Ethical Issues Of Juvenile Incarceration

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An ethical problem that exists in the field of criminal justice is the incarceration of juveniles. While juvenile incarceration has been decreasing over the past decade, it is still an ethical dilemma that many criminal justice professionals will come across. Juveniles’ brains are not fully developed, incarceration is used when not appropriate to fit the problem, and some populations are over-represented in the criminal justice system.

Juvenile Brains
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
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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 the public. Juvenile incarceration does not protect the community and substantially increases the risk of recidivism. When predicting recidivism rates, youth who have a prior detention are at the greatest risk; more than having a poor parental relationship, a gang affiliation, or carrying a weapon (Holman & Ziedenberg, 2006). Incarceration leads to poor mental health for adolescents and it decreases the ability for youth to complete school and get a job. Youth who are incarcerated are at a higher risk for being harmed while incarcerated. Often overcrowded and understaffed, juvenile detention centers generate neglect and violence. A large burden is placed on families when youth are incarcerated. There is not only the pain of being separated, but it also prevents families from being involved in the juvenile’s life, which is a barrier to the child’s recovery, future, and
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The majority of youth 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
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