The Juvenile Justice System’s Need to Focus on Rehabilitation Amanda R. Molnar
Axia College of the University of Phoenix
The Juvenile Justice System Needs to Focus on Rehabilitation
The juvenile justice system has long been in debate over whether its focus should be rehabilitation or punishment. From its birth in the early 20th century, the juvenile justice system has changed its focus from punishment to rehabilitation and back many times. Some say the juvenile justice system should be abolished and juveniles tried as adults, yet studies indicate punishment and imprisonment do not rehabilitate juvenile offenders; therefore, the juvenile justice system should remain intact and rehabilitation should be the major focus.
The juvenile justice system should adopt a permanent focus on rehabilitation to ensure the future success of our nation’s young people. Juvenile criminal and delinquent behaviors do not emerge randomly. We have learned over the past few decades that a number of factors, (individual, family, peer, and community) affect whether a child will engage in delinquent or criminal activity. Research has clearly shown that the more risk factors experienced by youth, the greater their likelihood of involvement in criminal activity. Conversely, protective factors such as developing close relationships with parents and teachers can offset the negative effects of risk factors. [ (U.S. Department of Justice Programs Office of Justice Programs, 1999) ]
While rehabilitation does focus on juveniles after criminal activity, it is the only sure way for juvenile offenders to develop the ever so important close relationships with parents, teachers and community. Rehabilitation should not only focus on substances abuse and aggressiveness, it should focus on the root of the substance abuse and aggressiveness. All juvenile delinquent behaviors are influenced not only by what goes on in the environment in which juveniles live, but also by what they observe in adults, what they listen to, learn from peer groups, parents, relatives, and society at large. Juvenile delinquency is not an inherent human condition, but rather is learned through association, imitation, observation, pressure, needs, wants, influence and desires. [ (Wichliffe, 2000) ] Rehabilitation of juveniles can retrain and heal aberrant young minds; give them an opportunity to learn through positive association, imitation, observation, and influence. It can correct the patterns that created the delinquent behavior and instill self-esteem, healthy morals and positive dreams for the future. Rehabilitation is the only way to return a healthy, predictive and socially adjusted juvenile back into the community.
While punishment is an important aspect of the juvenile justice system, as it provides justice for victims, it alone cannot provide juveniles with the skills to develop into healthy, community worthy adults. Incarceration not only fails to address the underlying issues that cased the delinquent behaviors, it also creates a foundation for further criminal activity. Recent studies indicate that after juveniles are imprisoned they are labeled as defective, or damaged and successful reintegration is compromised. Noe states in her 2010 paper presented at the 2010 ASC Annual Meeting, “It is necessary to consider the effect which being imprisoned may have on a juvenile offender. The present study applies labeling theory’s secondary deviance amplification hypothesis to the study of juvenile delinquency. This hypothesis suggests that experiencing an official sanction (incarceration) increases the negative label attached to the youth, causing problems with reintegration after release and reinforcing the youth’s dedication to future deviance.” In an 18-month study of juvenile offenders in the New Your Court System, 360 released from incarceration and 338 that completed community-based punishments, a...