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A functional Criminal Justice System is very important in every country because it helps in maintaining law and order (Cole & Smith, 2007). In America, more than five million citizens are usually under the supervision of Criminal Justice and Systems at any given time. Thirty percent are imprisoned in federal, local, and state institutions.
The remaining 70% are usually under the responsibility of community based corrections, mostly probation or parole programs (Mackenzie, 2010). Probation and parole takes care of juvenile and adult criminals and since both groups are different, juveniles are taken care of separately. However, as much as probation and parole are under community based corrections, both are different in various ways.
Probation represents a type of a sentence that is given by a judge and it usually takes the place of a jail sentence although at times depending with the crime, both can be issued. It gives the criminal a chance to live with the community while under the supervision of a probation officer and it is dependent on the seriousness of the crime. On the other hand, parole represents a discharge from the jail before the jail sentence is over.
The juvenile is given a chance to live with the community although under strict supervision and the term is issued either by the commission or by the board of parole. Although there are other methods of corrections that can be used to deal with juvenile delinquents, probation and parole is the most effective. Bent on, that this paper shall focus on the effectiveness of juvenile probation and parole.
The Structure of Juvenile Probation and Parole
Juvenile probation is mostly implemented by the juvenile probation officers who are responsible of juveniles of less than eighteen years of age but also above ten years (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2009).
There are major stake holders who can refer children to the probation officers who are inclusive of citizens, police officers or any other agency that may be concerned with the welfare of the children. Juvenile probation officers make sure that juveniles abide by the rules of probation; ensure that they are given the necessary court services as well as other services within the community that may be important to them (Livers, n. d. ).
Juvenile probation and parole was designed with children in mind in order to work with their families, guide them and rehabilitate them once they commit certain crimes. In addition, children are taught certain laws that are present in the country as well as the consequences of breaking such laws. By so doing, children are prevented from becoming criminals in future once they grow up (Alarid, Cromwel, & Del Carmen, 2007).
Once a juvenile commits a crime, the police are contacted and they fill a referral form. The child can then be allowed to appear at the probation office at a latter date or depending with the seriousness of the crime, they can be detained in a center for juveniles. The decision does not only depend with the seriousness of the crime, but also on the number of times the crime has been committed.
In addition, the decision whether to handle the case formally or informally is decided by the County Attorney’s Office. If the case goes to the Superior Court System, the consequences are usually decided by the judge. However, if the case is to be handled informally, the probation officer invites the child and the parents in to his office. If a child confesses that he is guilty, then the probation officer takes the responsibility of explaining to the juvenile the consequences of committing the crime.
In case the child refuses to confess to the crime, he is taken to the court and the judge has the mandate to decide the probation period which can be a year or two or until the juvenile attains eighteen years of age. If the child breaks the rules of the probation, he can go back to the judge although the probation officer does all in his power to ensure that the juvenile turns out to be a law abiding citizen (Hardaway, 2010).
Benefits of Juvenile Probation and Parole
Benefits of Juvenile Probation and Parole cannot be overstated. To begin with, it is quite clear that the process leads to less crime eventually leading to safer communities. The main aim of the probation is to try and correct the behavior of juvenile before they become adults.
This is usually very effective because in most instances, it is quite easy to shape the behavior of a person while still young other than the behavior of adults. It therefore means that if the potential criminals are greatly reduced while they are still young, then the number of criminal activities also reduces. A community with less criminal activities is safer than a community with more criminal activities. In that case, juvenile probation and parole contributes greatly in maintaining and developing a safer community (Hess, 2009) .
A part from preventing crime, there are services that are offered to the juveniles that very significant. For instance, there are programs that educate them on drug abuse. Moreover, the school based programs make sure that the juveniles are able to finish their training and school while still on probation. As a result, the department helps them not only to leave crime but also to become responsible adults who can be productive and contribute to the main goal of responsible citizens of building the nation (Mueller, 2009).
As highlighted earlier at the introductory part of this paper, at any given time, there are a lot of people who are usually imprisoned in federal, local and state prisons.
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Having such a large number in prison is a liability to any country not only due to the money necessary to maintain them but also due to the fact that keeping a person in prison denies them a chance to be productive and contribute to the building of a country. Bent on that, juvenile probation and parole helps greatly to reduce over crowding in jails and to cut down the cost of the same since potential criminals are reduced while still young.
Challenges of Juvenile Probation and Parole
As much probation and parole officers are dedicated to carry out their duties effectively, there are a number of challenges that are faced by the department that hinder the effectiveness and the efficiency of the process. To begin with, there is an increase of case loads in the department since unlike other facilities and departments; probation like prisons cannot limit the number of individuals seeking their service (Siegel & Welsh, 2008).
In addition, job safety is also an issue of concern since according to the surveys that have been conducted, many of the probation and parole officers admit that they have been assaulted in course of carrying out their responsibilities. Since the officers and the juveniles need to be taken care of, it is a major challenge to ensure the welfare of both parties.
Although school based programs have been developed to cater for the needs of juveniles, much needs to be done to ensure that the goal of the probation officers is achieved. Therefore, as much as the department of juvenile is doing considerable a lot of beneficial job, some things need to be put in place and deal with the major challenges that have been identified and by so doing; the community will continue to reap the benefits of the same (Bilchik, 1996).
The effectiveness of juvenile probation and parole is determined by various factors since it is a process that involves various stakeholders in the society.
Community and the parents of a child are very important because they are supposed to identify any behavior that needs correction. The Criminal Justice System is also an important stake holder because it has the mandate of deciding the course of action to be taken against a juvenile.
Probation and parole officers are also equally important and have a lot of responsibilities more than any other stakeholder. Finally, the state has a very huge responsibility and although it has put in some effort to ensure that the criminal justice system is functioning properly, they ought to intervene in order to respond to the major challenges that are currently hindering efficiency and effectiveness.
Putting into consideration the incredible benefits of the juvenile parole and probation as well as the challenges therein, it is an understatement to conclude that the department is not effective.
Alarid, L. F., Cromwel, P. F. & Del Carmen, R. V. (2007). Community-based corrections. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Bilchik, S. (1996). Juvenile probation: The workhorse of the juvenile [Bulletin]. Web.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2009). Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. Web.
Cole, G. F. & Smith, C. E. (2007). Criminal justice in America. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Hardaway, S. (2010). What is juvenile probation? Web.
Hess, K. M. (2009). Juvenile justice. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Livers, M. L.. Probation & parole. Web.
Mackenzie, D. L. (2010). Probation and parole: History, goals, and decision-making – Origins of probation and parole, changing goals of community corrections, neo-classical models, probation and parole decision-making. Web.
Mueller, D. (2009). Probation office of juvenile. Web.
Siegel, L. J. & Welsh, B. C. (2008). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.