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There are various methods the justice system uses to rehabilitate criminals. One such way is probation or supervision. Cohn (2016) defines probation as a specific period of supervision given to a convicted criminal that serves as an alternative to jail time. The probation normally involves some set of rules that are determined by the judge and agreed upon before the offender is released. Whereas there are criminals that do not serve time in prison at all and instead get probation, there are offenders who have to do both. In fact, probation has been used as an incentive in jails to ensure that inmates behave accordingly. Inmates that follow the rules and appear rehabilitated are sometimes (upon review) released into their communities under probation. The paper looked into the impact of probation on full rehabilitation of first-time offenders in the USA. It is important to note that the form of given punishment goes hand in hand with the severity of the committed crime. Due to this, the research focused on probation for juvenile drug possession. Throughout the paper, the terms supervision and probation will be used interchangeably.
What is the impact of probation on rehabilitation of first-time juvenile offenders accused of drug possession in the USA?
Numerous studies have been done on the impact of supervision in the rehabilitation of criminals or offenders. However, this research took a more specific approach and looked at first-time offenders only. Leech (2016) argues that first-time offenders in the US are mainly aged between 12 years and 17 years. Many first-time offenders are normally convicted of what can be referred to as “petty crimes”. However, over the years, a significant number of first-time offenders have been involved in major crimes such as robbery with violence, and gang-related crimes. Snyder (2016) is of the idea that first-time offenders that are registered in the justice system have been previously involved in other types of crime but were yet to be caught. Going by the stated premise, one can argue that the so-called first-time offenders are experienced criminals who have been caught once.
It is common practice to give first-time offenders supervision as a form of punishment for their crimes. However, like Maynard, Salas-Wright and Vaughn (2015) confirm, the justice system also relies on the type of committed crime to determine the right form of punishment for the offender. Many states offer six-month probation as a form of punishment for juvenile drug possession. However, there are a significant number of juveniles who have served some time due to the same offense. The premise brings in the issue of racial prejudice in the justice system. Williams, Ryan, Davis-Kean, McLoyd, and Schulenberg (2017) agree that many juveniles that have served time due to drug possession are often of Black American or Latino descent. Despite this, the statement does not mean that Caucasian juveniles are not arrested for drug possession. The difference is that the Caucasians are normally given probation while the other races are detained. According to the Williams et al., juveniles that did not serve time due to drug possession, more often than not stop committing the offense, as compared to those that serve time. Thus, the number of adults that traffic drugs are more of Black American and Latino descend.
Geiman (2018) argues that probation is a viable punishment for first-time juvenile offenders who have been charged with drug possession. There are several arguments that can be used to support the stated premise. The first is that the first-time criminals acted based on peer pressure. Leech (2016) is of the notion that many first-time offenders are pressured to commit the stated crime. For example, a teenager can be pressured to smoke marijuana or try out cocaine by his or her peers. The drugs can be found in their locker during a random inspection. The given scenario does not depict a dangerous or recurrent offender. Rather, it describes a normal teenager trying to fit in with his or her peers. In such scenarios, probation and supervision are the best forms of punishment as not only does it seek to rehabilitate the person, but also show the person that they have a second chance to do better. To such individuals, the probation is a wake-up call.
It is also important to note that first-time juvenile offenders charged with possession of drugs have not been corrupted by the system. According to Hirsch, Dierkhising and Herz (2018) sending such individuals to prison will corrupt them, turning them into hard-core criminals. Whereas there is a lot of debate on the issue of ‘corrupting an individual’, everyone can appreciate the fact that not everyone that passes through the justice system, particularly prison, is rehabilitated. For juveniles, according to Geiman (2018), the ease of manipulation due to the age bracket makes prison one of the least effective rehabilitation methods, particularly for ‘small’ crime.
Cohn (2016) analyzes the impact of supervision versus that of drug counseling to determine which approach is best for rehabilitation of juvenile accused of drug possession. Drug counseling alone requires that the offender attends therapy that determines why the offender feels the need to use drugs. Normally, the offender is assumed to have underlying issues that force drug use. According to Snyder (2016), however, supervision still holds an upper hand in regards to complete rehabilitation of the offender, over drug counseling. The scholar explains that probation also involves drug counseling. According to the scholar, it is the act of combining several approaches that give probation for drug possession an upper hand regarding rehabilitation of offenders. It is important to point out that supervision not only involves the act of being checked on by a correctional officer now and then. Supervision also involves getting and maintaining a job if the juvenile is of the allowed age, doing some community work, and attending counseling classes (Weinrath, Donatelli & Murchison, 2016). Each of the components included in the supervision aims at helping the offender rehabilitate healthily and effectively.
