Date: March 27, 2013
To: Federal Bureau of Prisons
From: Karrington C Norris
Subject: Overcrowding of Juvenile Correctional Facilities
Within the juvenile correctional facilities community, there are public and private institutions that both experience and suffer from similar problems. The problems that face these facilities are overcrowding. Through close comparison of the major issues with juvenile correctional facilities, the institutions are revealed to be ineffective with rehabilitation and to have negative impacts on the juveniles. Thus, insight will be gained on the types of problems both kinds of institutions face and the impact incarceration has upon its juvenile occupants.
Identifying the Problem
Public correctional facilities and inmate characteristics have unique differences that are visual in America’s prisons and jails. The inmate descriptions show that there are more youth from lower socio-economic status backgrounds occupying a larger percentage of public juvenile correctional facilities than any other cohort. “Public facilities hold the majority of delinquent offenders and, thus, drive the trend for delinquency populations” (Hess, 2010). A juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically under the age of 18 and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime if they were an adult. Depending on the type and severity of the offense committed, it is possible for persons under 18 to be charged and tried as adults.
Unlike public facilities, private facilities do not hold many delinquent offenders, but rather hold the majority of youth that are considered status offenders. A status offense is defined as conduct that is unlawful only because the offender is a minor. Common status offenses include running away, skipping school, and breaking curfew, as well as governability, underage drinking, and disorderly conduct (Arthur, and Waugh 555-559). Many publicly owned juvenile correctional facilities have now contracted out their entire correctional facility to private entrepreneurs. The shift towards more youths being sent to private correctional programs such as, training centers, boot camps and residential treatment facilities is known as privatization. “Privatization in this study refers to the process wherein the state continues to fund the costs of incarceration of delinquents but the private sector provides the custodial and programmatic managerial services” (Armstrong, and MacKenzie, 2002).
A major difference between the two types of juvenile correctional facilities exists within the area of security. While few private facilities lock youths in sleeping rooms, this is not the same case for public facilities. “Among public facilities, 73 percent of local facilities and 58 percent of state facilities reported locking youths in sleeping rooms (Schmalleger and Smykla, 2011).” There are many differences between both private and public juvenile correctional facilities. However, both have a very elaborate and informal social ranking culture. This consists of a hierarchical system amongst the inmates; with a varying range of social roles. In addition to this similarity, both are reluctant to overcome the challenges that are faced.
Like in America’s jails and prisons, public and private juvenile correctional facilities have a major problem is overcrowding. Based on statistics from Juvenile Residential Facility Census in 2002, “thirty-six percent of facilities said that the number of residents they held put them at or over the capacity of their standard beds or that they relied on some makeshift beds” (Schmalleger and Smykla, 2011). This research also indicates that about 40 percent of public juvenile correctional facilities were operating at full capacity. Crowding in these facilities affects not only the staff, but also a substantial proportion of youths in custody. Problems with overcrowding leads to facilities not being able to provide...
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