Approximately 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States in a single year. Outcomes for youth involved in the justice system can include recidivism, academic failure, as well as mental health and substance abuse issues. However, there is a movement to reform the justice system by offering youth alternative interventions focused on rehabilitation and skill building to create a brighter and stronger future.
Why Reforming Juvenile Justice Matters
To put it simply, punitive sentencing of young offenders is contrary to the founding principle of the juvenile justice system in the first place. Launched in the 19th century, the original mission of the juvenile justice system was to rehabilitate delinquent youth through treatment programs and release them back into society as productive citizens. However, over the years the system has veered awareness from its primary responsibility and instead created what is now referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline” where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In many cases, the youth that are caught in the pipeline struggle with learning disabilities, are born into poverty, and are often victims of abuse and neglect. While these youth would benefit from counseling, additional educational assistance and familial support, they are instead being punished and pushed out of society into juvenile detention centers, further isolating them from the opportunities of success and prosperity.
Recent efforts to reform the juvenile justice system by providing positive youth development and restorative justice community based programs have been proven successful. Options ranging from home-based approaches to locked community residential facilities are designed to keep youth engaged with their schools and communities while providing them with the treatment the juveniles and families so desperately need. Shifting the focus from punishment to rehabilitation it the key to helping youth become productive citizens of society rather than tossing them into a cycle of destructive institutionalism.
The Role of the Community in Juvenile Justice Reform
In order for a reformation of the juvenile justice system to be successful, the community needs to be fully engaged. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) play an important role in their ability to provide alternative intervention programming and services focused on rehabilitation and skill building for juveniles. In addition, community organizations can increase their impact and work more efficiently when multiple agencies are able to collaborate with one another and are able to provide services across disciples.
Ready to Learn More?
Join us on August 7th, 2017 as we launch our first day of workshops focused on Youth, Community and the Justice System. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Franke Guzman, Juvenile Justice Attorney at the National Center of Youth Law, and Omar Zapata, Director of Program Services for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP). Following this session will be a presentation by Ken Klopman, a retired officer from the Oxnard Police Department who brings to the table of three decades of experience in public safety and service. The panel and presentation will offer tangible solutions to help get youth on a more positive path and support them to reach their full potential.
If you want to increase your awareness of the role that the community plays in supporting youth, and learn how you can take action in helping to reform the juvenile justice system; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.