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Juvenile Justice System Essay


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Treatment and Punishment Methods in Juvenile Justice System


Juvenile system of justice is effective in reinforcing desirable behaviors. It explicitly informs rules and expectations and reduces chances for the teenagers to engage in deviant behaviors. In addition, an efficient system helps young people to engage in positive activities and offers expressive responsibilities for young people to develop their skills and motivation (Rosenheim, 2002, p.2). Therefore, some policy makers stress the need for reaffirming the traditional treatment missions. The traditional treatment or retributive models help to reduce public confidence in the systems of juvenile justice.

For the juvenile justice system to be effective, it must be integrated into the entire networks of public agencies and institutions that focus on youth, families and children. These institutions should offer services for the children’s protection, education and mental health services (McMillin, 2014, 7).  The deviant behaviors that force the young people to be involved in juvenile justices systems are, usually, related to other problems. Some of these problems are difficult to address in the justice system (Rosenheim, 2002, p.4). Some of these problems include the mental health problems, substance abuse and child maltreatment (Shoemaker, 2009, p.4). Failure to identify these problems and acts, which makes young people to enter, prevails and re-enter the juvenile justice system.

Differences between Punishment and Treatment Concepts

Punitive approaches such as punishment may be acceptable to the public because of the need of retribution. However, this concept is limited to reintegrate or rehabilitate juvenile offenders. In addition, punishment is often used unnecessary leading to negative effects (Shoemaker, 2009, p.3). In addition, the punishment concepts may force the offenders to concentrate on themselves instead on their victims. Through public mindset, punishment is associated with the offence (McMillin, 2014, p.5).

Contrary, treatments only focus on the material wants of the offender. Treatment concepts help the offender through remedial services, counseling and recreational courses (Shoemaker, 2009, p.3). Although such programs are effective, they do make significant impacts in the lives of the victims of juvenile delinquencies, citizens affected by the crime and persons who want delinquents’ offenders held accountable for their actions.

Indeed, treatment concepts provide maximum attention on the needs of the offender in the juvenile justice systems. In addition, the victims of crime are engaged as clients or as co-participants in the justice systems (Tsui, 2014, p.6).  Moreover, treatment focuses on the offender as the active and client of services and interventions (Rosenheim, 2002, p.5). In this regard, juvenile justice systems involve the juvenile criminals and other members of the society in important responsibilities in the rehabilitation, sanctioning and safety of the public.

The treatment system involves members of the public in establishing the clear limits on antisocial acts and evaluating the consequences of delinquents. The core aim of the community system is to focus on reparation, needs and correcting the offender (McMillin, 2014, p.9).

This would help in building a community system that is crime-resistant and that would enjoy safety. Besides, it would help the community to build strong ties and involving youth in community work, roles and services. This helps to convert delinquent youngsters to law-abiding individuals (Shoemaker, 2009, p.4). Furthermore, the treatment justice system helps to connect crucial responsibilities to rehabilitate offenders. Moreover, it enhances safety for communities for civic groups, religious communities, citizens and families.

Adolescent’s faces desire to belong, be in a place that is valued and form strong ties with others. Young people who are not bonded to institutions in the society, such as recreational institutions, school, religious organizations and work are more likely to participate in criminal behaviors (McMillin, 2014, p.7). Adolescents have strong desires to be connected due to a mode of dressing, language and music.

Juvenile cases in Boston

In the state of Massachusetts, the juvenile cases in 2000 were approximately 6 200 000. More than 27 percent of the population in Massachusetts is aged between 19 years and younger (Shoemaker, 2009, p.8). The rate of juvenile crime especially in cities of Boston is very high. Majority of the young people are involved in drug and alcohol use, teen dating violence, gang involvement and use of weapons among the teens. In addition, the arrest rates among the youth are significantly high in Boston (Rosenheim, 2002, p.8). However, according to the Department of Youth Services the juvenile cases in Boston have declined by 2010 as compared to previous years. In the late 1990s and early 2000, Boston city experienced an epidemic of juvenile crimes (McMillin, 2014, p.10). The underlying factors were the widespread use of crack cocaine and increase in violence gang activity.

