Juvenile detention centers

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Similar to adult prisons, juvenile detention facilities are regarded as lawful ways to punish young offenders. The juvenile court system exists because young people have malleable behavior and vary from adults in terms of social development and growth. (Howell, 1997). Therefore, it is believed that the main objectives of the juvenile detention facilities should be treatment and rehabilitation. The goal is to ensure that the unfavorable mindset and behavior that these young people exhibit are changed. Thus, the people become morally respectable people who can participate in community events. However, studies indicate that the juvenile detention facilities have the potential of making the young engage in more crimes instead of teaching them how to avoid crimes (Witherspoon, 2010). Further, the juvenile detention centers are crowded, ignored, understaffed, and underfunded, which makes them unable to address issues of detoxification, special education, mental health, maximum security, and shelter care. This depicts that these facilities lack the potential of delivering quality services in the community in terms of correcting the juveniles and molding their behavior.

Impact of the Juvenile Detention Facilities

According to Witherspoon (2010), there was a 20-year study, which was conducted in Montreal. In this study, young offenders between 10 and 17 years were followed in the different juvenile legal system levels. The psychologists focused on the interaction of the kids with each other, as well as their crime rates as adults. The conclusion of the study was that young offenders had higher rates of committing crimes when they are adults.

Special education programs are not offered effectively in the juvenile detention centers because the teachers and officers lack the ability of accessing the records of juveniles in schools, as well as conducting effective screenings. Research has indicated that several youths lack the potential of obtaining special education until after or shortly before incarceration. This an area of concern in most of these detention centers for the juveniles.

Witherspoon (2010) also indicates that young offenders continue to engage in criminal activities based on their level of involvement in crime. For example, youth that are placed on probation are 14 times more likely to be involved in criminal activities as compared to the young people who did not face probation or become subjects of juvenile corrections. As such, the contact that a troubled youth gets enhances the ability of such an individual to engage in committing crimes because of the desire of impressing other offenders in the same age group (Witherspoon, 2010). Such entails worse legal infractions.

Behavioral scientists have indicated that when the youth are brought together to receive a service or treatment, they increase their potential to engage in the delinquent behavior. As such, youth who are together have high rates of recidivism and poor outcomes as compared to youths who are not grouped. This is regarded as peer deviancy training. Thus, juveniles treated in a setting of peer groups have higher substance abuse levels, violence, delinquency, school difficulties, and life adjustment in the future as adults.

The detention of the youth tends to disrupt their educational attainment. As such, the detention impacts negatively the employment opportunities of these individuals and flows down through the non-detained peers. Furthermore, young people incarceration tends to have significant long-term and immediate negative outcomes on economic and employment levels in society. The incarceration process also has the impact of changing a person into a less stable employee. Hence, such an individual does not become productive in the working environment. This indicates that the detention centers tend to impose significant challenges to the individual communities and the country at large.

Competing Principles in Juvenile Justice System

In all the states, the systems of juvenile justice exist at a collision point of the competing principles. In all cases, mature adults are considered as moral beings that have the potential of making choices. These choices could be ill-informed. Further, majority of the choices tend to emerge from the impoverished social context.

In contrast, the western legal traditions advocate for the treatment of people as free moral agents who are individual responsible for their actions. Doing anything else is considered as authoritarian and patronizing on the freedom level of the people. It is also considered as the denial of the essential humanity nature of a person. On the other hand, children are considered as a nature force and not independent moral agents. As such, they are supervised, restrained, prepared and trained to assume social status as they mature.

The site for the conflict is the juvenile justice system. As such, a rite of passage does not exist from the incompetent status of a person to the supervised nature of a child in a morally responsible and autonomous nature of an adult (Arya, 2011). Rather, an ambiguous status exists for the adolescence, which has been extended indefinitely since the mid 20th century.

The ambiguity is vital in the criminal justice system since crime tends to peak during the adolescence level. Hence, uncertainty exists on the treatment of young offenders as free moral agents or people that deserve the guidance and help of the adults in society. All the juvenile systems have unique tension levels in relevance to this accommodation. As such, children who are below specific ages tend not to be prosecuted for criminal offences while adults are prosecuted with minimal restrictions.

An effective juvenile justice system is considered as the one that offers appropriate legal and moral response to young people criminal behavior. In reference to this, offending youth response is constructed as a punishment or sanction in the system of the adults. However, such sanctions could be qualitatively different and less harsh. Emphasis is placed on retribution as an action, which is out of sense of the justice system. Effectiveness could also imply communication to the general public on the issues of juvenile justice system through symbolic gestures.


Federal justice system demands that youths are housed in different facilities from the adults. However, this situation does not occur where the youths tend to be prosecuted in the criminal justice system of the adults (Arya, 2011). As such, the youths are denied rehabilitative and education services in these adult development facilities. The facilities also fail to provide education services and vocational training. Hence, the youth experience educational difficulties, which they continue and embrace as they return to the communities after the release.

