Prison Rates for Juvenile Offenders

My paper will show how the prison rates for juvenile offenders have been dealt with over the last 10 to 15 years. My paper will show whether education, prison-to-work programs and other factors have dropped the rates for these groups. Finally, my paper will feature why some programs have worked well and others have failed.

Teenagers have to sometimes learn painful lessons the hard way. That is what law enforcement thinks as that see the number of juvenile offenders who become habitual offenders increase because they cannot stay out of trouble. What needs to be done is having support systems and programs in place to prevent such activities from happening again.

In Washington State, there are an alarming number of boys who exhibit such bad behavior. According to December 2005 stats, nearly 83 percent of Hispanic boys, or more than 1,250 people, were caught again after being released from prison (RJO, 2005). That is the highest number for one ethnic group during that period. The second highest was the Native Americans at 80 percent. Caucasian recidivism was the fourth highest at 75 percent, but had the most repeat offenders of the five groups with more than 4,800 (African Americans and Asian Americans were the other groups studied).  (RJO, 2005)

As one might expect such problems grow with age. There are instances of pre-teens being caught for crimes. However, that pales in comparison with the number of kids who find themselves in trouble during their more impressionable years. According to the study, more kids between the ages of 15 and 17 found themselves incarcerated again after serving a sentence. Nearly 7,500 out of 9,000 people from this age group were sent back to prison (an 81 percent rate) after their initial release. (RJO, 2005)

The numbers decrease as the people get younger, but that does not mean there are all good. More than half of those people under 10 years old were back behind a judgejuvenile court or family court over time. In this case, five out of the nine first-time offenders found themselves in trouble again. (RJO, 2005)

Researchers also found a link between poverty and crimes. They discovered that children who grew up in broken homes with little or no parental controls were more likely to turn to a life of crime. Researchers noted that the further below the poverty line children, were the more likely they would make that decision. Roughly one in eight kids lived below the poverty line in 2002, the most recent figures available. (Snyder, 2006)

Not surprising to researchers was concluding that children raised in single-family homes (without either a mother andor father) were more likely to live below the poverty line and struggle to find any continuity within the home. While the number of children living in a two-parent home has decreased since the 1960s, the increase in single-families had nearly tripled in 2002. It went from 9 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2002. (Snyder, 2006)

In Missouri, the numbers are synonymous with those in Washington in that those who are incarcerated are more likely to repeat the bad behavior. (McElfish, 2009) Of the 12,000 teenagers who were arrested for first offenses between 2007 and 2008, more than one-quarter of them went back to prison. Of that number, 30 percent of those who were re-arrested were males, 19 percent were females. (McElfish, 2009)

The breakdown of the minorities was interesting in that African-American were more likely to return to jail than Caucasian prisoners. That led to a program that targets characteristics of those who are incarcerated more than once. That meant what type of student are they in school, what is their home life like, are there parental support (a mother, a father, both parents or relatives). They also found that the recidivism rates dropped as the citizens aged. In other words, the teenagers learned to grow up and act as productive members of society. (McElfish, 2009)

Other states had similar findings when it came to recidivism. The state of Pennsylvania was not an exception. The common thread was that the repeat offenders did not learn from their mistakes. That might seem both trite and obvious. However, it bears noting that the researchers in this study also used the same criteria Missouri and Washington used to determine their problems with juvenile offenders.

Throughout the state, some 19 percent of the more than 187,000 detainees were arrested for another offense. The percentages were pretty close in terms of re-occurrences in rural areas as opposed to urban areas. That means that despite the perception of crime happening more often in the city, the numbers suggest that the wrongdoing is happening in places. (Kalisk, 2009)

Actually, while there were more crimes committed in the city as opposed to the country. However, the numbers were in proportion to the entire population. There was roughly three times the number of second offenses in the cities compared with the rural areas. Researched found that more people live in the cities than in the country. (Kalisk, 2009)

Males also took the prize for reoffending more often than females during that time. Some 21 percent of boys were put back in jail. That was nine percent higher than the females. The numbers favored the boys in the number of re-arrests in the city and the country side. Researchers determined that the boys were doing the majority of crimes and not learning much from spending time behind bars. (Kalisk, 2009)

So, for the people who were arrested the first time was almost 30 percent likely to be arrested within three years of being incarcerated. It did not matter regarding the ethnicity of the offenders. They saw a need for education but the people who are in most need being able to move not realizing the answers are getting to them. (Kalish, 2009)
Back in Washington State, the recidivism rates during a period between 1998 and 1999 demonstrated a higher rate of repeat offenders. Researchers looked into those who were given parole and those who were denied. What they concluded was surprising because the number of parolees who were sent back to prison within one year reached 30 percent, or one out of every three persons paroled. (Barnoski, 2001)