Additionally, the use of the handgun among the youth tripled from 23 victims in 1997 to 70 victims in 2001. In addition, the rate of homicides remains tremendously high averaging at 45 homicides per annum. The authorities in the city initiated a variety of measures to address high rate of juvenile cases. They launched the operation Ceasefire that enabled the participation of community members, police officers, front line practitioners and educators. This reduced significantly the gun-related crime among the young people. This project used a variety of different techniques. It focused on deterrence instead of traditional method (McMillin, 2014, p.11). They identified the gangs involved in crime and with the highest vulnerability of violence in the use of guns. The members of the gang were eventually contacted where they were warned of dire consequences.

In 2010, the Department of Youth Services recorded 2983 cases of juvenile crime in Boston city. This is significantly lower as compared to 5283 in 2001. The detention admission level in 2010 represented 44 percent decline relative to 2001. Moreover, the daily number of youths detained in 2010 was 172 as compared to 180 youths in 2010 (McMillin, 2014, p.11). Additionally, the number of detained juveniles in state of Massachusetts has declined by 38 percent between 2005 and 2013.

In Boston in 2006, most of the juvenile arrestees (57 percent) were aged between 14 and 16 years at time of arrest. With regard to ethnicity, African American accounted for 74 percent, Hispanics 18 percent while Caucasians represented 4 percent while the rest represented 4 percent of all cases of juvenile arrests in Boston

Source (Rosenheim, 2002)

Juvenile cases in Chicago

Chicago city is the most populous city in the state of Illinois and third largest in the United States. Between 1999 and 2003, more than 9 898 juveniles were arrested in the city by Chicago Police Departments (Rosenheim, 2002, p.9). In addition, more than 29.2 percent of these offenders (recidivists) were arrested two to four times in the same period (Schwartz, 2013, p.9). Besides, approximately 17 percent were noted to be chronic arrestees since they were arrest more than 5 times between 1999 to 2003 (McMillin, 2014, p.12). Prior to this period, more than 53 percent of arrestees were identified as chronic arrestees.

Between 2000 and 2005, in Chicago city, cases of juvenile arrestees decreased by approximately 9.7 percent. For instance between 2002 and 2003, the police department recorded 6.7 percent decline in juvenile crimes (Tsui, 2014, p.13). However, years following 2003, the Department of Youth Service recorded small but steady rise in juvenile arrests in Chicago (Shoemaker, 2009). In 2005, the male arrestees accounted for more than 83 percent of all juvenile cases while females represented 17 percent. Between 2005 and 2000, the number of the female arrestees declined significantly while there was no significant decline among the males.

In Chicago, most of the juvenile arrestees (66.4 percent) were aged between 15 and 16 years at time of arrest. With regard to ethnicity, African American accounted for 79 percent, Hispanics 16.7 percent while Caucasians represented 3.7 percent of all cases of juvenile arrests in Chicago (Rosenheim, 2002, p.23). Cases of juvenile arrest among African Americans increased significantly from 2000 and 2005 relative to Hispanics and Caucasians who had a significant decrease.

Juvenile Arrests in Chicago city based on Ethnicity (Tsui, 2014)

Juvenile cases in Seattle

The number of juvenile cases in city of Seattle increased between the late 1980s and early 1990s. The number of firearm-linked crime cases increased by 50 percent to 151 incidents in 1995. Seattle accounts for high number of chronic serious juvenile offenders. The city authorities initiated a number of strategies designed to curb the rising cases of youth crime such as Youth Firearms Violence Initiative (Schwartz, 2013). The program focuses on family involvement in linking social, support services and counseling services. With regard to races involvement in crime, blacks are 13 times higher as compared to the whites (Shoemaker, 2009, p.11). Many Blacks’ juveniles record high cases of drug arrests. In 2006, the blacks recorded 21 times higher rates drug delivery arrest as compared to white drug arrest rates.

Among the cities in the state of Washington, Seattle recorded a decrease in cases of burglaries in 2012. Furthermore, the number of murders and manslaughter increased during the same period. Besides, there were increase in rapes, larceny thefts, aggravated assaults and motor vehicle theft cases by juveniles in the city (McMillin, 2014, p.13).

