The Future of the Juvenile Justice System

Will You Be Involved?

What does the future have in store for the juvenile justice system? Some may say that more responsibility needs to be placed on the parents, while others say it is society's responsibility to help curb juveniles from entering the justice system. There are several agencies that are involved in constructing an effective juvenile justice system. The responsibility is ever shifting from law makers to psychologists and ultimately the communities. To understand what the future of juvenile justice will be there are several aspects that need to be look at: racial disparity, mental health, prevention programs, and detention or reform programs.
In recent years it is becoming more apparent that minorities are being treated unequally (Issues, 2005). These minorities are receiving harsher penalties and are overly represented within the system. These youth are subjected to more surveillance and are often charged more frequently as adults than their majority counterparts (Issues, 2005). In order for this to change, there needs to be put into practice solutions that prevent biased opinions from entering the court room and policing activities (Issues, 2005). For example, in King County, WA the Oversight Committee was formed. This committee was responsible for coming up with comprehensive principles that promote "culturally relevant training and tools, community involvement in the design and implementation of options, and developing performance measures specific to disproportionality" (King County, 2000). This type of committee is used to deter law enforcement officials from treating minority youths unfairly.
Mental health programs are needed to be made available to all youth and not just those who commit crimes. The system will need to assess juveniles' mental status and treat them accordingly. Too often than not, these juveniles go untreated and are just locked up. There needs to be a shift from just locking up juveniles to properly assessing the underlying mental health issues and provide treatment in a mental health facility (Issues, 2005). Juvenile courts need address these issues using culturally sensitive and comprehensive assessments and treat the youth using family and community based treatment interventions when possible (Issues, 2005).
Prevention programs are very important in decreasing juvenile crime. Children need to know how their actions and behaviors can impact the severity of their punishment from an age as young as seven years old. The more a child is educated and provided alternatives to crime, the less likely s/he is to commit criminal or deviant acts (Champion, 2004). Some programs that have proven to be successful in this area include:
  • D.A.R.E.
  • Boys and Girls' Clubs of America
  • Youth Leadership programs
  • Youth Community Centers
  • Mentoring programs
  • After-school programs
  • Family support services (Issues, 2005).
All these programs provide an outlet for children, especially those who are categorized as underprivileged and do not have adequate parental supervision. Part of the funding should be spent on preventing crime rather than incarceration and interdiction (Issues, 2005).
When it comes to detention and reform programs we have to identify what works and what does not work. Effective detention programs need to be tailored to the type of deviant act being committed. There must be several different programs made readily available that will contribute to the rehabilitation efforts of each juvenile. Some programs that need to be implemented are:
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Family support services
  • Mental Health services (Future, 2005). 
  • These above mentioned programs should be the first step in rehabilitating a juvenile. When a juvenile fails to respond to these types of intervention s/he should then be placed under the care of the juvenile courts. Within the juvenile courts, we should see a decrease in the frequency of incarceration levels and aim more towards community-based rehabilitation programs. The families, as well as the courts, need to be active in the intervention and rehabilitation of youth in order for the juvenile justice system to produce positive changes (Future, 2005).
    In conclusion, there are many factors that need to be looked at when looking to the future of juvenile justice. Racial equality, mental health, prevention, and detention and reform programs are just a few of the areas requiring significant change. The bottom line remains that the community and family need to be involved in order for a successful juvenile justice system to be deployed.
    Champion, D.J. (2004). {Eds}. The juvenile justice system: delinquency, processing, and
    the law. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, Inc.
    Future. A comprehensive juvenile justice system: the community role of the juvenile
    court. Retrieved 5 December 2005 from http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm?doc_id=77853.
    Issues. Coalition for juvenile justice: issues and facts. Retrieved 5 December 2005 from
    http://www.juvjustice.org/media/issues.html#three .
    King County. Juvenile justice operational master plan. Retrieved 5 December 2005 from
    http://www.metrokc.gov/exec/jjomp/ .


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