How many times have you ever driven by a police cruiser and saw a person, in handcuffs, riding along? These people vary in age from middle aged to elderly. The law does not discriminate against age. Some of those very people are juveniles (under the age of eighteen). But age aside, we probably never think twice about where they will end up, or what is to become of them. Every year "thousands of juveniles enter the justice system each and every year. New movements are allotting some juveniles into the adult justice system in the United States. This article makes the claim that new tough-on-crime policies are bringing these minors into the harsh reality that is harsh punishment as well as adult criminal records that are not removed from their background. This is a main reason that successful reentry into society is difficult for "born-again" convicts ("Juvenile justice," 2010)." Many of these children/juveniles, unfortunately, will return shortly after their initial departure from their first stay. These are what we call born-again criminals. Statistics from the past have shown a strong correlation between repeat offenses in a particular time frame in which convicts were released. Another problem that is plaguing our criminal justice system, as well as others around the world, is the fact that there are very few juvenile detention centers. So few that when they are at capacity, incoming juvenile delinquents that should be place in the detention center that has no room, is redirected to the penitentiary. This is the place that murderers, rapist, pedophiles, and other serious offenders are housed. This is similar to putting a mouse into a snake cage, we all know what is going to happen, the mouse can't defend it's self against the larger predator and will be overcome by its power to the point of it's own demise eventually. But what is even more sad than that, is the fact that some of these juveniles that did not commit serious offenses will still have an adult crime record, making it difficult to get a job, accepted into a facility of higher education, and fix the things in their life that they neglected to notice, and wronged.
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The Cost of Keeping a Prisoner Behind Bars
A great place to start this debate would be prison economics. With the current economic situation, I though it would be interesting to find out the exact amount of money it takes/cost to keep a person imprisoned for one year. I overheard a conversation about inmates awaiting execution where one person stated, "I have no clue why they just let them set in prison, only to cost us more tax dollars." So is that contingent with the argument? Well, studies show that one percent of America's population is currently imprisoned. Due to what recent studies have shown. The United States imprisons the largest percentage of population than any other country in the world. In the population that was counted included two-fifths of inmates, around forty percent, that have served three or more sentences. This is causing prisons to be overcrowded and is causing an increasing detriment to the country. It cost taxpayers, on average, forty thousand dollars for one year per inmate, the same cost as tuition at an ivy-league institution. The United States is currently spending forty five billion dollars on prisoner every year. That has risen from the seven billion dollars that the United States used to spend about thirty years ago. The United States is a leader in many things, and one of those should not be incarceration of its citizens (Davie).
Inmates and Convicts who are released from prison are habitually detained again within three years of their release, as studies have revealed. During the presidential campaign of 2008, the nominees argued over many things from the war in Iraq, to reform for the nation's healthcare policy, as well as the economic emergency that was taking place. In the midst of those imperative topics was one that stood out, and that was America's prisons and ex-prisoners. This is becoming an increasingly common concern among American citizens. Many people are afraid of ex-con's because of their recidivism rate. If they are ending back in prison, they must be doing something to combat the law, which makes them a threat to the general public.
Psychology in a Prison Environment
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Many psychological studies and experiments take place and play a large role in prisons across the span of the world. Most prisons today have psychiatrist/psychologist on staff, full time, in case they are needed. To some extent, this suggests the detriment to psychology of inmates that are in prisons today. This is a great attribute for adult inmates but what about the juveniles who are in custody today? A juvenile is essentially a minor, or a person under the age of eighteen. When these children are placed in the facilities, law enforcement that are outside of the prison (judge's etc.), they expect that their needs will be meet entirely, but that is not the case in most instances. Due to this, there should be more psychological professionals in the facilities such as detention centers. One of the prisons in America has seventeen psychiatrists in the facility to oversee the inmates that occupy it. Other prisons have none (Richardson-Mendelson).
Juvenile Protection in a Prison Environment
Every year in this country, approximately 150,000 juveniles are sent to prison where the majority of the population there are adults. These are usually connected to nonviolent offenses that do not lead to conviction. This leaves them at risk for being raped or battered, and will increase their chances of becoming career criminals. In order to fix this problem, it has been suggested that Congress needs to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974 in my opinion. This was an act in which it was agreed upon by the states to civilize the juvenile justice system in order to receive more federal aid in the form of grants. In my opinion, Congress needs to make it illegal for juveniles to be placed in adult detention centers, except for heinous crimes such as murder, or other serious offenses like rape ("De-criminalizing children," 2009).
Infamous Court Cases Involving Juvenile Counterparts
Sullivan, a 13 year old who raped a 72-year old woman, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. This was the first case in which life without parole was sentenced to a juvenile in which a crime that did not involve murder. To this date there are nine juveniles that are imprisoned for life, without parole, that are in custody in The United States as of today. Such a sentence is lawful, but rather rare these days. It does happen though as depicted in the court cases Sullivan vs. Florida and Graham vs. Florida (Liptak, 2009). The state of Missouri created a juvenile detention center that has been very successful over the past few decades, so successful in fact that it is being called a "miracle." It is mostly composed of small facilities that generally created for ten to thirty juvenile inmates that are assigned to the facility that is closet to their home. There are no cells as you would find in a traditional jail, there are only eight isolation rooms throughout the entire facility, and they are only used in emergencies.
