Over the past several years, researchers and policy makers have been taking a closer look at the juvenile justice system. They’ve found that it’s always very expensive and that it’s never very effective. In particular, a report produced by the Harvard Kennedy School has prompted rethinking juvenile justice. Solutions they’ve recommended include community care, and treatment in smaller group home type settings. This is big news for youngsters in California who have been accused of the commission of offenses.
California’s juvenile detention alternatives
California is a state that has taken these kinds of recommendations to heart. The state has adopted many novel ways of approaching people who’ve committed juvenile crimes. For example, some young people in Oakland are streamed into a life coaching program. Providing young people with support and helping them learn to make better decisions is proving more effective than incarcerating them.
The particular services available to young people in California can vary by county. So while life coaching is available in the Bay Area, legal support is available to young people in LA County. Each county has its own processes for assessing children for alternative programs. Juvenile court judges must decide if there’s a middle way, between detention and simply returning the child home, that will benefit them the most.
The goals of the juvenile justice system are different from adult justice. In most cases, these are not ultra-violent crimes where the community must be protected from the offender. These are young people learning to interact with the world. They still have learning and growing to do. Increasingly, California is trying to support these young people, not punish them.