Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

NCY POSITION

The National Collaboration for Youth believes that:

  • Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention begins with effective prevention, family support and youth development. Opportunities for positive development must be available to America's children and families to help youth to achieve:
    • high self-esteem;
    • skills competence across a wide range of academic, creative and social spheres;
    • a sense of usefulness, belonging, positive influence and personal responsibility; and
    • meaningful connections with adults and community.
  • All youth -- but especially those young people that are incarcerated -- need opportunities for positive development that will include:
    • Caring adults
    • Safe places
    • Healthy start
    • Marketable skills
    • Opportunities to serve
  • Quality education and help in making the transition to the world of work must be provided and coordinated with other significant community systems in comprehensive delinquency prevention efforts.
  • After-school programs, which give youth structure, guidance and skill-building opportunities during times that parents may be working and unavailable, have been shown to reduce juvenile offending and must be provided in every community across America.
  • Federal, state and local juvenile justice professionals should work to meet the needs of certain populations of youth deserving early intervention and focused attention, including:
    • youth who have committed first-time, non-violent offenses;
    • young people who grow up in poverty and/or who experience disadvantages in terms of lack of access to quality health care and education;
    • youth of ethnic and racial minority background, because they are currently over-represented in juvenile correctional facilities due to unequal treatment;
    • girls and young women whose needs have not been researched nor addressed equitably;
    • young people who run away from home or are homeless; and
    • young people already in the juvenile justice system who need to be protected from dangerous situations in confinement which will only exacerbate negative behavior.
  • A one-to-one mentoring relationship between a well trained, professionally supervised and consistent adult volunteer and a child at risk, has been shown to produce multiple delinquency prevention benefits and must be broadly expanded as a community resource
  • The problem of disparate treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system due to minority racial/ethnic background undermines the credibility of the system and must be eliminated.
  • In order to be successful, juvenile justice and delinquency prevention efforts need to contain certain essential elements, including:
    • approaches that seek both to reduce and prevent youth involvement in crime, drugs, and gang-related activity and to promote the healthy development of young people, their families, and their communities;
    • coordination of the public and private systems in which young people appear: schools, courts, law enforcement agencies, child protection services, welfare services, health care and youth services;
    • quality education in settings that promote experiential, individualized learning with flexible academic and career options, and help young people make the transition to employment and self-sufficiency;
    • programs targeted to the needs of female offenders, (who constitute a significantly - growing portion of the juvenile court population) a majority of whom have experienced violence and abuse (65% have experienced sexual abuse) and who are especially vulnerable;
    • provision of continuums of care for youth, including non-residential and residential placement, temporary placement or shelter, supportive services for youth residing at home, and other help designed to help youth avoid trouble;
    • early screening, diagnosis and treatment of youth and families with mental health challenges and problems; and
    • adequate, cultural- and gender-sensitive assessment of young people with mental health problems and expanded options for mental health treatment in community and family settings.
  • Young people should not be tried as adults. Young people that are tried as adults and placed in adult jails:
    • re-offend more quickly and commit more serious crimes than those children that remain in the juvenile justice system;
    • are 8 times more likely to commit suicide;
    • are 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted, and
    • are twice as likely to be physically assaulted

PUBLIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

The NCY recommends that Congress:

  • Maintain strong federal leadership through a separate and adequately funded office within the U.S. Department of Justice, headed by an administrator appointed by the President, and dedicated to preserving the delinquency prevention and rehabilitative focus of the juvenile court system.
  • Reauthorize the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended, including the core requirements that will:
    • keep juveniles out of adult jails, lock-ups and other forms of inappropriate detention;
    • keep status offenders and non-offenders out of secure detention and correctional facilities;
    • ensure sight and sound separation between juveniles and adults charged with, or convicted of, criminal charges; and
    • reduce the disproportionately high confinement of minority juveniles.
  • Ensure and increase Title V Prevention funding of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended.
  • Continue to support and provide incentives for state and territorial compliance with federal core requirements, including the replication of workable solutions.
  • Ensure that federal policies do not result in more juveniles being tried as adults, and ensure that any decisions to try juveniles as adults are the result of individual judicial determinations, rather than prosecutorial or statutory transfer.
  • Provide equitable research, treatment and resources for female juvenile offenders.
  • Encourage state and local government policies and funding mechanisms that:
    • provide young people with positive alternatives to crime;
    • administer juvenile courts and programs that serve justice fairly and in accordance with federal law;
    • protect juveniles from harm;
    • provide community-based rehabilitation services;
    • promote partnerships like those encouraged in the Younger Americans Act between states, local governments, school boards, and voluntary community-based groups to address problems of delinquency; and
    • place the treatment of delinquent and violent youth, including medical, mental health, special education, counseling, and restitution services, among the array of strategies contained along a continuum of graduated sanctions.
  • Provide increased federal funding to states to expand opportunities for treatment in a community and family setting for youthful offenders with mental health problems.
  • Increase funding for high quality, safe, therapeutic services, as well as for training of clinical and corrections staff, to better meet the mental health needs of youth in confinement.
  • Maintain a strong coordinating and oversight role for citizens appointed by their Governors to state advisory groups on juvenile justice. This may be done by continuing federal requirements for:
    • funding state advisory groups on juvenile justice in all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia ;
    • funding staff support for each state advisory group;
    • specifying membership by a minimum number of people representing a broad range of public and private community interests; and
    • a national organization composed of state advisory group members to provide training and technical assistance, disseminate information, review federal policies, and advise federal leaders and the nation.
  • Ensure that all youth have access to the competencies and character development they need to be fully prepared as adults and effective citizens through passage of the Younger Americans Act. The Younger Americans Act will create a single, comprehensive national youth policy to mobilize and support communities in planning, implementing, and being accountable for strategies that link existing community-based organizations, local government, schools, faith-based organizations, business, and other segments of the community in assuring all children with access to:
    • ongoing relationships with caring adults;
    • safe places with structured activities during the non-school hours;
    • health and mental health;
    • marketable skills and competencies through education and youth development; and
    • opportunities to give back through community service and civic participation.