The American system of juvenile justice has traditionally followed a form of incarceration quite similar to that utilized for adult defendants. This especially refers to the usage of secured detention facilities to hold juveniles who have been charged with crimes or found to be delinquent by a court.

However, many observers have questioned the efficacy of juvenile-locked institutions in recent years, pointing out that they frequently raise recidivism rates and put juveniles in custody at risk of suffering physical and psychological harm. This has prompted various state and local administrations to develop and put into practice community-based programs that have been successful in lowering recidivism and assisting in the reintegration of juvenile delinquents into the community.

This blog explores these community programs that aim to deter crime and reduce recidivism rates among juveniles.

An Overview Of Juvenile Community-Based Corrections Programs

Even though there has been a decline in juvenile crime over the years, many young people, most of whom have committed nonviolent offenses, remain incarcerated across the country. Research has shown that juvenile detention centers, which can seem very similar to adult detention facilities, actually do little in the rehabilitation or prevention of future criminal activity. Instead, incarceration has more negative repercussions than positive ones.

If locking up juvenile offenders isn't working, what other options do authorities have to address and prevent juvenile crime? One viable alternative to jail is participation in community-based correctional programs. Community-based programs focus on rehabilitating young offenders through the use of local resources and community networks, rather than locking them up.

The following community-based initiatives have been proven to be effective in lowering rates of recidivism and promoting good behavior, and they are available to assist local children and their families.

Prevention and Early Intervention Program

This is a low-level offender diversion program that aims to keep minors out of the juvenile justice system.

With the help of this program, a minor can get the help they need from local organizations while also having the chance to reflect on their actions and grow from the experience. These programs focus on at-risk as well as low-level juveniles who have been referred by law enforcement agencies and encompass prevention, evaluation, early interventions, and diversion initiatives.

To reduce the likelihood of recidivism among young offenders, PEI works to address their needs and provide them with the necessary programs as early as possible.

Victim-Offender Mediation

This program serves to bring together juvenile offenders and parties that have been victimized by their actions. Both offenders and victims should consent to come face to face with and talk about the crime's consequences on their victim and the community in general. This provides the victim with an opportunity to speak with the minor directly. The juvenile gets to witness their impact on the victim.

This program also encourages parent-teen talks and family mediation.

The District Attorney's Truancy Abatement Program (TAP)

The truancy program was launched in 1994 by the District Attorney's office. The school districts requested assistance in executing the educational codes. According to the laws, all students between the ages of six and eighteen must attend class daily and on time.

Truants are students who:

  • Miss more than three days of school without a valid excuse.
  • Are more than thirty minutes late on more than three occasions, or
  • A combination of the above.

Habitual truants are students who:

  • Miss more than six days of school without a reasonable excuse.
  • Are more than six times late by 30 minutes, or
  • A combination of the two.
  • The school made an effort to meet at least once with the student's parent or legal guardian.

The purpose of the Truancy Program is to educate district staff on how to best assist students who regularly miss school. The school will then convene a meeting with the minor's family after they have a better understanding of the issue. They make an effort to identify a solution and direct the family toward existing community support.

Fresh Lifelines for Youth Program (FLY)

Fresh Lifelines for Youth or FLY, a nonprofit initiative founded in the year 2000, is committed to ending the pattern of juvenile crime, violence, and incarceration. FLY operates throughout the counties of Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

Participants in the FLY program are young people between the ages of 12 and 18, currently on probation, held in the juvenile system, or who exhibit behavioral issues that put them at a high risk of entering the system. FLY offers participants the drive and support they need to remain out of legal trouble, get involved in their academics, and start changing their lives through a special blend of legal training, leadership skills, and one-on-one mentorship.

Fly’s Law Program

Juveniles who are already involved with the juvenile courts or who seem to be at risk of being entangled in the juvenile system are encouraged to enroll in FLY's life skills and legal education course, which lasts for one semester and teaches them about the system of laws and the repercussions of committing crimes.

To engage young people and promote the development of life skills like anger management, empathy, problem-solving, and the capacity to withstand toxic peer pressure, this widely renowned law curriculum incorporates role-plays, mock trials, and debates. Even the most at-risk children can find hope in the future with the help of the Law Program with FLY.

Leadership Program

Youth can enroll in the Leadership Program after completing the Law Program if they feel they need more assistance to make changes in their lives. Throughout the program year, the juveniles will take a series of assessments designed to help them pinpoint the obstacles standing between them and a life free of crime and self-sufficiency. To overcome these obstacles and develop the skills necessary to maintain healthy habits, a FLY case mentor or manager engages with the young person to develop and implement a personalized plan.

Additionally, young people undergo leadership development training, which begins with wilderness retreats that foster cooperation, communication skills, self-confidence, and healthy peer interactions. Together, the program's participants develop service learning tasks and participate in pro-social initiatives where they learn how to enhance and use their abilities as good leaders.

Mentor Program

Through FLY's Mentor Program, Santa Clara County's juvenile court system matches young people aged 14 to 18 with skilled, compassionate adult volunteers who help them grow new attitudes, habits, and goals.

FLY's mentors are frequently the first healthy and positive adults that the juveniles have ever encountered. Youth who participate in the program can evaluate their decisions and also have a reliable and supportive adult in their lives.

