The issue of mental health within the context of juvenile justice has been subjected to heated debates as the society started placing more expectations on the system to address the needs of young offenders who experience mental health problems. According to Shufelt and Cocozza (2006) as well as Gilbert, Grande, Hallman, and Underwood (2014), sixty-five to eighty percent of young people that come in contact with the juvenile justice system have at least one diagnosable mental health care need. This presents a significant challenge to law enforcement, the healthcare system, as well as correctional facilities in which young offenders are detained. Thus, it is important to study the problem of the mental health of young people that came into contact with the juvenile justice system. The research question for the study is “What is the role of the juvenile justice system in dealing with young offenders diagnosed with mental illness?” To conduct the study, a questionnaire will be used to collect qualitative data about the issue of mental health in juvenile justice. Content analysis will help for a better understanding of how the society sees the issue of mental health within the context of the juvenile justice system as well as the role people assign to the system to improve the mental health outcomes of young offenders and facilitate their smooth integration into the society after the release.
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- In your opinion, is there a connection between a young person’s mental health and the likelihood of him or her resorting to criminal activities? Why or why not?
- Do you agree with the statement that the juvenile justice system should take into account mental health implications when dealing with juvenile offenders?
- How would you assess the level of the juvenile justice system’s efforts to improve the mental health of juvenile offenders within the context of rehabilitation?
- Does the juvenile criminal justice system bear the responsibility of enhancing the mental health of young offenders? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, what are the most effective rehabilitation or treatment models for facilitating improved mental health outcomes among juvenile offenders? (Choose at least two from the list below):
- Cognitive-behavioral interventions (Boyes, 2012)
- Functional family therapy
- Family integrative transition
- Multisystemic therapy
- Teams for crisis interventions
- Do you agree with the statement that mental health problems occurring in juvenile offenders can be effectively treated or managed within the context of rehabilitation?
- Should young offenders diagnose with serious mental health issues be separated from others in a correctional facility? Do you think that such separation will harm or benefit their rehabilitation?What approach to addressing the issue of mental health in juvenile justice appeals to you the most: addressing mental health as a broad issue or focusing on individual traits of offenders for a personalized approach?
- Are there any alternatives to incarceration for young offenders with mental health issues? Should the juvenile criminal justice system review these alternatives and start implementing them into practice more regularly?
- In your opinion, how the juvenile justice system could improve to account for the needs of young offenders who experience mental health issues? (Choose at least three solutions from the list below)
- o Redefine the role of juvenile justice in dealing with mental health
- o Engage in the development of child protection services
- o Invite parents to participate in the process of rehabilitation
- o Place emphasis on young offenders’ rehabilitation instead of punishment
- o Collaborate with healthcare providers to improve mental health outcomes for young offenders
- o Collaborate with community organizations to facilitate a smooth integration in the society of juvenile offenders leaving correctional facilities.
According to the research conducted by Underwood and Washington (2016), there has been an increase in reliance on the justice system to address the mental health concerns of young offenders. Therefore, the responses to the designed questionnaire are likely to indicate expectations that the juvenile justice system should take the issue of mental health seriously. As mentioned by the Resource Center Partnership (2013), there is a need for the juvenile justice system to support the improvement of young people’s mental health by collaborating with communities, so it is expected that questionnaire respondents will agree that the system is not doing much at this point and that there is some room for improvement. Because youth with mental problems is more likely to commit criminal offenses and re-offenses, respondents of the questionnaires will agree with the statement the juvenile justice system should take into account the implications of youth imprisonment and facilitate their smooth integration into society as they are released. It is also important to reconsider the juvenile justice system processes by shifting the focus from punishment to rehabilitation and support because long-term confinement experiences tend to exasperate the issues of mental health and potentially contribute to recidivism (Stoddard-Dare, Mallett, & Boitel, 2011).
Boyes, A. (2012). Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that work. Web.
Gilbert, A., Grande, T., Hallman, J., & Underwood, L. (2014). Screening incarcerated juveniles using the MAYSI-2. J. Correct Health Care, 21, 35-44.
Resource Center Partnership. (2013). Problems and solutions in juvenile justice. Web.
Shufelt, J., & Cocozza, J. (2006). Youth with mental health disorders in the juvenile justice system: Results from a multi-state prevalence study. Web.
Stoddard-Dare, P., Mallett, C., & Boitel, C. (2011). Association between mental health disorders and juveniles’ detention for a personal crime. Child Adolesc Ment Health, 16, 208-213.
Underwood, L., & Washington, A. (2016). Mental illness and juvenile offenders. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(228).