Free «Juvenile Probation Programs» Essay Sample

Nowadays, the daily rate of young people held in custody in the USA exceeds 100,000 people, including those who are awaiting trial and those who have been sentenced either to incarceration in prison or participation in various programs designed specifically for young delinquents. Despite all efforts aimed at reducing the crime rate among the youth, the recidivism rate is still extremely high, thus calling for a need to review and revise juvenile probation programs with a view to ensuring that young offenders and young people who are at a high risk of committing a crime get necessary support and help and do not ruin their lives by making wrong choices. Therefore, today different juvenile probation programs focusing on rehabilitating and helping young delinquents are on the rise in the whole world, including the USA.

There are various aftercare programs that are comprehensive and all-encompassing in nature in addition to several programs aimed at peculiar problems that the youth may be facing like drug addiction and alcohol abuse. However, not all of such juvenile programs turn out to be efficient, but some experimental models seem to be promising and quite successful in decreasing the recidivism rate among participants. The current paper gives a brief overview of two promising juvenile probation programs that have proved their efficiency in terms of assisting young people to get back to normal crime-free life with a view to comparing and contrasting their key components and ideologies in order to assess their usefulness and reasonability of replicating all over the country and abroad. The two programs under consideration include the Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program and the Florida Environmental Institute.

Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program and the Florida Environmental Institute

Although the underlying ideology behind each of the programs appears different, the two juvenile probation programs under analysis have much in common. Both of them target young males aged 12-18 in Colorado and 12-17 in Florida with a high risk of recidivism. In general terms, both these programs serve as the last chance for juvenile delinquents to rehabilitate before their files are passed to adult courts in their respective states. In the Colorado program, males are kept in the facility for 10 months and then receive 8 months of aftercare. In Florida, the length of juveniles depends on their behavior and successful completion of various stages of the program, but on average they are kept in the facility for 9 months followed with 9 months of aftercare. Both programs are rated high on such characteristics as “facilitates transitional structure”, “develops individualized case planning”, “uses rewards and sanctions”, “links community treatment services”, and “combines intensive supervision and treatment” with the Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program being rated higher than the Florida Environmental Institute in terms of “assessment and classification” use (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2014).

In addition, the range of supervision options offered in Colorado is wider than in Florida where only four of them are distinguished as the major ones, including “staff contact”, curfew, “required job attendance”, and “frequent calls” (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2014). The number of juveniles that participate in the program at the same time differs in the two programs as well. Under the Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program, 130 juveniles can reside at the same time in the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center (Division of Youth Corrections, 2014). In turn, the Florida Environmental Institute, which is often referred to as the Last Chance Ranch, can house only 22 male juveniles (Mendel, 2000).

Both programs are funded partially by states, but the IAP grant is also a source of funding in Colorado while, in Florida, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice manages all funding activities of the program. However, there is a difference between the programs under consideration in terms of the number of years they have existe. Thus, the IAP model on the basis of which the Lookout Mountain Youth Services functions dates back to the early 1990s. In contrast, the Last Chance Ranch was opened in 1982, hence being an older, yet seemingly efficient juvenile probation program. Both programs are discussed below in more detail as to their peculiarities, characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for development.

The Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center (Hereinafter Referred to as the LMYSC)

The Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center (hereinafter referred to as the LMYSC) is situated in Golden Colorado and posits itself as “an intensive secure treatment program for 130 male juvenile offenders” (Division of Youth Corrections, 2014). Its mission statement is as follows: “To teach, to learn, to share, to model, to understand, to be understood, to succeed, and to promote positive change” (Division of Youth Corrections, 2014). There are no restrictions as to offences committed by juveniles admitted to the program by the court sentence, but the overwhelming majority of them, i.e. about 75%, are diagnosed with some mental disorder like the ADHD, PTSD, and mood disorders.

In addition, as many as half of juveniles held in custody suffer from drugs and alcohol abuse. The LMYSC program is built on the Intensive Aftercare Program concept that embraces five primary elements. These elements include “risk assessment and classification”, “a mix of intensive surveillance and services”, “individualized case planning that incorporates family and community perspectives”, “a balance of graduated incentives and consequences”, and “links with community resources and social networks” (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, n. d). Thus, the LMYSC is aimed at assisting and rehabilitating juvenile offenders from various perspectives.

