The Impact of Juvenile Detention on Desistance from Offending
The purpose of this essay is to explore the concepts of juvenile detention and desistance from offending. In doing so, it will critically assess the impact of juvenile detention on young people’s pathways out of crime. The essay will firstly provide a brief overview of the rise in juvenile detention rates and explore the key drivers behind this increase. Secondly, it will consider the effect that juvenile detention has on young people’s lives, with a particular focus on its impact on desistance from offending. Finally, the essay will reflect on how effective juvenile detention is as a tool for reducing crime.
– 2.1 Juvenile Detention
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of young people being detained in secure facilities across the world. The use of secure custody for young offenders has risen sharply since the early 1990s, with the number of children and young people in custody increasing by over 50% in England and Wales between 1993 and 2003 (Mair, 2006). In the United States, the number of juveniles in state-operated or state-funded secure facilities increased by nearly 40% between 1995 and 2000 (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006).
There are a number of key drivers behind this increase in juvenile detention rates. One of the most significant drivers is changes in sentencing policy, with more young people now being given mandatory sentences for certain offences (Mair, 2006). Another key driver is changes in police powers, with police forces increasingly adopting ‘zero tolerance’ policing strategies which result in more young people being arrested and charged with offences (Sawyer et al., 2006). A further driver is social inclusion initiatives which have led to more young people from marginalised groups being brought into contact with the criminal justice system (White & Wortley, 2001).
– 2.2 Desistance from Offending
Desistance can be defined as ‘the decision by an offender to abandon further involvement in crime’ (Maruna, 2007, p. 5). It is a complex process which involves a number of different factors, including personal development, social relationships, employment and housing (Maruna, 2007). A key factor in desistance is identity change, with offenders need to develop a new sense of self which is not defined by their criminal past (Maruna, 2001).
Recidivism is often used as a measure of success when assessing programs designed to reduce reoffending. However, recidivism rates can be misleading as they only take into account those who have been caught and convicted of another offence. They do not take into account those who have stopped offending but have not been detected by the criminal justice system (Maruna & Farrall, 2005). As such, recidivism rates can give a false impression of how successful programs are in reducing crime. A better measure of success is desistance rates, which take into account both those who have stopped offending and those who have not been detected by the criminal justice system.
There is evidence to suggest that juvenile detention can negatively impact on young people’s pathways out of crime. Studies have found that incarcerated juveniles are more likely to reoffend than those who are not incarcerated (e.g. Andrews & Bonta, 1998; Farrington et al., 2002). There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. Firstly, detention can act as a ‘school for crime’, with young people being exposed to more sophisticated offenders and learning criminal skills while in custody ( Andrews & Bonta, 1998). Secondly, detention can damage young people’s relationships with their families and communities, making it more difficult for them to reintegrate into society upon their release (Maruna, 2001). Finally, detention can have a negative impact on young people’s mental health, making them more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide (Fazel et al., 2003).
In conclusion, this essay has provided a critical overview of the concepts of juvenile detention and desistance from offending. It has argued that juvenile detention can have a negative impact on young people’s pathways out of crime. The essay has also suggested that desistance rates are a better measure of success than recidivism rates when assessing the effectiveness of programs designed to reduce reoffending.
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