Furthermore, the youth tend to be in extreme danger as they are held in the facilities for the adults. Correction officers are not able to ensure the safety of the youth in these facilities. Their attempts to isolate these individuals into different confinements create harmful effects, which are very different. The placement of the children in the isolation also results in the production of harmful consequences, which include death. The small cells, which the youth are, place in while in these correction facilities lack natural light.

Such conditions have the impact of causing paranoia, anxiety, and exacerbating existing mental disorders. They also tend to place youths at the risk of committing suicide in society. Hence, youths who are placed in these adult jails have higher likelihood of committing suicide as compared to those who are placed in the correct juvenile detention centers. These youths are also vulnerable to the negative impacts of sexual victimization by the adults.

Ethnic and racial disparities are also experienced in the correction facilities. As such, the African-American youths tend to receive harsh treatment as compared to the youth of the white color in the entire criminal justice system (Arya, 2011). This makes it impossible for the correction facilities to have the ability of delivering the anticipated objective in society. Furthermore, the youths tend to learn how to hate their colleagues and being biased on the basis of different skin color.

Community Involvement

The detention facilities lack adequate time for juveniles to interact with other members of the community. As such, this does not contribute in the reduction of crime in society, but establishing a new breed of ideas that incarcerated individuals are different from the people who freely exist in their natural environment. Hence, a gap of social growth and development exists between the incarcerated youths and non-incarcerated youths. This makes it impossible for these two groups of population to interact with each other in an effective manner after the release of the incarcerated person to the community. The tension increases as the other youths and social members fail to recognize the individual and give such a person a different label, which indicates that he or she should not be a member of the community group.

Further, the difference in the interaction level between the youths and the community members aggravates the problem of mental illness. As such, health needs of individuals cannot be identified successfully among the youth who have different behavioral health needs and unmet mental problems. The juvenile justice system is expected to meet the mental health problems of the youths through its detention centers. However, the situation does not occur as mental illness prevalence increases in these detention facilities. On the same note, the detention facilities tend to increase the level of mental illness among the youth.

This occurs since these detention centers do not provide a healthy environment and the confinement conditions are worse. The detention centers tend to be overcrowded, which implies that they breed an environment of violence and chaos among the young people in society. In addition to obtaining high quality treatment, the people who have behavioral health problems tend to become worse during the detention process. Often, these individuals are diagnosed of having depression, which begins from the incarceration stage.

Poor confinement conditions and mental health issues, tend to generate high rates of suicide idealization and depression among the youth in these correction facilities. On the same note, the detention subjects the youth to great risks of self-harm. This is because the detention centers are characterized of several cases of suicidal threats and expression of behavior in such a manner that it endangers the life of the youth. Moreover, the placement of the youth in isolation does not yield any benefits since these individuals tend to develop a negative attitude to the expectations of the goals and objectives of the correction facilities.

Parole and Probation Officers

The juveniles are often monitored by probation or parole officers. As such, they are not significant threat to public safety (Rouse, 2016). Nevertheless, there are high rates of the development of felonious behavior among this population in the future. This is because the youth tend to imitate the negative influence of the officers. However, in areas where positive influence is enhanced, the youth grow to be upstanding citizens in society.

This indicates that the officers in the juvenile detention facilities matters a lot in terms of determining whether these individuals will have a change future life or not in the society. Hence, it is paramount to focus on giving adequate training to these officers on how to handle the juveniles while in the detention facilities in order to ensure that these centers have the potential of achieving their desired goals and better outcomes in the community.

Furthermore, violent youths are not handled to the maximum level in the juvenile system. This indicates that the involved individuals have a long way to go before they can decide to stop their violent behavior (Murphy, 1986). These violent youths are either placed in the group home, or rehabilitation program, or detention centers. In cases where they are placed in group homes, the offenders have an access to the community. Consequently, such a person may become a threat to community services and activities.

In addition, these officers lack adequate training on how to handle juveniles who have special needs. Hence, their treatment to this population tends to be wanting, which has negative repercussions in achieving the objective of juvenile correction facilities. These officers express harsh treatment to the juveniles, which sends a sign of lack of hope to have a good life among these individuals. Thus, the juveniles consider the rehabilitative and treatment procedures in these facilities as ways of hurting instead of helping them to become successful individuals in society in the future.

Therefore, these detention centers need to have professionals that include psychologists, psychiatrists, and child care experts. These individuals will work hard in hard to ensure that innovative practices and partnerships are established, which help in addressing the challenges and negative impacts, which the juvenile face in the detention facilities. It is these professionals who have the role of formulating and implementing an effective program, which will lead to the achievement of success in the correction of the juveniles in these facilities (Murphy, 1998). Without these professionals, the detention officers lack the ability of delivering quality services to the detention centers.

Education Programs

The federal and state laws govern the right of education among the juveniles in the correction facilities. Rhode Island was the first state, in 1840, to pass a law, which advocated for a compulsory education law (Thielbar, 2011). As of 1918, all states had developed their independent education laws. These laws demand that state legislatures should focus on offering free education among the juveniles. The federal no child left behind act (NCLBA) advocates for states to obtain funds for their education, which helps in improving the correctional education services (Thielbar, 2011).

