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The US Department of Health and Human Services (2008) estimated in 2006 that more than 900,000 children were either neglected or abused. The abuse which may be obvious and the neglect that these children experience have consequences on the child's everyday life and will be evident as they grow older. The consequences may be physical, societal, behavioral and psychological; among which psychological consequences pose the most risky behavior. Intertwined with the psychological consequence is the manifestation of the behavioral consequences, and this includes juvenile delinquency (US Department of Health and Human Services (2008). Statistically, children who have been abused or neglected were "11 times more likely to be arrested for criminal behavior as a juvenile and 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for one of many forms of violent crime (juvenile or adult)" (English, Widom and Brandford, 2004). Finley (2007) has a more specific data on the gender and frequency of juveniles; emphasizing that the age group of 12 to 19 has the highest risk of being victims. During the early 2000, black juvenile females had the highest rate of homicide. Juvenile males have more tendencies to join gangs compared to females, and this involvement in such groups expose them to either be the danger or receive the violence.
Adolescence is generally recognized as a stage every individual goes through and is considered a transgression stage where they are not necessarily vindicated of an offense (Grisso, 1996). Pick-pocketing, stealing in grocery stores, shop-lifting and involvement in street fights may appear to be an unruly behavior to the society. However, when the person committing such an act is an adolescent, the community's laws and policies will have to be significantly considered before any sanctions on the violation can be made (Hoge, 2001). This implies that the same criminal offense may be viewed and sanctioned differently in different jurisdictions, and this is an extension of the designation whether an act is criminal or not since the offender's age is also being considered during investigations (Hoge, 2001). This existing variation which has caused many confusions and complications has led to development of programs across the United States that will prevent the tendency for delinquency.
Richland County Sheriff's Department is one of the many participating institutions that aim to help juvenile delinquents or those that may be starting to manifest delinquency. Their program called "Richland County, Educating, and Deterring Youth" (R.E.A.D.Y.), was introduced in 2008 for students displaying behavioral problems. The students were brought by their parents to the Sheriff's Department and taken on a tour of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center followed by a presentation from the Richland County Coroners office for a "reality check". This program was implemented for students ages twelve to sixteen to have an overnight stay inside of a jail cell, per the request of parents. Participating youth will be monitored the entire evening by Richland County Deputies. At the conclusion, "the Richland County Sheriff's Department Gang Unit will talk with the students about their experience and what they need to do in the future to avoid a real trip to the facility" (www.rcsd.net). Furthermore, a mentor will be assigned to the individuals that go through the R.E.A.D.Y. program for one year as a tool for evaluation (Lott, 2010).
The experiences of the participants in the R.E.A.D.Y. program could either be shocking and cathartic, consequences of which may be either positive or negative. Therefore, it is of great significance that these individuals can be properly assessed and monitored to determine the efficiency of the R.E.A.D.Y. program in preventing juvenile delinquency.
Review of Related Literature
One of the most serious problems that concern the youth is juvenile crime and the issues on the implementations of laws that almost no longer distinguish a juvenile court and adult court (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2001). The main reason for this retribution is the increasing number of homicide incidents where adolescents are involved. This suggests that the penalties and trial courts being given to the juvenile offender will be just like for an adult offender (Grisso, 1996).
The juvenile justice system is a state and local affair. Like adult criminal justice, the juvenile system consists of law enforcement, courts, and corrections agencies. The purpose of juvenile court concentrated not on behavior, but on children and what they needed to make them responsible (Samaha, 2006). The correctional institutions also focused on rehabilitation, treatment, as well as to retain custody of these youth while they are in the facility (Shoemaker, 2009). According to McShane & Williams (2003), "for many years there were no clear guidelines in detaining juveniles. Locking children away in secure detention facilities has posed problems for the juvenile system since its inception in 1899." Historically, minors were placed in adult jails until amendments to the law called for complete removal of children from adult facilities (Krisberg, 2005). Prior to these laws being amended juveniles experienced much higher rates of violence and sexual exploitation than youths who were placed in specialized facilities, which lead to higher suicide rates to those in jail than those who were in juvenile detention centers (Krisberg, 2005). Even though the rates presents lower for those who are in juvenile detention centers it does not mean it does not exist. Dulcan (2010) found that children and adolescents who are incarcerated are at the highest risk for serious suicide attempts. Risk factors include depression and situational distress.
The involvement of adolescents in drugs and the very minimal intervention of juvenile justice system intervention have led to the emergence of the Juvenile drug courts which uses the same functions as that of the adult drug courts and is expected to be more effective in controlling the substance abuse of adolescents (Belenko, 2003). The discussion presented by Chesney-Lind and Shelden (1998) suggested that girls involved in juvenile crimes have to be treated separately from their male counterparts and a change in the juvenile treatment programs may provide a healthier environment for the juvenile females.
Based on the information presented above, does the juvenile justice system rehabilitate and truly treat the juvenile to deter from future criminal offenses, who "have been found delinquent by a juvenile court judge and face the risk of being committed to a correctional facility" (Shoemaker, 2009). Do some juveniles belong in the juvenile system? While these experts were researching, many did not include what factors made that child the way they are. Was it physical, mental, emotional abuse, a mental illness, etc? Would an alternative program which provided counseling have benefited these juveniles prior to entering into the system? These are variables that play a crucial role in this research. If these variables are included in the research, the juvenile statistics could possibly change. Dulcan (2010) has found that youth within the juvenile justice system have a higher prevalence of mental illness, learning disabilities and cognitive delays as compared with age appropriate peers. This could have a severe effect on a juvenile's behavior.
