead of lightened. Wasterfors (2011)

also states that the local culture of the youth in an institution obstructs reforms and treatment therefore even those looking to get reformed by the system may get involved in the wrong social circles leading to ineffectiveness of the juvenile justice system. Garfinkel (1967)

and Heritage (1984)

state that the pattern of social ties in juvenile total institutions is similar to that in adult total institutions and they include the importance of the telephone calls to relatives and friends as well as the formation of cliques, supporting of relationships and creation of close friendships. All these are poised to make the juvenile justice system as unlikely to lead to reforms as the adult justice system.


The effectiveness of juvenile total institutions has been challenged by several scholars though there are different programs in the institutions which are meant to help transform the children into better citizens of the future. When these institutions were started back in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were designed to provide care to juvenile delinquents in the same way they receive at home yet far from home in order to reform their behavior. This was the major goal of these juvenile total institutions. Other goals included deterring of future illegal behavior and enabling the juvenile delinquents to continue their education despite…

Sources Used in Document:


ABA Division for Public Education. The History of Juvenile Justice. In ABA Division for Public Education (Ed.), Dialogue on Youth and Justice (pp. 1-8). Chicago, IL: American bar association.

Austin, J., Johnson, K.D., & Weitzer, R. (2005). Alternatives to the Secure Detention and Confinement of Juvenile Offenders (pp. 41). Rockville, MD: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Dept of Justice.

Bortner, M.A., & Williams, L. (1997). Youth in Prison. New York: Rutledge.

Commonwealth v. Fisher, No. 213 48 (1905).

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