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In the United States, the doctrine Parens Patriae has had its greatest application in the treatment and management of juveniles, mentally ill persons, and other individuals who are legally inept to manage their own matters in their daily lives. Under this doctrine the state can become the guardian of any wayward or delinquent juvenile within its jurisdiction, and the state courts have the inherent power to intervene to protect the best interests of these juveniles whose wellbeing and future prosperities are jeopardized (Elrod & Ryder, 2011). Today, the doctrine, Parens Patriae is still the back bone of the juvenile justice system and the basis for which we give juveniles a chance to rehabilitate; and with any luck become successful and productive members of society. When the state takes over responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of these juveniles, they will need proper care, housing, and guidance to be effective in their paths to rehabilitation. Properly managed correctional facilities with well trained staff, medical care, treatment programs, and top notch education are essential for effective rehabilitation. This does not come easy, as each juvenile needs individual care and treatment plans. Therefore, it is crucial for the facilities staff to create goals that reflect a better quality of life for the juvenile offenders that promotes a decreased involvement in delinquent and criminal behaviors through positive intervention and reinforcement. Below I will describe my ideas of accomplishing these ideas and paint a picture of what I believe to be a community correctional facility that can make a difference. Based on the history of Parens Patriae and the belief that our forefathers believed was our duty to our future leaders, keeping in mind that this facility is neither for the criminally insane, nor for violent juvenile offenders; Instead for those juveniles that the court deems as suitable for rehabilitation.
My idea is one that is commonly used today for adults and children alike, places that remove the child from the environments they are accustomed to and replacing that with an environment that is not only safe, but also inviting once given a chance. In Americas past, around the end of the 1800s, reformers referred to the idea as placing out. Placing out involved the placement of children on farms or ranches away from the big cities were it was thought that through hard work and wholesome environments, wayward and delinquent children could learn to build character and become productive individuals. Funding through both private and government aid, not to mention volunteer assistance, I believe that it is possible to offer such a place. The correctional facility would offer juveniles a safe and secure environment both for themselves and their families to flourish. The idea is similar to that of the modern day correctional centers around the United States and here in Idaho. Like the Juvenile Corrections Center of Nampa and its sister facilities, my facility would include many of the same accommodations needed for a juvenile to succeed and grow while they are in the custody of the facility. The environment would be a secure facility, however one not made of steel doors and brick enclosures that make one feel as if the walls are closing in around them. Instead, the facility would offer more of a home environment with ample sunlight, fresh air, and exposure to the beauty that surrounds the facility. This facility would not be located in the midst of a busy city, roads or highways, instead the facility would offer juveniles to a nurturing environment for the senses to embellish and take in.
Location is a priority for this type of facility, therefore with the knowledge that no child wants to be taken out of their comfort zone and placed in a facility that has the feel and look of a prison. I would place the facility in the nearby mountains away from the troubles they need to get away from. The facility would be setup for both boys and girls with separate but equal dormitories and affordable onsite visiting housing for families. Families would be encouraged to participate in the rehabilitation of their children, and therefore offered the ability to live nearby when time allowed them. The importance of a strong family would be a primary part of therapy for all involved and part of the family's pre and post transition planning for reentry back into the community. Without the families' support the juvenile's likely hood for rehabilitation will suffer and the juvenile's possibility for recidivism increases; "strong families are a key to reducing recidivism". According to the Correctional Educations Association's studies, "a stronger family can enhance success for incarcerated persons re-entering the community by offering a place of physical and emotional safety and support" (Correctional Education Association , 2009). Their belief, like other childhood development professionals, is that early intervention with families facing juvenile incarceration is a must, and ultimately increasing the likelihood that the juvenile and their families will stay connected with strengthened relationships, through effective communication, parenting skills, and conflict resolution skills.
The correctional facility, like that of the Juvenile Corrections Center (JCC), would also cater to juveniles who have committed crimes and sent to the facility by a judge, but also be open to families that want help with a troubled child of their own. Services available at many facilities including Idaho's JCC include: (Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, 2008)
Substance abuse and treatment programs
Medical and nursing assistance
Educational and development opportunities
Group and individual counseling
Mental health treatment
Recreation and community involvement opportunities
Transition and aftercare planning programs
Unlike normal state correctional facilities, my idea for a correctional facility would be a faith based ministry that focuses on teaching juveniles their worth and value in the eyes of their Creator. While I understand this would not be a good fit for all families or all juveniles, it is one aspect that is a primary basis to many facilities around the nation, but one that I believe is lacking.
In addition to those services listed above and one that is needed in many facilities is a gang relief service. For many juveniles caught up in this criminal life style, these services would be not only beneficial, but also a necessity for their aftercare services and relocation if need be. Options for gang members wanting to make a new life for themselves, especially for those turning 18 years old and will ultimately be out on their own after leaving the facility, would have the availability of relocation experts and the option to have gang affiliated tattoos and marking removed or covered.