"Current levels of juvenile crime and a review of juvenile justice programming outcomes reveal the need for prevention-oriented, family-based juvenile crime reduction programming" (Gavazzi et al., 2000). A possible approach is the behavior modification, which is a type of therapy that uses basic learning techniques to minimize or completely eradicate an individual's unruly behavior (www.articlesbase.com, 2009). Different behavior modification programs have emerged since there is an existing concern in the juvenile justice system. The evidence-based treatment programs are the most common approach for juvenile treatment, which varies from one setting to another. Family programs have been quite ineffective in preventing juvenile delinquency, thus, focus on the juveniles appear to be more effective. Programs of this kind aim to help the juveniles in assessing a particular situation that will give more positive results than destructive ones, and help them become better decision-makers (Hoge, 2008). This approach seems to be more appropriate especially when the age of the deviant is considered. Criminal or not, these juvenile offenders still depend on their family for support, making family-intervention a possible important tool in their treatment.
Significance of the Study
The R.E.A.D.Y program is a type of behavior modification program that was created to direct juveniles from juvenile detention centers and adult facilities, even if they have had problems with the criminal system. They recognized that a program to assist juveniles other than the juvenile system might help them differentiate any behaviors that may contribute to what appears to be delinquency and to change the juvenile's negative path rather than sending them directly into the juvenile system. This appears to be a good approach to helping juveniles knowing that "detention can be very traumatic event in a child's life. Studies suggest that the child's self-esteem may be damaged in the detention setting, where they are subject to strip searches, institutional clothing, and dictated routines (McShane & Williams, 2003)." Research has demonstrated that properly implemented alternatives to detention are considerably less costly than secure confinement and youths placed in alternatives make their offenses while they are living at home (or in the community) awaiting the final disposition of their cases. In fact, well-designed alternatives can actually reduce failures to appear and pretrial crimes, because youths in these programs are in greater contact with court personnel in the preadjudication period (Krisberg, 2005).
In February 2010, Hook featured the R.E.A.D.Y. program, inclusive of some of the stories that the team experienced in the sessions. In Hook's article, the different activities done inside the jail were also carried out, and the program officers showed toughness and strictness. Most of the parents intentionally brought in their misbehaving children, hoping for some changes, and based on the number of teens that were brought in, only 1.1% of them were truly arrested.
Given the relatively sensitive issue of juveniles being sent to real jail, and the possible negative psychological damages that may be brought about by some legislations it is undeniable then, that alternative behavioral programs like the R.E.A.D.Y program be implemented and assessed soundly to prevent the youth from committing any crime. And it is imperative that the communities to which the adolescents belong to provide a healthy environment that nurtures a positive behavior through assisting those who enter into the program to make better choices, consequently deterring negative behavior.
The present study will be concerned with the following research questions:
How effective are alternative programs with deterring juveniles from making criminal decisions that could lead to juvenile detention centers or adult facilities?
What modes or tools for measurement should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the alternative programs?
Is there a need for female and male juveniles to be separated from each other in the alternative programs that they belong to?
Based on some literatures, female juveniles require a different approach, especially those that have been abused which led to the behavior they are currently exhibiting. Do alternative programs provide guidance and counseling to sexually-abused females? Are there special sessions for females that participate in the program?
Given the one year mentoring privilege of the R.E.A.D.Y. program for each participant, does this guarantee that the juvenile will not behave delinquently all throughout the year? Is it possible to extend the mentoring duration?
If the individual gets involved in a juvenile crime after participating in the R.E.A.D.Y. program, do the mentors still continue to provide counseling to the juveniles? Is the responsibility completely passed to the juvenile justice system?
Will alternative programs be more effective if the mentors or facilitators were previous juveniles themselves?
Can the alternative programs be used to identify the psychological and environmental factors that make the juveniles act and think the way they do?
After participating in the R.E.A.D.Y. program, how long is the juvenile behavior deterred? Is it possible for juveniles to keep going in and out of the R.E.A.D.Y. program?
Limitation of the Study
This research focuses mainly on the adolescents who are under the jurisdiction of Richland County. Further emphasis will be given to those who are currently participating in the R.E.A.D.Y. program, and those who have already participated in the said program. The families of the juveniles who are participating in the R.E.A.D.Y. program, as well as those who have finished the program will also be considered in the study.
Juvenile delinquency is a problem of both the individual and the society. The effectiveness of the alternative programs to prevent juvenile delinquency depends on the community's stand in providing a healthy and safe environment for the juveniles. Some studies have shown that the most effective programs are those that use one-on-one approach and those that do not have proper treatment give no results at all (Siegel, 2009). Therefore, prevention of the occurrence of such situations is a community responsibility and requires special attention of the state.
The R.E.A.D.Y. program is an alternative program that gives the adolescents a different kind of experience that is expected to provide insights and lead to behavioral changes. It is important that the program's effectiveness is evaluated and assessed to help improve the treatment programs being implemented. A deeper evaluation of the program will also provide information on the possible factors that lead to juvenile delinquency, other than abuse and neglect which could have been experienced by the juveniles prior to adolescence. Being able to identify the effectiveness of the program will consequently determine the extent of its effectiveness, and this will provide information on how extensive future treatment programs can be to address all issues on the prevention of juvenile delinquency.
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