Suffices to mention, some courts find it necessary to put the offender under house arrest. According to Geiman (2018), the impact of supervision is still stronger than that of house arrest. The concept of house arrest for first-time juvenile offenders convicted of drug possession is to keep the offenders off the streets, where they buy the drugs. Whereas this is effective in limited access to the drugs, it does not solve the underlying issue that leads to the drug use in the first place. Additionally, it does not give the offender motivation not to take drugs in the future. On the same breath, isolation of the offender can lead to depression, which in turn, can lead to more use of the drugs.
According to the literature review presented, it can be argued that probation is one of the most effective methods of rehabilitation for first-time juvenile offenders. The history of the justice system in the USA is intertwined with race. The justice system has been accused of being racial prejudice against Black Americans and Latinos. Understanding this premise is important as it is used to weigh on the research question posed. Indeed, as Chang-Bae and Schulenberg (2010) confirm, many juveniles doing time in prison for drug possession in the US are Black American or Latino. Whereas the two races have been profiled for the majority of crime, many adults that peddle drugs are also of Black American and Latino descents. It can be argued that the Black American and Latino juveniles who were put in prison for drug possession, were manipulated and grew up hating the legal system. Thus, they were more likely to become criminals as adults. However, the Caucasians who were more privileged and got probation were rehabilitated accordingly. Therefore, they were protected by the system. It is important to point out that the justice system should protect everyone, regardless of race, and give him or her the best opportunities to succeed in life.
The literature reviews presented also highlights the importance of a combined effort in the rehabilitation of juveniles convicted of drug possession. Williams and Smalls (2015) define a juvenile as anyone below the age of 18. Using sociological theories presented by Sigmund Freud, one can argue that the age bracket is very sensitive as it can be easily manipulated. At the said age, individuals have to be guided to avoid making more mistakes. Isolating and also putting the juveniles in prison has proven to be more detrimental than helpful. The role of counseling should also not be ignored. Whereas counseling alone might not be effective, combining counseling with other techniques, as presented in the probation approach, is highly effective. Counseling will help the offender understand the consequences of his or her actions while dealing with the underlying issue that caused the drug use in the first place. Additionally, group counseling will allow the person involved to acknowledge that they are not alone. The stated is particularly helpful for juveniles who are having a hard time socializing or are facing several challenges at home or in school.
In conclusion, probation is arguably the most effective method of rehabilitating first-time juvenile offenders accused of drug possession. One of the reasons that make the suggested approach effective is the combination of several approaches to tackling and rehabilitating the offender. For example, supervision requires that the offender report to a correctional officer every once in a while. The reporting will make sure that the offender keeps in line, and gives the justice system a way of keeping track of the offender’s progress. Secondly, probation requires that the offender gets and maintains a job. The requirement ensures that the offender is active at all times in a productive way. Additionally, maintain a job requires the offender to be accommodating and open-minded. The experience will ensure positive mental and physical growth. It can be concluded that probation has a high impact on the rehabilitation of first-time juvenile offenders accused of drug possession in the USA.
Cohn, A. W. (2016). Juvenile focus. Federal Probation, 80(1), 64-70.
Chang-Bae, L., & Schulenberg, J. L. (2010). The impact of race and youth cohort size: An analysis of juvenile drug possession arrest rates. Journal of Drug Issues, 40(3), 653-679.
Geiman, D. (2018). An entire generation craves professional development. Corrections Today, 80(2), 94-96.
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Hirsch, R. A., Dierkhising, C. B., & Herz, D. C. (2018). Educational risk, recidivism, and service access among youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Children & Youth Services Review, 8572-80.
Leech, T. J. (2016). Beyond collective supervision: Informal social control, pro-social investment, and juvenile offending in urban neighborhoods. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 26(3), 418-431.
Maynard, B., Salas-Wright, C., & Vaughn, M. (2015). High school dropouts in emerging adulthood: Substance use, mental health problems, and crime. Community Mental Health Journal, 51(3), 289-299.
Snyder, D. S. (2016). Serious juvenile offenders: The need for a third sentencing option in Wisconsin. Marquette Law Review, 100(1), 267-293.
Weinrath, M., Donatelli, G., & Murchison, M. J. (2016). Mentorship: A missing piece to manage juvenile intensive supervision programs and youth gangs? Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, 58(3), 291-321.
Williams, R. G., & Smalls, E. W. (2015). Exploring a relationship between parental supervision and recidivism among juvenile offenders at a juvenile detention facility. International Social Science Review, 90(2), 1-22.
Williams, A. B., Ryan, J. P., Davis-Kean, P. E., McLoyd, V. C., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2017). The discontinuity of offending among African American youth in the juvenile justice system. Youth & Society, 49(5), 610-633.