Another important service that would be effective is more geared towards young parents especially girls expecting a child or needing to provide for a child. Facilities often fail in this area, but as I mentioned above, family is important whether it is just the mother and a child or a father learning to be a good influence and part of his child's life. While child care is difficult even for the best equipped parents, juveniles with criminal and delinquency pasts will no-doubt benefit from a facility that can offer this type of program and guidance care.
I was impressed to hear and also believe the idea that the Idaho Juvenile Corrections Center believes that education is of upmost priority and was impressed on their academic achievements within the facility. One addition I did not see much of was access to a library or a computer lab, while I am sure they have some availability of these items to the juveniles at JCC, this would also be a very important addition to any facility. Studies have proven and statistics show that a strong education is one of the most important factors to the recovery and rehabilitation of any criminal of any age. A positive behavior change starts by helping students to develop their abilities in academics as well as other forms of higher learning. Educational development also emphasizes and builds appropriate social skills. I believe that all Juveniles can learn, and it is one of the facilities greatest responsibilities to provide an emotionally and physically safe environment in which juveniles will be motivated to reach their potential. Education is the key not only for the juveniles in the facility but also for their families learning to cope with and heal from the physical and emotional damages that lead them to this point in their lives. Some academic studies also would include:
Vocational and technological studies
College level programs and assistance counseling
Home economics and life building classes
All of which would instill valuable life skills and opportunities for any juvenile.
The facility itself would be broken into different age categories for learning and control of certain needs, as each juvenile will have different needs and recover at different rates. Optimally students would stay no less than a full year in order to keep them on the right track to success. This would allow for meaningful changes to take place and corrective actions to take effect. This would also benefit programs that model Therapeutic Community structures like those at the Nampa Juvenile Correctional Center referred to as Choices Therapeutic Community (JCC). The JCC Choices community system is setup to offer a safe and functional environment that challenges the juveniles in this area to hold other accountable while at the same time supporting one another from a holistic approach. The approach focuses on emotional growth, family, academic success, social supports, and cultural diversity; while individuals are recovering from serious substance abuse issues and other behavioral problems, on their path to rehabilitation. The other JCC community is called Solutions; this is very similar to the Choices program, but caters more towards juveniles that have disorders which have been diagnosed as mental health and substance abuse disorders. Focus is much like that of the choices program, but also utilizes multi-disciplinary approaches and both physical and psychological healing. (Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, 2008) In both of these programs team building and leadership development is a key component. This allows for juveniles to feel part of a group, take pride in their relationships with one another, while building real life coping and leadership skills they will need in the real world.
If these services and programs are to work and produce acceptable results it is important and necessary to have staff willing to make that extra efforts needed to make it work. Success depends on hiring great people and training and equipping them to meet the challenges of working with at-risk juveniles. This also includes hiring and keeping a greater staff to offender ratio, which can handle the needs of its juvenile offender population. Basic guidelines and policies must be in place for this to work. Some of these would include: (Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, 2008) (Project Patch Youth Ranch, 2013)
Certifications for all employees:
P.O.S.T. certified training for all line staff
Training that is consistent and within the standards of the Juvenile Corrections Act and the Idaho State and County legislations
Have annual training for the use of positive control systems training for de-escalation and physical safety
Required to get 20 plus hours of continued education annually
CPR and First Aid certified
Extensive orientation, mentor training, and supervision before working independently with juveniles
Master's degrees in several behavioral science fields
Trained in individual, group, and family counseling
Master's degrees in educational fields
Chaplains and ministry teachers:
Chaplain would be experienced and trained in theology, preaching, and the mentoring juveniles
One item of importance that is also needed is people that have proven to have overcome the same problems that juveniles face within these facilities. People that these juveniles can relate to not just some one that has a degree in the field (book smarts). This is where volunteers and life professionals come in to play. These people can provide knowledge and personal understanding much different from those that have specialized degrees.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) there is no real national recidivism rate for juveniles. However, studies from different states indicate that approximately 55 percent of juveniles released from facilities will, within a year, be re-arrested and 24 percent will find themselves back in the custody of a correctional facility (OJJDP, 2006). While there is no perfect answer I believe that one of our nation's biggest problems is the loss of faith in our practices, this includes the juvenile justice world. The road to failure is paved with good intentions; this is why we fail many of the juveniles in these facilities. While I definitely do not have all the answers, I do have ideas that I would like to see if I was a juvenile, that was finding myself in a life of destruction. As with the adult system, recidivism rates are always increasing and for decades the big question is why? However, even though we know that many adults and juveniles are prone to failure with the use of correctional facilities; these facilities still offer some sense of relief and assurance to the public. It is my belief that we need a huge change if we are to make a real difference and it will take dedicated, faithful and well educated people to make a real difference for these youth. We cannot rely on the powers of government alone as that has not been successful so far within any of the adult or juvenile justice systems of treatment. Studies from organizations like Boys and Girls Home, Christian River View Christian Academy- boarding school and behavior intervention program, and Idaho's very own Project Patch Youth Ranch show hopeful results of alternative correctional housing facilities. If these facilities are producing the results they say maybe the government needs to reassess how we rehabilitate juveniles.