Juvenile Justice: An Inconsistent Oblivion

by : Michael L. Todd

The Juvenile Justice System works on two fronts. The system consists of two types of offenders: those who cooperatively and productively respspond to consequence, and those who simply choose not to. Those who do choose to take advantage, as we know, take the responsible initiative of many a young adult, and put a considerable effort forth to make something of their lives. Those who are more reluctant are not ineviatbly lost, but are enveloped by a voluntary despondence. So then, we must ask ourselves, if one is not going to be influenced by consequence, then what must the system do to get the attention of these types of offenders?

The purpose of a JJS/CYFD commitment is to convey to troubled youth that no act goes without consequence, and that life can indeed be beautiful without the self-inflicted adversity that is brought upon ourselves. The Juvenile Justice System is, in one aspect, solely responsible for showing these youth that any act of disobedience is costly, whereas any act that has a positive effect can have very good consequences. But why, if the intentions are to be positive and influentioal, is this system so naive? Why, I ask, does the system, almighty and flawless, continually fall victim to the populations' common methods of deception? Is it not obvious that the success rate is approaching catastrophy, and the percentage of habitual offenders is off the scale? That the effectiveness of the system is, and will, deteriorate until proper measures are taken to ensure a 100% cosistent effort towards the well being of todays youth? These are all questions that are not easily answered, and are rational compared to the biggest question of all: what exactly must change?

The first thing that the reader must know is that the Justice System in general is commonly perceived as flawless by societies "civilized" group. This concept can apply to all levels of justice, from the supreme court, to a federal state prison that may house potential terrorists. While this may be true for some agencies and institutions, it is definately not so for the Juvenile Justice System as one. What these people usually dont consider is that the word "justice", when refering to JJS, applies to therapy, programming, and rehabilitation. It is not just about being in a cage; there is definately a proactive attempt to alter; to make 'good' from 'disturbed'. But when dealing with the issue of rehabilitation, it is fair to say that the system is far from flawless. Actually, they need serious work on their system. They have a brave and courageous intent: to alter the mindset of youthful offenders, and to re-integrate murderers and sexual offenders into society.

Another thing that the reader must know is that the key to a successful operation is consistency. This concept can easily apply to everyday life. Consider this example: You change the oil 'consistenly' on your vehicle for ten consecutive years. Then, one year you forget about the oil. Consequently, your vehicle becomes damaged. It is the same thing with the Juvenile Justice System. After eighteen months of close observation, I've noticed alot of defiance and attitude coming from the general population. This extreme must only be countered with an extreme. Everywhere you turn, you can easily find drugs, gangs, thugs, and uneducated misfits literally corrupting the system. It is my well developed opinion that the key focus to correcting these types of behaviors lies within the hands of those in the administration department. Rules and programs must be implemented consistently and tenaciously to get any positive results from the offenders in the system. To consistently and tenaciously implement potential programs and faculty rules, is to seek out success and opportunity. When I mentioned methods of deception earlier in the writing, I was referring to the many manipulation techniques that the population uses to get what they want from the journeymen, or the young, inexperienced guards. I see this on a daily basis. The journeymen, or any guards who interact with the population, are just making this task easier by showing their weaknesses. The weaknesses that I am referring to are those naive ones; when the guards let the clients slip, or excuse a rule violation, this shows a weakness that will inevitably be taken advantage of by offenders. Remember, that the system has an important purpose: to alter the mindset of troubled youth, and re-integrate violent and sexual offenders back into society. If they are incapable of persistent rule implementation, how, I ask, will they be able to complete such a complicated task?

In addition to altering the offenders' mindset, it is also the responsibility of the system to convey to youth that if they become mentally enslaved to alcohol, drugs, or crime, they will not be worthy of liberty, and will very possibly become life long inmates. They need to know that there exist a particular set of behaviors that one must adhere to in order to maintain their liberty. It is honest and just to say that freedom is not necessarily free. Being liberally free requires certain behaviors. Each citizen exists in a "social contract." It is a covenant, if you will, with the rulers and authorities of our government. In this contract, everyone has particular duties to perform; a system of law, the courts, commerce, our capital, and an able military to defend us. This is called stability. The population musn't be released until they realize that their part in this civilized world is simply to obey the law.

All of these concepts must be applied through an intricately designed system that places high priority on the rehabilitation processes of our youth. Implementing this system will require the Juvenile Justice System to establish objectives, devise appropriate policies, train employees, and allocate resources so that formulated strategies can be executed. Of course, it is impossible to demonstrate conclusively that a particular strategy is optimal or even to guarantee that it will work. One can, however, evaluate it for critical flaws. It is not necessarily the intent of this writing to propose any particular system or strategic approach, but simply to say that JJS is currently failing and that it seriously needs to consider a process as as objective, logical, systematic approach for making major decisions in their department. The system should attempt to organize information in a way that allows effective decisions to be made under conditions of uncertainty. But we must understand that it is not a pure science that lends itself over; it's not a one-two-three approach. One thing that has came to my attention throughout the last eighteen months is that employees are just as naive as those in the administration department. They seem to have no purpose but to babysit delinquent offenders. Here are the current job descriptions of the facility staffing statewide:

JCO Journeymen: Juvenile Correctional Officer Journeymen provide care,custody supervision, treatment support and paraprofessional mentoring to juveniles in the Department's custody at CYFD operated facilities.

JCO Lead Worker: JCO Lead Workers provide all of the above client services and continue to develop their expertise in juvenile supervision. Additionally, JCO Lead Workers serve as team leaders where they may assign tasks, monitor and train entry-level JCOs.

JCO Supervisor: Supervisors in the Security & Operations career ladder provide care and custody supervision of residents in the Juvenile Corrections facilities and also directly supervise JCOs and JCO Lead Workers. JCO Supervisors often have shift unit responsibilities.

JCO Manager: JCO Managers have less client contact and greater staff supervision and assignment responsibilities. JCO Managers often have responsibility for the safe and orderly operations of an entire facility shift.

It is important that the system uses the empowerment concept. That is, the system must take initiative to strengthen employees' sense of effectiveness by encouraging them to participate in decision making and to exercise initiative and imagination, then rewarding them for doing so. Yes, believe it or not, managers and emplyoyees must also be involved in strategy formulation, implementation, and evaluation activities. This participation is another key to gaining commitment for these needed changes. And keep in mind alson that whatever strategy is implemented must not become a "bureaucratic mechanism." Rather, it must be a self-reflecive learning process that familiarizes managers and employees in the organization, with key issues and feasible alternatives for resolve.