Institutional Corrections for Juvenile Delinquents

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Leanne White

Leanne has a master's degree and an independent licensure in chemical dependency counseling. She has extended experience in corrections and post-secondary education.

Is sending a juvenile to prison always the best idea? This lesson will look at the different types of correctional facilities designed for juveniles and explore how the juvenile justice system became separate from the adult system.

Justice Systems

A 12-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man commit the same crime. Should they be given the same punishment? What about a toddler and a teenager? Would you give them the same punishment?

Prior to the 20th century, there was one justice system for adults and juveniles and few differences in terms of sentencing, punishment, and treatment options. When delinquency rates began to rise over time, research was conducted on the effects the system had on the future success of juveniles. One major finding was that when sentenced as juveniles, offenders received a criminal record. This caused further problems for the individuals as adults, including difficulty finding employment and securing student aid, thus making it harder to succeed in life.

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  • 0:51 Juvenile Justice Systems
  • 2:00 Juvenile Correctional…
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Juvenile Justice Systems

Based on evolutionary research and the increasing rates of delinquency, two separate justice systems were formed that reflected changes ranging from terminology to the use of the death penalty. Before the system was revamped, juvenile offenders were referred to as criminals, just like adults. But in the juvenile justice system, adolescent offenders are referred to as delinquents. Additionally, juvenile offenders can no longer be sentenced, but are subject to a disposition. A more prominent change was the use of the death penalty. Juvenile offenders are no longer eligible for the death penalty regardless of their offenses.

In the juvenile justice system, offenders are found to be delinquent rather than guilty and the outcome is less severe than in the adult justice system. The most common form of punishment for adults is incarceration, whereas for juveniles, the emphasis is on diversion programs. This is because in the juvenile justice system the focus is on rehabilitation and restitution, rather than punishment. Juveniles are less likely now than in the past to stay in the system.

Juvenile Correctional Facilities

Once arrested and processed through the court, juveniles who are at risk for running or are a threat to society are sent to detention facilities. Detention facilities hold the largest portion of juvenile delinquents. They're intended to be temporary and focus on keeping juveniles out of trouble and available to the court when their trial dates arrive. Once the court has proceeded with their cases, they're either committed to a private or public facility or released.

Private facilities are operated by non-profit or for-profit private organizations. They account for over half of all juvenile facilities. However, they only house about a third of the juveniles in the system, due to their size. Typically, private facilities are smaller and hold fewer juveniles at a time. Their goal is to provide a secure environment that emphasizes rehabilitative services. Private facilities are usually secure, but can be non-secure, meaning juveniles have access to their schools, communities, and homes. Examples of private facilities include diagnostic centers, group homes, private reception facilities, ranches and camps, residential treatment facilities, and shelters.

Public facilities are government-funded, state-operated institutions. There are fewer public facilities available. However, they house a greater portion of the juvenile population. With the exception of detention centers, public facilities are intended for juveniles who have felony-level, violent offenses. Examples of public facilities include detention and diagnostic centers, long-term secure facilities, public reception facilities, and training academies.

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