They saw opportunity with programs aimed at helping those in need (mental or physical disabilities, substance abuse, etc.) the wisdom amongst the researchers was that even a little help can guide  first-time offender from becoming a second-time offenderor worse. Still, they also saw a need to work harder to get the message across that the detainees behavior would not be tolerated in society.
So what about rehabbing these teenage offenders We discussed what might make someone turn to a life of crime. Their home life was not pleasant, there was little or no parental guidance, school was often difficult andor communicationhuman interaction becomes a chore. When someone is locked up for a crime, particularly for a felony (murder, rape, etc.), where are the support systems to make this a one-time transgression

The Department of Justice believes that using different mentoring techniques may have some positive outcomes. Having the offender speak with a volunteer counselor as well as their probation officer may yield some positive results. Having them work at a job site might give the person skills than can be used for future employment. (Barnoski, 2001)

While these are some ideas that worked on the majority of people, there were some ideas that fell flat. Researchers found several plans that had little or no effect on the person.

For example, taking them on a field trip for team-building exercise was not effective for reaching teenagers. Early release programs did not work very well, either, which is surprising because it gives them a chance to prove that their time behind bars was time well spent. It does make sense given that the high recidivism rates of 30 percent can be attributed to that. (Barnoski, 2001)

Generally speaking, using a combination of counseling and interactive activities such as restitution worked with the offendersresonated with them. Other ideas pertaining to speaking with the offenders about their actions and the choices they made leading up to the misbehavior. Once they see the error of their ways, the hope would be to have the offender learn from his or her mistakes and work toward improving their world and the world around them. (Barnoski, 2001)

California tried implementing a program in the late 1990s to curb the stem of juvenile violence (which may have had a chilling effect on gang activity).  Researchers there wanted to note how the program using those who were granted parole and those who were not to see how they received their surroundings. Their conclusions would be published in 2001 with the detainees. They determined that the number of parolees given a second chance made the most of it. The use of education and rehabilitation helped keep many of the first-time offenders from making the same mistakes. (California 2001)

One other juvenile study had their numbers ranging widely. From 2006 to 2008, the number of repeat offenders rose from 248 to 274. Then, it dropped in 2009 from 274 to 224, the 2001 level. Not as surprising was the number of boys incarcerated was triple that of females arrested during that time. A total of 57 females between the ages of 12 and 17 were arrested during this period while 157 males in this age group were incarcerated during the same period. (Juvenile Unit, 2009)

It also bears noting that the numbers increased with age. Researchers found that just a handful of males and females were caught at age 10 and below (20 females total between ages 13 and 16 the boys had 25 people in jail at age 16 aloneand 67 in the slammer for that same age bracket).  When these kids turned 17, both categories jumped significantly. Males jumped into the triple digits with 100 and the females doubled their intake with 37 incarcerated. (Juvenile Unit, 2009)

What researchers learned throughout the past decade was that socio-economic factors played vital roles in deciding how juveniles behaved. Those who grew up in homes with two working parents, a support group and activities to entertain themselves were far less likely than people with single parents and little or no support system in place. The ability for society to make them productive members of society has been hit-or-miss. Some places succeeded in having their charges make the transition from incarcerated to integrated members of society. This was done through an aggressive campaign of mentoring, job skills and other areas to assist these people into not making the same wrong choices.

However, the system is not perfect. Nearly one in three juveniles found themselves back in prison within three years because they either forgot the massages they learned in prison or did not apply to them. Another possibility was going back to the same problems that led to the crimes (abusive home, one parent available, gangs, etc.) How can one measure the effectiveness of the programs if the people who are not learning from their mistakes are committing the same ones again

The hope is that more states share their findings with the federal government and the government steps in and makes a commitment to helping those underprivileged kids from resorting to a dead-end lifestyle. After school programs, joining a sports league, or even going to the library to read a book or interact with other people are step that can be taken to incorporate those who are having trouble to find a better way.

By turning these kids away or thinking that they are not worth saving now only adds to the problems in the forms of higher recidivism, higher crime rate and more taxpayer dollars being used to keep them locked up. There is hope and change for these teenagers, it is up to the people in power to decide what is best and execute whatever plan is necessary to prevent this from happening in the future.


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