There should not be mandatory incarceration for chronic juvenile offenders because, according to the findings of a study conducted by the Rand Corporation, the greater the number of juvenile arrests a chronic juvenile offender has, the more likely s/he is to continue as a chronic offender into adulthood (Greenwood, Zimring p. 8). That being the case, it is more viable to look at the commonalities which lead to chronic offending in juveniles and utilize this information to develop alternative programs to incarceration in juvenile detention centers.
This would not help curb continuing maladaptive behavior, as incarceration does not address the issues from which chronic offending stems, nor does it encourage juvenile offenders to change, of which they are more capable than their adult counterparts. This is according to the findings of the justices in the Supreme Court case, Graham v. Florida, in which they stated…”parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence (which would include early adulthood)…Juveniles are more capable of change than adults…” (Bartollas, Schmalleger p. 2). There are a number of contributing factors, which contribute to chronic juvenile offending and as stated earlier, none of them are addressed by incarceration. If change is more likely to be possible, in juvenile offenders, then contributing factors should be determined and remedied through rehabilitation programs, when it is deemed to be viable.
The court should be lenient toward a chronic offender once s/he has been evaluated by social workers and psychologists to determine whether contributing factors exist which would make him/her a good candidate for a rehabilitation program. The Rand study finds that these including five groups of factors. The first group looks at family characteristics indicating inadequate parenting (i.e. alcoholism, mental illness, criminal behavior of parent(s)/siblings). The second factor is biological or physical deficits, in the child (i.e. impaired neural development, including certain birth defects, irregular EEG, slow autonomic nervous system) which may impede normal social development. The third factor focuses on parental consistencies and attitudes regarding displays of affection, supervision and consistent application of appropriate discipline or reward for bad or good behavior. The fourth looks at a set of pre-delinquent behaviors such as disobedient, stealing, lying, wandering, excessive aggression, and truancy amongst younger children and heavy drinking or smoking, drug use, promiscuous sex, and fighting amongst older children. The final and fifth category is criminal acts up to the point of evaluation (Greenwood, Zimring p. 8). With these factors determined, targeted rehabilitation can be sought in lieu of harsher punishments, such as mandatory sentencing in juvenile detention centers. While incarceration fosters increased delinquency, rehabilitation taps into the juvenile’s innate ability to change, due to his/her continually developing brain.
Bartolla, C.; Schmalleger, F. (2018) Juvenile Delinquency, third edition. Retrieved from: Colorado Technical University https://ebooksbvd.my-education-connection.com/read/9781323786857/i
Greenwood, P.; Zimring, F (1985, May) One More Chance: The Pursuit of Promising Intervention Strategies for Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED266386