The juvenile justice system was created to provide age-appropriate punishment for wrongdoing, along with rehabilitation. The system was designed to recognize that juveniles are not yet adults and that punishing them like adults by putting them in prison would be unjust, and ultimately, ineffective at preventing recidivism.
The first juvenile court in the US was founded in 1899 in Chicago. The court had jurisdiction over delinquent and neglected children under the age of 16. In 1967, the Supreme Court decided that juveniles must be given certain procedural due process rights. Prior to 1899, children and youth were seen as mini-adults and were sent to adult correction institutes that were dangerous places for them.
Understanding the purpose of the juvenile justice system starts with reviewing its goals, which are to provide correction for juvenile offenders by helping them improve their behavior. Eventually, these individuals are returned to their communities, equipped with the skills and abilities to survive in society as law-abiding citizens.
It is admittedly difficult to change people’s behavior; environment, family, and economic circumstances all combine to engender behavioral patterns that become habitual. However, youth are developmentally different from adults, and their behavior is more flexible.
Youth can be aggressive, have strong emotions, and can be strongly affected by incarceration in an adult facility. Rehabilitation is more successful when juvenile offenders are provided with a high-quality, evidence-based life skills curriculum and associated programming. This helps young people cope with and manage their feelings of aggression and confusing emotion.
ARISE Life Skills Curricula and staff training provides such programming to teach juvenile offenders to be less aggressive and handle their emotions in a more positive way. Rehabilitation provides skills that help these young offenders become law-abiding citizens. When young people leave a juvenile justice facility, they should be able to lead healthy and productive lives.
The juvenile justice system today is not perfect; youth involved in juvenile justice have been found to have high rates of substance abuse, disruptive disorders, and anxiety disorders. Nevertheless, juvenile justice is more effective at preventing crime and more diverse than it was many years ago.
The key to understanding the purpose of the juvenile justice system is learning that the most effective interventions are interpersonal skills training, individual counseling, and behavioral programs. ARISE Life Skills curricula can be a an important part of juvenile justice programing. Contact the ARISE Foundation today for more information on how we can help train juvenile justice staff to provide youth with the life skills they need to be successful.