If you’ve ever heard the term “juvenile hall,” you know there is a difference between adult criminal courts and the juvenile justice system. But what really is the difference? Don’t minors convicted of crimes just go to a separate jail for people 18 and under?
In the past, minors who committed crimes were often sent to juvenile correctional facilities. However, the California juvenile justice system is now using different methods to help treat juveniles rather than incarcerate them.
Why the Juvenile Justice System Needed Change
It was reported that 10,000 minors occupied California correctional facilities in 1996. Studies concluded that juvenile facilities subjected inhabitants to inhumane conditions and violence. In addition, juvenile offenders who were released from custody had high recidivism rates.
To combat this, California lawmakers used the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) to establish funding for “programs that have proven effective in curbing crime among at-risk youths.”
By 2013, the number of minors in California correctional facilities had dropped to 700. So, what was different? Much of it was due to a change in how juvenile offenders were treated after entering the juvenile justice system. Due to the JJCPA, individual counties had a reliable source of funds to use on trying different methods for helping juvenile offenders.
Treatment Over Incarceration
Now that each county in California can receive funds to invest in programs for juvenile offenders, they are discovering that incarceration is not the best way to punish them. According to recent research, law enforcement agencies and county probation offices are using structured “evidence-based, cognitive restructuring” programs with a focus on social learning.
What exactly does that mean? Instead of simply holding juvenile offenders in custody and releasing them so that their criminal behavior can be re-triggered, the focus is on treating the youth so that they stop committing criminal acts.
For example, one organization called Functional Family Therapy trains specialists to work with juvenile offenders and their families to overcome problems at home that could be causing minors to act out and commit crimes.
The Rand Corporation released a research report conducted in 2013-2014 that shows offenders participating in JJCPA programs are experiencing significantly lower re-offense rates, less incarcerations, and a higher likelihood of successful completion of probation. The study also indicates that youths who didn’t participate in these programs were 20-30 percent more likely to be arrested.
What Does This Mean for You?
If your child has been accused of a crime, you may think that he or she will automatically be going to jail. However, there are ways your child may be able to avoid spending time in custody, and the juvenile justice system favors these options.
Treatment programs are proving to be highly effective for juvenile offenders. That is why it is important that you speak to an attorney who can petition the court where your child’s case is pending to allow your child to enter an alternative sentencing program.
Our skilled juvenile defense attorneys have been successfully defending minors accused of crimes for more than 35 years. We may be able to help your child avoid jail or time in custody. It only takes one phone call for us to begin working on your case.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, Torrance, West Covina and Victorville, there is a skilled Wallin & Klarich attorney to help you no matter where you work or live.
Contact us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.