The juvenile arrest rate in all forms crimes amplified from the early 1980s to the mid-1990 and then decreased significantly in the recent years. The Blacks juveniles in the city of Seattle recorded high cases of juvenile arrests as compared to the whites and Hispanics (Rosenheim, 2002, p.11). In 2006, the police department recorded 3 400 juvenile arrestee. The majority of the arrestee 83 percent involved the Blacks, 15 percent Hispanics and 2 percent the Caucasians. More than 60 percent of the arrestees were aged between 15 and 17 years (Shoemaker, 2009, p.12). The period between 1980 and 2011 the juvenile rates of arrests decreased by 52 percent for Indian American, 60 percent for Asians, 37 percent for whites and 15 percent for Blacks juveniles in Seattle. For instance, in 2011, for every 100 000 white population aged between 10-17 years there are 3 787 white juvenile arrests. In comparison, one-third of the white juvenile arrest represented Asian arrests.

However, the black rate of arrest was double that of white arrests rates.  The rate of black juvenile arrest was at the peak in 1995, while the other races’ rates peaked in 1996. For each racial group the rate of the juvenile cases decreased between 1995 and 2011 (Schwartz, 2013). The blacks recorded 45 percent decline, 50 percent for whites, 61 percent for Latinos and 68 percent of the Asians in Seattle city. In terms of gender, the male juveniles recorded 71 percent of arrestees as compared to 29 percent of the female counterparts (McMillin, 2014, p.13).

Juvenile Arrest Rates for All Crimes by Race, 1980-2011in Seattle city Source (McMillin, 2014)


In juvenile rehabilitation programs, recidivism is commonly used to show the effectiveness of the system. Most juvenile correction systems are geared towards preventing recidivism among the delinquent youths. In addition, most programs use recidivism as the measure of program effectiveness because of the ease of obtaining data (McMillin, 2014, p.12). Moreover, the criminal justice systems normally record conviction, arrests and re-incarceration data. State demands policy makers to review recidivism data in order to compare the performance of corrections systems. Furthermore, the recidivism records set a benchmark in which every state or cities can compare its rates (Tsui, 2014, p.17). It not only helps the policy makers to develop realistic goals but also hold juvenile justice systems accountable for the performance of corrections systems.

Recidivism is the act of repeating at least one offense that an individual had previously committed (Rosenheim, 2002, p.12). Recidivism rates vary depending on the aftercare services, the police services, conviction and arrest standards and policies on waivers. In addition, the type of correction methods such as punishment and treatment affects it.

Juvenile systems in the United States have different strategies of controlling juvenile behaviors. The systems require effective approach to reduce recidivism and produce the positive outcome (McMillin, 2014, p.18). Most juvenile justice systems used various treatment methods. However, the effectiveness of such treatment methods is difficult to determine and unknown (Rosenheim, 2002). In the twentieth century, various states used a rehabilitative model of individualized sentencing.

However, in the early 1960s, the rate of juvenile crime in the whole country increased hence the systems of juvenile corrections were not working. The federal and state government turned to punitive sentencing measures. There were assumptions that treatment methods were ineffective and could not reduce recidivism (McMillin, 2014, p.14). Many authorities turned to tough policies that emphasized on the deterrence and reduction in treatment approaches.

Consequently, juvenile justice agencies increased punitive law, policies and practices use. The government also increased sentences, drug testing, and electronic monitoring as well as shock incarceration (Rosenheim, 2002, p.10). Treatment methods were abandoned and the juvenile system replaced it with punishment methods. At the same time, the juvenile courts selected many cases involving juveniles as violent and serious violators hence imprisoned many juveniles (Tsui, 2014, p.15).

Such practices and policies failed to emphasize on juvenile crime prevention as well as rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. By 1990, every state had legislated to ensure that their juvenile systems were more punitive or confined more juveniles in adults systems (Tsui, 2014, p.15, p.12). However, treatment is the foundation of corrections system among juvenile offenders. It ensures that recidivism is reduced and provides positive outcomes. In this regard, some states adopted specific legislations that improve the individual treatment for juvenile offenders (Rosenheim, 2002, p.11).

For instance, many provided the mental health assessment and treatment in juvenile justice systems. Besides, after 2000, several states adopted laws that developed teens’ court and other programs (Shoemaker, 2009, p.12). Cities such as Chicago, Boston and Seattle have passed laws that offer drug treatment (Tsui, 2014, p.11-19). For instance, legislature in Illinois initiated monetary incentives for cities such as Chicago to minimize the commitment to state institutions.

