It has been found that juvenile brains are not yet fully developed. The parts of the brain specifically still changing during the teen years include the brain circuitry involved in emotional responses and impulsive responses. Teen emotional reactions are intense and urgent (National Institute of Mental Health, 2011). Teens are not capable of adult reasoning, especially when it comes to understanding consequences of actions.
In addition, youth have a craving for originality and peer acceptance, and a tendency to act on impulse without regard for risk. Many juveniles engage in questionable and reckless behavior because it is a typical and normal developmental stage for teens and many youth will naturally outgrow the behaviors as they age.
Problems arise when juveniles are incarcerated. Incarceration disrupts normal and positive social and emotional development and exposes juveniles to further negative behaviors.
Incarceration leads to many problems. Perhaps the biggest issue with youth confinement is that about 70 percent of committed youth were adjudicated for a nonviolent offense (Holman & Ziedenberg, 2006). In 2010, only 1 out of 4 incarcerated youth were based on a violent offense (The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2014).
Incarceration should only be used to protect ...
... middle of paper ...
...can be served by these community-based services. Too often incarceration is used as a first step rather than a last resort. By using the money currently spent on incarceration and focusing it on community-based options for treatment and supervision that keep youth close to home should lead to more productive future adults.
The dilemma of juvenile incarceration is a problem that thankfully has been declining, but still continues to be an ethical issue. The de-incarceration trend has coincided with a decrease in crime. It is hopeful that our nation is changing the approach to the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. It means we know what to do and what is working, now just to follow through and continue the change to creating a juvenile justice system that is truly rehabilitative and gives youth tools to be able to be positive members of society.
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