Myth's of Southern Prisons
America's penitentiaries are like the citizens that compose the nation it's self. Every single on is different in some way, shape, or form. The area of prison that is the most diverse is the south. There are many rumors and fallacies' that shape these institutions. One of the most persistent fallacies of prisons is that children themselves are different. One common assumption is that young offenders are mostly rural white teenagers with minor infractions who are just more responsive to rehabilitation than the youths in other juvenile justice systems. But in reality, many of the young people in southern juvenile justice system are from St. Louis, Atlanta, Louisville, Birmingham, and Kansas City. All of these are major urban centers with the same racial diversity, stresses, and kinds of crime as urban areas in other states. The homicide rates in St. Louis are among the nations highest. A second myth is that the south actually sends its toughest youth offenders to prison, so that only "lightweights" with less serious offenses are being served through the juvenile justice system. In fact, the one detention center operates for youths under age 17 is now empty and has been for some time, and has rarely served more than five youths a year. Most of the state's young offenders are indeed being served through the juvenile justice system, and youths with all kinds of records are treated with the same emphasis on respect and rehabilitation (Edelman, 2010).
Are Constitutional Rights the Same for Everyone?
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We are all taught that we all have the same rights, regardless of race, sex, backgrounds, as laid down by our forefathers in the Constitution that was written on that purpose. But it is true? An eleven year old boy was denied his right to a speedy trial. The charges were that he had molested the sister of his neighbor. The right to a speedy trial is laid out in the United States Constitution. In the Constitution, it is stated that a speedy trial is to last no longer than sixty days unless a waiver is signed by the defendant in the case. The young boy had not signed the waiver and his case was easing into the one hundred and twenty day mark very rapidly ("Speedy Trials for Juveniles"). It would be very easy to overturn a ruling in appeals due to the fact that with a signature on the contract, any decision that was not reached in the time frame would be considered null and void.
The Actions that a Prison Record takes on Your Life and Future Accomplishments
A man was giving his opinion on what he experienced during his time in a junior prison. He is now older today, in his fifties, and he stated,
I was sent to a junior prison because I had no family to help me from about age 11 on. My worse crime was I smoked pot. I have never understood how this helped me as I have always been ashamed and harmed by it, always feeling less than everyone else. I have a Rio Contiguo High School Diploma from Juvenile Hall, makes me real proud to show it to employers. I am in my 50's now and still feel the scars of it everyday. I find myself afraid inside of things others don't, just I had to learn to deal with it. I never learnt a lot of things or did things as a teenager like others, and so as an adult try to be a teen instead of an adult as I should. Can't help it, it is in that fear factor. Nothing worse than being a kid alone, and in lock up with, well it was hard (Firefly).
It is clear that in his time there that it has a major impact on him and what he has been able to accomplish things in life. We, as society, tend to look down on former criminals. This is why he is ashamed of his diploma, history, and the terrors that plague him today that most of us will never know about. This goes to show that everyone has a story and they need to be heard (What are some.,).
Plan of Action
I have a multi-step plan of action that is rather simple and would reduce all of these figures significantly within the next generation or two.
Create More Family Time
When kids spend more time at home, they are less inclined to spend time out and about. This also teaches kids at an early age what is right and wrong, and where they should and should not be.
Studies have shown that the higher the education a person has, the less likely they are to commit a crime.
Set Small Goals
When a person sets a small goal that they accomplish, rather easily, they are more inclined to set another and another. This creates a person that strives to accomplish their goals and keep moving forward. This, in turn, can create a person that is "addicted" to doing better, to get to the euphoric feeling that it can produce.
Sex Education and Self Control
When we teach people, particularly shown to work better when introduced at a young age, sexual education topics along with self-control, we help prevent crimes like rape as well as other problems such as premature pregnancy too.
Teach Social Sciences (e.g.. Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology) throughout the development of education
If we can inform every person of the obstacles that we face (e.g., depression, addiction, etc.), we can teach them more efficient ways of dealing with them; rather than using transference which creates the problems that get people into prison in the first place.
Familiarize the Constitution and other laws that govern us.
Many people that are in trouble with and/or are running from the law are unfamiliar with the laws that govern our country and the people in it. By familiarizing people with the basis for all laws we can teach them what is right, what is wrong, what the consequences for their actions, and the rights that they are entitled to as citizens.
Set new standards for rating media (G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.)
If you have noticed, movies and other form of media are becoming more violent with every release. People are more inclined to do something if they see it in film. By changing the rating criteria, we can limit what minors and other people are able to view for the time being, until they are more mature. This will reduce the reciprocating actions that land people in prison to begin with. We also need to inform youth that not all things that are in the media are supposedly the right things to do.
This plan is rather simple to follow and will reduce a lot of the problems that we are facing rather quickly and efficiently.
Crime is something that shouldn't be happening, especially from the youth that composes a portion of our country. We are supposed to be able to enjoy our freedom, unlike so many people that inhabit this planet of life. This proposed research will help us accomplish the following goals: (1) Lower crime rates and make the world a safer place simultaneously (2) Set a new precedent that will be the guidelines for future generations of follow. This proposal will efficiently alleviate the problems that are no more than a nuisance to those who are afraid to go out because of it and are the innocent ones. It will also help get those that have strayed the chosen path get back on track as well as, preventing others from straying.