Mass Incarceration of Juveniles in US - Essay Example

Published: 2024-01-03
Mass Incarceration of Juveniles in US - Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  United States Juvenile justice Social issue
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1936 words
17 min read


The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers of mass incarceration of juveniles in the world. This is according to the report given to the United Nations by human rights attorney on the inhumane treatment of young people in the United States. A juvenile is a person who has not yet attained the adult age which is 18 years of age, someone below the age of 18 is considered a child. When these people commit a crime that cannot be tried in an adult they are tried in juvenile courts and incarcerated in the juvenile detention facilities. There is also a high number of mass incarceration of adults in the US and hence the US is guilty of the inhumane treatment of the children. Incarceration therefore is becoming a problem rather than a solution to the many cases of crimes where youths are posed to harsh treatments in the name of corrections. This paper broadly explains the mass incarceration of youths in the US and the challenges they face inside and after incarceration.

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Trends of Cases of Mass Incarceration of Juveniles

It has been 30 years since the US signed the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, a treaty that seeks to protect children's rights across the globe. According to Nowak during the Trump administration, there are many cases where children are separated from their parents and no of the parties know where the children or parents are. Nowak in his remarks emphasized that should not happen again since the children are denied the right of being with their parents and parents are denied the right of staying with their children and taking care of them which is a violation of the law ( cited in Nowak, 2019). He also insisted that children are denied justice while justice is being administered in their cases. According to UNCRC children have the right to row and live with a family despite it being own families or foster families, Nowak says the children lack love for their families due to the violence experienced across the country.

According to statistics, it shows that in 2010 approximately 71,000 children were incarcerated in that specific year alone in youth detention facilities. The statistics show that the numbers have been declining since 2010 up to 2015. In 2015 the cases were 48,000 that which shows the numbers keep declining which is a positive trend. Male cases are higher compared to females, which indicates males are often involved in making crimes. In 2015, there were 40,750 males in juvenile detention and females were 7,293 (cited in Wagner & Rabuy, 2017, p. 22). This date excludes juveniles tried as adults, these are only in juvenile detention facilities. In 2019, statistics show that on a certain day 48000 youths were detained. Two-thirds are 16 years and above and only 500 children are below 12 years old. There are racial disparities where black and American Indian are overrepresented compared to the whites.

Causes of Juveniles Detention

Most of the juveniles are imprisoned for offenses such as simple assault and theft which are not considered crimes for adults but violate the law. There are examples such as sexual assault, truancy from school, disobedience to parent, using drugs such as alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. These behaviors require some correction to prevent them from becoming a serious crime at a later stage (cited in Clear & Frost, 2015). There are also cases of using drugs among children such as alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes. Some crimes that children are involved in is mostly out of curiosity to try a new thing or because of peer influence where they do things to fit in a certain group. For example, children trying to use marijuana because one of them has used it before they use it, and then it grows to a habit which later when a parent notices choose to punish them. Most of the crimes committed by children are not serious ones and hence only require some corrections which instills fear in these children from repeating the same.

Challenges in Incarceration Facilities

The juvenile justice system is considered ineffective and unjust, this is because of the conditions in the prisons such as racism. Minority youth such as blacks are treated differently from the white youths from detention to incarceration while charged with the same crime. The population of African Americans arrested is higher compared to the Caucasian youths arrested. This is extended also in the trial of youths in the adult courts, the minority youths are probably to be sentenced to serve prison time compared to Caucasian youths (cited in Reisner & Sevelius, 2014). This is one of the main challenges that youths face when they are charged with an offense. For example, an African American boy drinking alcohol and not attending school with a Caucasian boy, the African American boy will be charged harshly in the court and may also take the blame for introducing the other boy to such behaviors. This is evidence of how racism is eating the whole state where even youths are included in the treatment.

The juvenile justice system is also criticized for adverse effects such as overcrowding and understaffed in the detention facilities, a clear example is the Cheltenham in Maryland. The maximum capacity of the center is 24 and there was this point it was up to 100 boys in the same center. In such conditions most young ones are harassed by their peers, they can be physically harmed by elder ones in the group, there are cases of rapes to the naĂŻve children perpetrated by the peers (cited in Barnett & Morris, 2016, p. 106). Due to high populations in such a center the staff who may not be well trained or underpaid, take such opportunity to mishandle children in the facilities. When children come together it has an impact on their behaviors which makes them more deviant and become a threat to others or even themselves. This shows a difference in children detained in overcrowded places compared to those detained in a different setting. Most of the children with special needs detained drop out after detainment, it becomes hard for them to go back to education centers.

