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10.11: Juvenile Institutions

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    Detention: In the first stages of the justice system, the court must decide if it will detain the youth. If a youth is detained, he/she is sent to a detention center, which is a short-term, secure facility. These are comparable to adult jails. Youth are often kept in detention facilities while waiting for disposition or transfer to another location. The average length of stay is 2-3 weeks. Factors that increase the likelihood of detention include prior offenses, age at first offense and current age, and the severity of the current offense. Research also suggests that race, gender, and socioeconomic status also play a role in deciding whether to detain a youth.

    Group Homes: Group homes are long-term facilities where youth are allowed and encouraged to have extensive contact with the community. Youth attend regular school, hold jobs, take public transpiration, etc. In many group homes, youth learn independent living skills that prepare them for living on their own. These are similar to adult halfway houses.

    Boot Camps and Wilderness Camps: Boot Camps are secure facilities that operate like military basic training. They focus on drills, manual labor, and physical activity. They are often punitive and overly strict. Despite popular opinion, research shows that these are ineffective for preventing future delinquency. The length of stay is generally for several weeks. On the other hand, ranch/wilderness camps are actually prosocial and preventative. These are long term residential facilities that are non-restrictive and are for youth who not require confinement. These include forestry camps and wilderness programs.

    Residential Treatment Centers: RTCs are long term facilities that focus on individual treatment. They include positive peer culture, behavior modification programming, and helping youth develop healthy coping mechanisms. Many have specific targeted populations, such as kids with histories of substance abuse or issues with mental health. They are often considered medium security, and the average stay is often six months to a year.

    Long-term Secure Facilities: Long term facilities are strict secure conferment. These include training schools, reformatories, and juvenile correctional facilities. These facilities are often reserved for youth who have committed serious offenses. They are similar to adult prisons but operate under a different philosophy. For example, incarcerated youth are still required to attend school, which is within the facility.

    Disproportionate Minority Contact: Considerable research on disproportionate minority contact has been conducted over the past three decades. Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) “occurs when the proportion of youth of color who pass through the juvenile justice system exceeds the proportion of youth of color in the general population.” [1] It can be assessed at every stage of the juvenile justice system, from arrest to adjudication. Research shows minority youth are over-represented in arrests, sentencing, waiver, and secure placement. States receiving federal grant money are required to address DMC “regardless of whether those disparities were motivated by intentional discrimination or justified by ‘legitimate’ agency interests.” [2]

    In the News: The Prison Pipeline




    Mongomery v Louisiana in 2016, the pendulum of juvenile justice swings from a parens patriae model of protection of youth to juvenile waiver, fear of youth crime, and punishment, back to incorporating brain research in assessing rehabilitation. The juvenile justice system was designed to treat juveniles differently from adults and take their unique needs and circumstances into consideration. Youth are malleable and can change their trajectories with the right treatment and intervention at the right time.

    1. Short, J., & Sharp, C. (2005). Disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.
    2. (Johnson, 2007, p. 374).
    3. (Urbina, 2009, para 4).
    4. Urbina, I. (2009, Oct. 1). It’s a fork, it’s a spoon, it’s a….weapon? The New York Times.

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