LMYSC emphasizes a multi-disciplinary team approach that allows for developing and implementing individualized plans for each male while allowing adjusting and reviewing these plans in the process of their implementation. Juveniles receive academic tutoring in the LMYSC, as well as therapeutic sessions, medical care, dental care, and other assistance. Juveniles can get vocational training and participate in religious activities with the latter being offered by Youth for Christ and Straight Ahead Colorado (Division of Youth Corrections, 2014). The LMYSC points out significance of family and community for successful rehabilitation of troubled juveniles. Therefore, this program organizes a lot of activities relating to the local community for further reintegration of its graduates into the society. Besides, it encourages family visits and even family therapeutic sessions in case they are deemed useful.

The Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program

The Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program is aimed at reintegration of juveniles into the society after completion of all stages offered at the LMYSC. Its peculiarity consists in thorough assessments carried out for 30 days prior to admission to the facility. During this period, juveniles are evaluated not only in terms of their psychological problems and educational needs, but also with help of the Adolescent Living Independently Via Education and Employment and Youth Offender Level of Service Inventory (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, n. d.).

Community-based service providers participate throughout the entire program in order to be able to deliver high quality aftercare assistance. 60 days before juveniles finish the program, they are allowed several trips to the community under supervision of the staff, which helps them to smoothly transit to the next stage that starts 30 days prior to their release. At the latter stage, juveniles are allowed to stay overnight at home in the community so that they can get used to ordinary life. Once juveniles are released from the LMYSC, they are obliged to stay in contact with their respective supervisors and can receive further therapy if necessary. The rate of recidivism at the Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program is fairly low; howevver, there are frequent cases when supervisors decide to take juveniles back to the facility if they have problems with accommodating to normal life within the community. In such cases, individualized plans are devised to manage incidents.

The Florida Environmental Institute

The Florida Environmental Institute is situated in Venus at Fish Eating Creek, which is 40 miles from Lake Okeechobee. It is a rather isolated area surrounded by swamps and forests, which makes escapes extremely difficult and unlikely. Anyway, escapes are rare in this program even though it has no locks, cages, and fences as “This way, the kids don’t get the feeling that they are being caged like animals… and we don’t teach our staff to ‘take kids down’ by wrestling to the ground and pinning them” (Mendel, 2000). Despite such lax security, this program is intended for the most violent and serious juvenile offenders. The Florida Environmental Institute posits itself as “a highly structured, environmentally secure program” (OJJDP, 2015). It has been called the Last Chance Ranch since it is really the last chance for the majority of males admitted to the program instead of being transferred to adult courts. According to the Ranch’s management, about two-thirds of all juveniles are there because of committing violent crimes while the rest have been charged for multiple drug and property offenses (OJJDP, 2015). Many young males are sentenced to the Ranch because of their participation in gangs.

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Juveniles undergo several stages in the program at the end of which they are assessed and either successfully pass on to the next stage or remain at the previous one. A small amount of prisoners allows close contact with supervisors and the staff who can evaluate individual needs of every juvenile. Life on the Ranch is governed by many rules, which are explained to the newly admitted upon their arrival at the O Camp where they spend about three days before being moved to the main campus. On the main campus, there are three main phases that are similar for their dedication to discipline and hard manual work. During the first phase, juveniles live in austere conditions and are not allowed such comforts as air conditioning, television, etc. They undergo the “Tenderfoot” level, which then changes into the “Ranch Hand” and “Buckaroo” levels at stages two and three respectively (Mandel, 2000). The second stage differs from the first one primarily through improvement of living conditions, but educational and work requirements remain basically the same. The third stage is focused on juveniles’ return to normal life in the community and assumes close cooperation with supervisors who help to devise special plans for that. The Ranch offers educational services, but they are quite limited. Besides, it offers virtually no vocational training as it is mainly aimed at teaching juveniles self-discipline. Nevertheless, the recidivism rate of its graduates is exceptionally low, which proves the efficiency of the approach.

Conclusion

Both programs discussed above seem to be quite successful and promising for their target population and regions and both of them have their strengths and weaknesses. The Colorado Intensive Aftercare Program can serve a substantial amount of juveniles who suffer from some mental disorders. Besides, it offers vocational training and values family participation in the rehabilitation program. However, its methods are not suitable and efficient for all juveniles as some of them remain prone to reoffend. Besides, it has harsh security and rigid discipline, which not all juveniles with mental problems can cope with. The Florida Environmental Institute is a program that has managed to rehabilitate violent juvenile delinquents and has a low recidivism rate. However, its lack of psychological assistance available for juveniles is its obvious weakness, which could improve the rehabilitation process for many males. Thus, both programs require further study in order to determine exact steps how they can be improved to serve the community in a more productive way.

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