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Juvenile crime is a common societal challenge. Most juvenile offenders are processed in courts of law and detained or incarcerated for the purpose of punishing crime, something that is costly (Ryan, Abrams, & Huang 2014). Many scholars have argued that incarceration is not the best approach to handling juvenile offenders because it cannot reduce recidivism (Vries et al., 2014). The quest for different alternatives is underpinned by historical and economic reasons because of individual and societal benefits.
Historical and Economic Reasons
The handling of criminals has been changing from time to time. During the 17th century, confinement or detention was used to punish crime, which later improved to prison systems in the 19th century (Ryan et al., 2014). These measures started to replace corporal and capital punishments and seemed to be the most effective approach in countering juvenile crime. Unfortunately, the history does not show any improvements in reducing delinquency and preventing juvenile recidivism attributed to incarceration. Furthermore, Ryan et al. (2014) found that in the United States, juvenile corrections through incarceration cost a minimum of $241 every day while the risk of reoffending is 81%. However, alternatives methods are effective in curbing juvenile crime and recidivism.
Alternative Juvenile Correctional Methods
Alternative methods are majorly behavioral-oriented programs that transform the juvenile offenders to reduce recidivism. Home confinement is a community-based program that restricts juvenile activities in the community while attending school or work and living at home (Development Services Group, 2014). Monitoring of the youthful offender occurs through contact with staff or the use of electronic devices. The Floridian electronic monitoring program, which requires juvenile law breakers to carry or wear a tracking device that transmits information to the monitoring center (Development Services Group, 2014). This program transforms the behavior of the offender, which helps prevent future crime.
Group-home assignment similarly allows the offenders to attend school, work, or both. Group homes serve between five and fifteen juveniles who are assigned by the court (Development Services Group, 2014). An example of this alternative is the “Methodist Home for Children’s Value-Based Therapeutic Environment” model used in North Carolina (Development Services Group, 2014, p. 4). The model prevents delinquency through skills curriculum, motivation systems, learning theory, service planning, and therapeutic-focused group interactions. All these enhance the teaching of essential values to avoid delinquency.
Finally, the specialized foster care is an incarceration alternative that entails recruitment and training families of youths with severe delinquency. The youths are supervised at home, school, and in the community while receiving special training (Development Services Group, 2014). The Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care is one of the examples of this program that offers behavioral treatment for youths with emotional disturbance, delinquency, and chronic antisocial behavior (Development Services Group, 2014). Parents play a critical role after receiving appropriate training to impact youth behavior.
Benefits of Using Alternatives to Incarceration
The most important thing with juvenile correction programs that do not entail the removal of youths from the community is increased the reduction of the risk of recidivism. Ryan et al. (2014) conducted a study to establish the risk for juvenile re-offending in youths assigned to probation camps, in-home probation, and group-home placement. Juvenile law breakers assigned to both group homes and probation camps had 1.28 and 2.12 more risk of reoffending respectively than their colleagues in the homes (Ryan et al. 2014). The reduction of juvenile crime by community-based programs reduce the burden of crime and associated societal problems (Vries et al., 2014). Juveniles also gain much from the social integration in the community, acquire valuable skills for survival, and most importantly, avoid the stigma that comes with incarceration.
In conclusion, alternatives to incarceration are effective in correcting juvenile delinquency and reducing recidivism. Detention and imprisonment of juveniles have shown little positive impact, compelling the juvenile criminal justice system to start adopting the alternative correctional methods. Group home, home confinement, and specialized foster care programs are some of the most effective options. They reduce recidivism, promote social and survival skills in delinquents, and reduce the overall community crime levels and the associated effects.
Development Services Group (2014). Alternatives to detention and confinement. Web.
Ryan, J. P., Abrams, L. S., & Huang, H. (2014). First-time violent juvenile offenders: probation, placement, and recidivism. Social Work Research, 38(1), 7–18.
Vries, S. L., Hoeve, M., Assink, M., Stams, G. J. J., & Asscher, J. J. (2015). Practitioner review: effective ingredients of prevention programs for youth at risk of persistent juvenile delinquency–recommendations for clinical practice. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(2), 108-121.