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Shift happening in juvenile justice systems in the U.S.?

Among the big concerns a parent may have when their child has been accused of a crime, such as sexting or drug offenses, is whether their child will be able to rebound from the situation and still have a promising future. There are many potential consequences being accused of a crime could end up having for a juvenile. Which consequences end up coming out of a child’s particular case can have many impacts on a child’s future. So, what happens during a juvenile crime case can have significant ramifications. Given this, it can be important for a parent of a child accused of a crime to understand what defense options their child has.

One of the consequences a juvenile could end up facing if they are convicted of a crime is having to spend time in a youth prison complex. Such facilities have traditionally been a major part of the juvenile justice system here in the United States. This big role can be seen in the fact that tens of thousands of juveniles here in America are in such facilities.

Now, such complexes have drawn a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Among the arguments critics have leveled against these facilities are that they:

  • Are based on outdated concepts of rehabilitation.
  • May not be very effective at rehabilitating juvenile offenders.
  • Could be exposing juveniles to abuse or other maltreatment.
  • Can create major disruptions in a juvenile’s life that could make having a bright future very hard.
  • Raise various fairness concerns, including concerns regarding racial disparities in what juveniles are affected most by the use of such facilities.
  • Can put big burdens on taxpayers.

In the face of these arguments and criticisms, some states have started to take actions aimed at moving away from using youth prisons and instead using alternative methods for addressing the problem of juvenile crime. Specifically, some states have made plans to close some of their youth prisons and direct more money towards evidence-based and community-based alternative approaches to rehabilitation.

Do you think this shift will continue and become more widespread? If it does, what impacts do you think it would have on kids and juvenile justice systems throughout the country, including here in Wisconsin?

Source: Time, “Youth Prisons Don’t Work. Here’s What Does.,” Mishi Faruqee, Oct. 26, 2016

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