A deep look into juveniles in adult prisons. Touch bases on several smaller issues that contribute to juveniles being in and effects of adult prisons. The United States Bureau of Prisons handles two hundred and thirty-nine juveniles and their average age is seventeen. Execution of juveniles, The United States is one of only six countries to execute juveniles. There are sixty-eight juveniles sitting on death row for crimes committed as juveniles. Forty-three of those inmates are minorities. People, who are too young to vote, drink alcohol, or drive are held to the same standard of responsibility as adults. In prisons, they argue that the juveniles become targets of older, more hardened criminals.
Brian Stevenson, Director of the Alabama Capital Resource Center said, We have totally given up in the idea of reform of rehabilitation for the very young. We are basically saying we will throw those kids away.
Leading To Prison
Juvenile Justice Bulletin Report shows that two-thirds of juveniles apprehended for violent offenses were released or put on probation. Only slightly more than one-third of youths charged with homicide was transferred to adult criminal court. Little more than one out of every one hundred New York youths arrested for muggings, beatings, rape and murder ended up in a correctional institution. Another report showed a delinquent boy has to be arrested on average thirteen times before the court will act more restrictive than probation. Laws began changing as early as 1978 in New York to try juveniles over 12 who commit violent crimes as adults did. However, even since the laws changed only twenty percent of serious offenders served any time.
The decision of whether to waive a juvenile to the adult or criminal court is made in a transfer hearing. The two major criteria for waiver are the age of the child and type of offense alleged in the petition. Some jurisdictions require the child to be over a certain age and charged with a felony, while others permit waiver if the child is over a certain age regardless of offense. Still yet, others have no conditions. Juveniles can be tried in all stated in one of three ways:
1. Concurrent Jurisdiction: the prosecutor has the discretion of filing charge offenses in either juvenile or criminal court.
2. Excluded offenses: the legislature excludes from juvenile court jurisdiction certain offenses that are either very minor, such as traffic or fishing violations, or very serious, such as murder or rape.
3. Judicial waiver: the juvenile court waives its jurisdiction and transfers the case to criminal court.
Barry Feld, Juvenile Law Scholar, suggests that waivers to adult court be mandatory for serious crimes. Those espousing the crime control model believe that the overriding purpose is protection of the public, deterrence or violent juvenile behavior, and the incarceration of serious youthful offenders in the adult criminal justice system. The rehabilitative justice model view this as an attack on the juvenile justice system, but crime control advocates consider such steps a necessary response to a rising juvenile violence rate.
Life in Adult Prison
The Southwest Multi County Corrections Center, a two-story adult jail is the largest maximum-security program for juveniles under federal authority. The BOP pays $99.80 a day for each juvenile. About half of the juveniles are over two hundred and fifty miles from home. Distance is on the main criticisms of putting juveniles in the BOP system. Most experts agree that for rehabilitation to succeed, families of jailed youths should be involved in their therapy and lives. Larry Beredtro, President of Reclaiming Youth International, address Obviously, the government needs to cease using nonregional placement for kids. My concern has been with the issue of the federal government placing kids hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
The facility Director Norbert Sickler says the facility helps pay travel expenses for some families and offers free accommodations in the area. We do encourage the kids to keep family connections both by writing and telephone also. The BOP does plan to house all federal juveniles within two hundred and fifty miles of their homes by fiscal year 2000. Staff attorney for the Youth Law Center says even that might not be good enough. He stresses the point that no strong after-care programs are set up so therefore is no transition back to the community. Leaving the kids to pick up right where they left off.
Although the Congress is talking of charging more juveniles in federal courts, no one has answered if the federal prisons can handle more juveniles. The BOP already struggles to handle the two hundred thirty-nine juveniles under its control. The federal prison system is built for adults and has one hundred sixteen thousand of them. The number of youths has already risen from one hundred and eleven in 1990.
There are not many talks of how they will handle more youths just that they are going to get tough. Youths can land in federal prison for violations of federal law such as drug trafficking and bank robbery or for crimes on federal property. Most are in for felonies committed on Indian reservations. Native Americans make up two-thirds of all juveniles in the BOP system. James Cunningham, another juvenile-justice expert says that the BOPs instruments were geared toward adult penal situations and not toward rehabilitating children. What they are doing is not meeting then needs of those children in terms of rehabilitation.
An audit team found that each youth gets just twenty hours a week of programs including schooling, vocational training, counseling, a and mental health services; if that. It is also known that most of the juveniles have serious problems with alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine so they need some licensed counselors to address those addictions. The BOP does plan to substantially upgrade programs for juveniles, says sledge, of the agencys community corrections and detention division.
Could the BOP handle even more juveniles Youth advocates, judges, and police have been critical of the movement to federalize crimes already handled by states. They see no advantage to sending kids to faraway prisons under federal jurisdiction.