In spite of these federal and state requirements, the juvenile detention facilities often face significant problems. As such, most of these centers are not able to offer basic education services. The centers are not able to offer the full instructional time, and the classes fall out of the recommended curriculum. Moreover, some of the facilities tend to lack books, libraries, and designated classrooms for the children education. The teachers in the facilities are also not trained well on how to education the children and deal with special needs cases. There also weak or no strong consequences for institutions and individuals that violate the NCLBA requirements. Hence, there is lack of incentives focused on the improvement of standards to ensure that compliance is achieved.

The problems tend to be compounded by the lack of cooperation between correction facilities education and public schools education. Hence, communication is not effective among these institutions, which leads to the attainment of long-term effects on the education system of the children. The education programs in the correction facilities tend to be isolated from the current programs, which are established in the education system in the public environment (Thielbar, 2011).

Consequently, the utilized programs are incompatible. Hence, there only few juveniles, who are able to enroll in the public schools after being, released from the detention facilities. Moreover, the population, which is found in the detention facilities, tends to be poor, disabled, minority, and male (Thielbar, 2011). As such, there is a need to offer special education services to this population, which the teachers in the detention facilities are not able to offer in an effective manner.

Special education programs are not offered effectively in the juvenile detention centers because the teachers and officers lack the ability of accessing the records of juveniles in schools, as well as conducting effective screenings. Research has indicated that several youths lack the potential of obtaining special education until after or shortly before incarceration. Majority of the youths tend to be out of school before the incarceration.

As such, they were not attending schools. The home districts of the offenders often forward the records of these youths to the public environment. Hence, without the school records of the offenders, it is impossible to identify the special needs of the juveniles in the correction facilities. Furthermore, accessing the school records does not help in solving the problem. This is because several juveniles tend to have criteria for special education as the children are seen to be having disabilities.

The challenge of identifying the special needs of the juveniles is also aggravated by the short and varying length of stay within the detention facilities. This is because there is lack of adequate time to address the youth needs (Thielbar, 2011). Hence, youth tend to lose variable time as they await proper services and screening in the detention facilities. Such a problem could be avoided by having an effective screening intake of the youths as they enter the detention facilities. These screenings would help in determining past special education services and disorders, which are being experienced.

Juvenile detention centers also face the challenge of communicating with guardians and parents. This includes home visits, which focus on gathering background information on the education and behavior of the offender. Hence, this information lacks and makes the detention centers not to offer quality education (Snyder, 1998).

Furthermore, the detention facilities do not have a good collaboration with stakeholders from the outside. Thus, there is not a good position to ensure that they can offer specialized services to the needs of the children in these facilities. Most of the children that are placed in the detention centers exhibit high levels of different disabilities and needs that need to be satisfied. As such, the detention centers are not able to offer these services to the children in an effective manner.


In conclusion, it is very vital for parents to focus on ensuring that their children are not victims of juvenile detention. This is because these facilities do not contribute towards the correction of the negative behavior of an individual, but enhancing the development of such a behavior, which is harmful. There are workable solutions, which can be used to address the issue of juvenile detention facilities. However, these solutions are surrounded by intensive prejudice and bias. It is expected that the formulation of these solutions will contribute significantly in addressing the problems, which are being faced in the juvenile detention centers in all the countries.

Public officials have incomplete and inaccurate picture of the juvenile detention facilities, which makes them unable to address the problems that occur in society. Thus, motivated by revenge and fear, the juvenile detention facilities will appear as prisons and jails. Therefore, these facilities need to have professionals that include psychologists, psychiatrists, and child care experts. These individuals will work hard in hard to ensure that innovative practices and partnerships are established, which help in addressing the challenges and negative impacts, which the juvenile face in the detention facilities.

Education is a key factor of consideration when focusing on the reduction of delinquency levels in society, as well as recidivism. Thus, the juvenile detention facilities should focus on education and improvement of these facilities as guided by the NCLBA. This entails ensuring that the facilities have an access to competent teachers who are able to offer special education and state funding that assists in eliminating the negative behavior of children in the detention centers. States should also embark on investment on the programs for these facilities, which involves expansions to other populations to qualify students for special education. This will ensure that there is early intervention of students and provision of quality education services in the juvenile detention centers.


Arya, Neelum. (2011). State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2010 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System. Washington, DC: Campaign for Youth Justice.

Howell, J. C. (1997). Juvenile justice and youth violence. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications.

Murphy, D. M. (1986). The prevalence of handicapping conditions among juvenile delinquents. Remedial and Special Education, 7(3), 7 - 17.

Rouse, B. (2016). Pros and cons of the juvenile justice system. Retrieved from: http://legalbeagle.com/7207962-pros-cons-juvenile-justice-system.html

Snyder, H. N. (1998). Juvenile arrests 1997. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Thielbar, K. (2011). Education in juvenile detention centers. Retrieved from: http://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/law/centers/childlaw/childed/pdfs/2011studentpapers/thielbar_juvenile_detention.pdf

Witherspoon, J. (2010). Problems with juvenile detention centers. Retrieved from: http://ezinearticles.com/?Problems-With-Juvenile-Detention-Centers&id=4636269

July 07, 2023

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