Incarceration of young offenders is proven to be an ineffective method of reducing crimes and delinquency rates ("Mass Incarceration of Juveniles: does putting children in jail solve anything? - Southern Coalition for Social Justice", 2020). Not all the youths who commit crimes are arrested after committing a crime. Criminologists claimed that the best method to reduce the number of crimes is by age, but not all those in incarceration centers are likely to change afterward. Criminologists argue that maturation changes the behavior of a person, as they grow old the less they are to do some crimes. They believe that as a person grows is likely to leave bad habits and mature up and catch up with productive behaviors rather than those delinquent habits. Incarceration of youths is likely to lead to more serious crimes this is because they are separated from the community and families and hence they meet new gangs. There is no enough proof that incarceration of youths will reduce or stop the delinquent behaviors since in those centers there are not enough measures to correct the behaviors.

Challenges Experienced After Incarceration

The youths undergo a different type of life after incarceration, this is because many of the detention centers do not promote emotional development. The situation under which children undergo makes most of the fall into depression thereafter. It happens mostly after they are taken to detention facilities which later may lead to suicide or self-injury. The different type of treatment they receive and the environment affects the mental set up of a child (cited in Ford & Feierman, 2016). Most of them even commit suicide while still in those facilities. For example, when a child is arrested and taken to those centers they start wondering what they did wrong and kind of regrets, they may there have self- rejection feeling. They may in return pick objects and inflict themselves as a way of releasing stress. This is also applicable due to different lifestyle in the detention centers, no quality sleeping materials, the kind of food, children see this as an extreme punishment and some of them find a reliable item to hang themselves.

Another challenge experienced by the children after incarceration is that most of them find it hard to continue with school. After detention, children will be absent from classes which they find it hard to go back to school after serving their term. Children also with special needs after incarceration do not go back to school and those who go back to school report a dropouts rate after going back to school. In detention, children with special needs are offered special lessons in the centers but still becomes hard for them to accept themselves back into former classes. Such behaviors are possible because of the situation experienced in those in centers which remains as trauma to most of them (cited in Barnett & Morris, 2016). Also, the impact of behavior from fellow inmates makes some of them try out new behaviors and may form a gang as well which is a threat to public safety. The increased cases of dropouts in return will lead to unemployment cases, shorter life spans, and poor health in such children. These incarceration centers have different impacts on the children as there is also a percentage that will be corrected. After incarceration, the children may seclude themselves from other youths and fear to take up employment challenges. And also the fear of the clearance certificate from police departments may indicate their crimes and hence fear applying for the jobs as the chances of getting employed because of the reputation, are lower.

In market places, formerly incarcerated youths result in less success in the competitive business. Compared to normal people, youth from detention facilities work fewer hours because their interrupted education makes them less competitive and their experiences in incarceration make them less stable in their jobs (cited in Brown, 2014, p.377). They tend to withdraw from people, seem not psyched up, and do not put more effort into their jobs compared to those who are not incarceration centers. Their experiences in detention centers seem to affect them mentally which affects their production levels. In communities where youths are incarcerated at higher rates, this is a threat to the community especially African Americans who are victims. There is a threat to the personal well-being of the youths as they are less productive compared to youths of their ages who did not spend time in the incarceration centers.


Youths with a history of incarceration have generally poor health status, this is because of many reasons such as poverty and minority statuses which in return with the detention facilities situations poses a greater risk to their health (cited in Barnett & Morris, 2016, p 101). Individuals also with poor health status have a high probability of incarceration. For example, a person with mental illness will probably commit a crime which will get them to detention. Another example is a person who uses drugs is at a higher probability of committing a crime which will get them to be tried. The environments to which a person poses such as communicable diseases which are transmitted, dust, and stuffy affect people with breathing difficulties making their situations even worse. Some people die from the situations in detention centers and some may end up have long-term issues with their health status.

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