They consequently make wiser choices in their daily lives. Court Appointed Friend and Advocate Mentors are a subgroup of Fresh-Lifelines-For-Youth-Mentors. The CAFA initiative, which is being tested by the Probation Department and FLY, aims to lower the disproportionately high rate of failure during probation among young people of color.

Mentors from CAFA are lawfully appointed by the court and are prepared to represent their mentees' interests in the juvenile courts in addition to providing one-on-one mentorship and assistance outside of court.

Aftercare Program

The aftercare program offered by Fresh Lifelines for Youth, Inc. (FLY) helps young people who are held in long-term detention facilities. Youth attend FLY's legal education courses while they are in incarceration. After being released, the young individual's legal education instructors take on the role of case managers reform and engage with them one-on-one for up to 6 months. They work together to develop a tailored strategy and make and reach goals that will help the young people get back into their communities.

Middle School Program

With the help of FLY's Middle School Program, at-risk 8th and 7th graders can successfully refocus their attention on their studies and change their behavior so they can keep their interest in school and stay out of the juvenile justice system. FLY's legal education program offers age-appropriate law courses as well as case management with one-on-one support.

Youth Advisory Council

The Council is made up of former probation juveniles ages 17 to 21. Youth receive training from FLY in public speaking and policy. The organization also assists them in meaningfully participating in activities that would improve the county's criminal justice procedures and policies.

Education Navigator

An education navigator combines personal coaching, academic counseling, and case management. Education navigators assist young people by evaluating their academic position, linking them to resources, determining their basic needs, advocating for academic interests, and helping the youth enroll in post-secondary education. An education navigator strives to re-engage young people in school, assist them in graduating, and establish a post-secondary program through these actions. This is a co-located role in which you will spend most of your time in schools offering on-site support.

The Youth Advocacy for Educational Rights Project (Project YEA)

This project was launched by several organizations working together. Juveniles in the system receive special education through this initiative. The objectives of this initiative are as follows:

  • Training of probation officers and social workers. Also, assist them in locating youth who require special services.
  • Ensure that children are tested for impairments as well as receiving the services they require.
  • Parents and other guardians should be made aware that they can initiate testing for their children. They also show them how to assess the services they require.

Project YEA is a significant element of the Educational Rights Project. This project helps parents and caregivers by training people to help parents give their children the best possible education.

 Youth Advocacy for Educational Rights Project will:

  • Consult with social workers or probation officers, as well as the parents and minor.
  • Attend the IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting for your child.
  • Talk to the child's teachers and monitor them in school.
  • Assist the minor and his/her parents in trying to resolve issues.
  • Check to see if a minor is eligible for testing and special education.
  • Monitor the child's educational plan and confirm that they are receiving the assistance they require.

Community-Based Alternatives Before Adjudication

There are a variety of community-based options accessible to minors awaiting adjudication. These options are intended to guarantee that the child abides by the conditions and terms of release, doesn't commit any more crimes, and shows up for all scheduled court hearings.

Evening reporting centers are one alternative to conventional courts that can be used to avoid a pre-trial hearing. These centers are accessible in the afternoon once students are released from school and remain open late into the evening. These facilities allow minors to finish their homework, get an education, fulfill their community service obligations, and even enjoy hot meals. Staff keep track of the child's performance and attendance at school and can arrange transport for the child.

Home detention is frequently used as an alternative to jail before adjudication. With home detention, juveniles are allowed to stay at home but are subject to rigid curfews and other limitations on their daily activities. Home detention usually incorporates the installation of electronic monitoring equipment that can constantly track a child's location and indicate any restrictions, curfew, and violations committed.

In some cases, a minor facing delinquency charges could benefit from placement in a short-term shelter facility rather than incarceration. Short-term shelter care is usually acceptable when a child has not been deemed a threat to the community and can be discharged but lacks a safe and secure setting or adequate supervision at home.

Community-Based Alternatives After Adjudication

If the court finds a child to be delinquent, several options for incarceration encourage rehabilitation without the negative consequences of long-term juvenile detention.

Multisystemic therapy ("MST") has shown to be successful for young offenders who have committed serious offenses more than once or who have been declared delinquent. MST employs committed therapists who are accessible to the child and his or her loved ones twenty-four hours a day.

The therapist would pay regular visits to the child's residence, as well as the child's school and other community settings. Also, the therapist would collaborate with the parents and loved ones of the minor to enhance family communication, make sure the child hangs out with supportive peer groups, and get him or her interested in constructive recreational activities.

Therapists could also assist the minor in enhancing his or her academic performance. To help the juvenile avoid relapsing into criminal activity, therapists often concentrate on assisting the child and their family in creating and maintaining a support network.

Functional family therapy (often known as "FFT") is another therapeutic alternative to time behind bars. FFT is a brief family intervention that involves around 30 hours of intense family counseling. The designated therapist would concentrate on helping the child and his or her family improve their parenting abilities, family communication abilities, and conflict and anger management.

Find A Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

As new services and initiatives are adopted, it is expected that juvenile crime can not only slow but significantly reduce in frequency, numbers, and intensity. All community members should take action to take up arms against juvenile crime because it's a problem that affects the entire community.

If your loved one is currently facing criminal charges, you can contact us at the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan. Our attorneys handle juvenile criminal defense cases all around Los Angeles. We will go to extra lengths to protect the welfare of your children. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 310-550-5877.