The state of Washington developed methods of separation of juvenile offenders from the incarcerated adults.  In addition, Washington and Massachusetts states launched evidence-based programing in juvenile corrections in all the cities such as Seattle and Boston. The recent policy developments have contributed to the recent decline in recidivism in the Boston, Seattle and Chicago (Shoemaker, 2009, p.11-14). For instance, the evidence-based practice ensures that there is an effective treatment and assist families and children. In addition, linkages and funding infrastructure are set in place between programs and services. These reforms have embraced mental health, educational and child welfare services (Tsui, 2014). For instance, Washington State Institute initiated Blueprint for Violence Prevention Initiative that has helped to reduce recidivism especially in cities (McMillin, 2014, p.13-15). Therefore, reduction of recidivism is the best indicator of success in reforms.

Criminological theories

There are three theories that help to explain the causation and development of juvenile delinquencies. First, biological theory suggests that the deviance behaviors are inherited from the mental and physical makeup of an individual. Secondly, psychological theory shows that established of antisocial characters is formed from bad relationships within the families at the early stages of development (Quinn, & van Dyke, 2004, p.2). Thirdly, sociological theory argues that social relationships produce pulls and pressures that lead to criminal and delinquent behaviors.

The biological theories hold that a criminal is naturally born with the deviant traits and the physical qualities controls the deviant tendencies. The physical qualities such as biological, genetic and biological characteristics have a strong influence upon the potential of deviant behaviors (Quinn, & van Dyke, 2004, p.5). This theory tends to shift the blame to internal physical characteristics that predispose an individual to criminal conduct.

Psychological theories, on the other hand, explain the deviant and criminal behaviors among the juvenile to personality and cognitive disorders due to environment and brain chemistry. In addition, the theory explains that juvenile delinquents and criminals cannot and (do not) distinguish between wrong and right. Besides, the psychological abnormalities cause these behaviors. For instance, diseased minds, detrimental conditioning of behaviors and living in bad environmental areas. Furthermore, delinquent behaviors tend to have abnormal and disordered personalities while others have little or no self-control (Quinn, & van Dyke, 2004, p.3). Personalities establish themselves in early stages of life that affects behavior during adulthood.

Thirdly, sociological theories argue that juvenile behaviors are learned through close contact with peers. The theory suggests children are born good, but acquire negative behaviors as they grow. In addition, it argues that every individual has the potential to become a criminal since in modern society there are many chances for illegal activity (Quinn, & van Dyke, 2004, p.6). However, self-control helps individuals not to engage in crime. For instance, if a child is raised up in a good society that has strong morals and the child has optimistic role models at home, she or he is less likely to engage in criminal activities. Contrary, if a child is growing up in a bad society without strong values and morals where he or she is exposed to gangs, violence and drug abuse, it is more likely that the child will acquire similar behaviors (Quinn, & van Dyke, 2004, p.6). This theory best explains the criminal behaviors among the youths in the United States as compared to other theories.

Effective juvenile justice intervention

The most effective juvenile justice intervention programs focused on treatment approaches based on skilled-oriented, behavioral and multimodal strategies. Furthermore, treatment methods as compared to a punishment produce the significant reduction in recidivism (Schwartz, 2013, p.7). The treatment approaches should also be provided in community settings instead solely in the institution (Rosenheim, 2002, p.30). When treatment methods are best applied, they reduce recidivism by more than 40 percent. The effective treatment method offer interpersonal skills programs and family-style group homes (McMillin, 2014, p.24). Additionally, they offer behavior programs, individual counseling and interpersonal skills programs.


Juvenile delinquencies have increased over the decades in large and small cities in the United States. The authorities have initiated a number of approaches to control the widespread cases of delinquencies. Some cities have developed laws aimed at reducing these cases (McMillin, 2014, p.29-33). However, some of the laws are punitive hence; they do not reduce the recidivism among the juvenile offenders. Therefore, federal as well as state governments should fund, develop and evaluate the treatment program (Schwartz, 2013, p.14). In addition, they should coordinate prevention, enforcement, interventions and re-entry approaches.



Quinn, W. H., & van Dyke, D. J. (2004). A multiple family group intervention for first-time juvenile offenders: Comparisons with probation and dropouts on recidivism. Journal Of Community Psychology, 32(2), 177-200.

Rosenheim, M. (2002). A century of juvenile justice (1st ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schwartz, J. (2013). Rethinking juvenile justice: after years of moving in the opposite direction, many states are now making it harder to try teen offenders in the adult justice system. New York Times Upfront, (6). 8.

Shoemaker, D. (2009). Juvenile delinquency (1st ed.). Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.