Future of the Juvenile Justice System
Juvenile Justice System reform is a critical and current issue in the United States. The call to action by various researchers, industry leaders, and multi-disciplinary teams has been strong and convincing. This team proposal will offer reform recommendations in five vital areas of the system: law enforcement, community, courts, corrections, and the private sector. In addition, justifications for change and the need for funding will be offered, based on history, current trends and causation theories.
Law Enforcement Recommendations
Law enforcement, namely police officers, are most often the first point of contact that youth have before entering the juvenile justice system. Despite this fact, law enforcement leaders are not part of reform in many communities. In order to reverse the high-cost and low efficacy of youth incarceration, law enforcement must play a committed and involved role in system reform (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013). This involvement must include prioritization of community collaboration, training, prevention, and community policing.
Community collaboration and presence, although implemented in many jurisdictions, is still not the standard in juvenile policing today. Community policing, which is proactive policing can be effective in targeting youth prevention and decreasing youth detention. Rehabilitation goals and minimizing justice system referrals by police is the first recommendation. In order for this to occur, however, training should be a priority for all law enforcement agencies. Training should include understanding the distinct differences between youthful and adult offenses and offender, mental health issues in youth, and community resources (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013).
Once law enforcement employees have the necessary training and understanding of youth issues, agencies will then be able to streamline and standardize response protocols. . Incarceration and detainment has been proven to decrease the obtainment of high school diplomas and increases the likelihood of future criminal and delinquent activity. On any given day, there is an estimated 70,000 youth detained or confined in America (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013). Reponses from law enforcement should focus on services, referrals and diversion, not detainment and court processes In order to achieve this, it is suggested that agencies integrate specific incentives, commendations, and performance evaluations criteria for collaborative and positive juvenile work (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013).
Finally, community collaboration and relationship is key to improving and reforming law enforcement’s role in juvenile justice. It is recommended that agencies either establish or become part of community and interagency Juvenile Justice Councils to foster communication and commonality in treatment goals. Police who have positive presence in communities, to include School resource officers at the helm, are proven more successful in youth crime prevention and youth offender rehabilitation (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013). Establishing programs aimed at partnering police officers with youth in the community have been shown to have dramatic impacts on youth perceptions of law enforcement. In 2001, Milwaukee police created the STOP (Start Talking it Over with Police) program which allowed police to hold town halls, family nights in schools, mediation, and mentoring activities with youth. Another example of a highly successful program is that of the Youth Police Initiative, created in 2013 by the Spokane, WA police department. This program offered incentives such as extra time off, promotion opportunities, and public recognition for off-duty officers who volunteered time in the youth community building relationships (Bahney, Duagirda, Firman, et al, 2013). These types of programs are desperately needed in many communities