Plenty of research has established the link between victimization and offending. But establishing the fact that the link exists is easier than understanding why it happens. Even harder? Figuring out what to do about it.
- Early identification of child victims provides a mechanism to intervene with families and children, particularly when there is risk of continued victimization.
- Accurate identification of adolescent victimization, particularly when youth enter the juvenile justice system, can ensure that adolescents get resources to address the victimization that may be the root cause of the offending.
- Comprehensive interventions address the full spectrum of ways that youth are affected by victimization (e.g., educational difficulties, substance abuse, mental health issues, behavioral problems, family struggles).
- Cross-agency collaboration ensures that systems (e.g., education, juvenile justice, child welfare, victim services) that are working with the same youth and families will communicate and develop strategies that are comprehensive, are based on the child’s and family’s needs, and are not duplicative.
In my own experience working in the criminal justice system, I do think that there is a much greater chance of these ideas being implemented than in adult correctional facilities. Whereas the general public is pretty happy to lock up adults, throw away the key, and inflict the harshest possible punishments, there is still a lingering protective attitude when it comes to juvenile offenders.
People still think there’s a chance to help kids.
But that’s not to say that this willingness to do more for the juvenile offender is uniform across people, programs, or funding structures. I’ve seen a number of juvenile justice programs that have been working to implement these ideas for years, while others still function as little more than mini-models of adult prisons.
Here’s what I would add to Case’s recommendations:
- Victim-centered aftercare provides a safety net after they complete their correctional programs or time in facilities. More than mere probation, these services should focus on supportive, rather than punitive, goals.
- Gender-specific programs for girls will more adequately meet their unique needs. Girls in the system have much higher rates of victimization than their male counterparts, and their victimization experiences are fundamentally different than those experienced by males.
What else do you think we can do? Do you know of a successful program? What makes it work?
- Justices Bar Mandatory Life Terms for Juveniles (nytimes.com)
- Welcome The Juvenile Justice Blog To The Blogosphere (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- What Do We Know About Gangs? (crimedime.com)
- Is it OK to Polygraph Juveniles? (crimedime.com)
- Cuffing Kids: How Young is Too Young? (crimedime.com)
- Kids and Social Messages About Crime (crimedime.com)
- Rethinking Children and Crime: Children’s Exposure to Violence (crimedime.com)