Essay Example about Punishment of Youthful Offenders

Published: 2022-06-08
Essay Example about Punishment of Youthful Offenders
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Juvenile justice
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1579 words
14 min read

The Juvenile criminal law applies to offenders between 12 and 17 years of age, although in some circumstances it can also accommodate individuals aged 18-22 years (Hoge, 2015). This is a system established with an intention of ensuring that harsh sentences are not leveled against young people who may have little knowledge regarding the offense that they may have committed. For further institute fairness into the justice system, other mechanisms such as indeterminate sentencing, rehabilitation and also restorative justice practices are adopted by various law enforcers. Part of the reason why the initiative is taking involves the idea that the issues above are effective in tackling recidivism as will be elaborated.

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Current state of Juvenile Criminal Recidivism

Recidivism of juvenile offenders refers to a situation where they are incarcerated within three years following their release from custody (Durose, Cooper & Snyder, 2014). This is a common phenomenon, especially among the youthful offenders. To get the actual rate of recidivism, the number of recidivists is divided against the total number of those released in a specific cohort and then multiplied with 100 to obtain the percentage (Durose, Cooper & Snyder, 2014). The Juvenile Outcome Evaluation Report indicates that out of the 675 youths who were released in 2016, 63 percent were not incarcerated again within three years (Durose, Cooper & Snyder, 2014). Contrary to this, 252 juvenile offenders were recaptured within the same duration. The 37 percent of individuals make up a significant figure which shows that something ought to be done to rectify the situation (Durose, Cooper & Snyder, 2014). In response to this, certain efforts are being made to control recidivism.

Fig (i) Current State of Recidivism

One of the significant efforts made to reduce recidivism is education, which has been made available to juvenile offenders since it was established that a significant majority had low levels of literacy. For instance, some of them lack the credits required to enable them to complete high school leading them to drop out and indulge in a life of crime. This method has turned out to be very helpful. Employment opportunities have also been made available for the offenders. In most cases, people with a criminal record find it hard to get an employment opportunity. As a result, they end up resulting in their previous criminal life hence leading them to be imprisoned again. Besides this, rehabilitation efforts have proved to be successful especially for the young adults addicted to drug and substance abuse. Many of them leave prison have become more resourceful and with better mental health conditions which assists them to lead a better life. Such efforts enable the young offenders to have a successful transition to independence.

Indeterminate sentencing and its appropriateness.

Some of the juvenile offenders experience indeterminate sentencing. This implies that the duration of their stay in confinement has not been specified. For instance, when a person is jailed for 5-10 years. Such an allowance is given to offer the criminal an opportunity to reform leading to his release. It is viewed more as a way of ridding off bad habits from individuals. In such a case, the parole board has the mandate to determine whether a wrongdoer is to be released before the end of this prescribed term or not. This technique, nevertheless, has some advantages and disadvantages as will be elaborated.


Indeterminate sentencing is advantageous offers the criminal an opportunity to cooperate with the authority during his period of imprisonment. Such a person is well aware that there is a likelihood that they will get their freedom as a result of good behavior (Hoge, 2015). Its establishment has also moved away minimum sentencing hence minimizing the necessity of a lengthy trial. Also, this has managed to reduce the number of people who end up experiencing trauma in the course of recounting dreadful ordeals when testifying during a trial. The board of pardons and the Judge is also empowered to pardon prisoners who deserve to be freed and also ensure that offenders who pose a threat to people within the society remain in prison (Hoge, 2015).


One of the disadvantages of this is the disparity that exists regarding the sentence offered to different offenders for a similar crime. Besides, there is also uncertainty on whether or not the offender will be released. The deterrent effect on prisoners is also lessened since they are not sure how much time they will spend in prison (Pifferi, 2016). This kind of sentencing also offers the parole board a grueling time as they try to determine the duration that a person will be required to spend in rehabilitation. It also becomes difficult for plans to be made regarding the future population of criminals since some have indeterminate durations of stay.

The impact of Indeterminate Sentencing on Recidivism

Indeterminate sentencing is capable of having a significant impact on recidivism. For example, when criminals end up serving extended prison sentences, they end up having ample time to extend their network of crime. This also has an effect of distancing them from the labor force. Most employers are not eager to employ individuals who have a record of criminal activity. Contrary to this, a Juvenile can pretend that they have reformed leading to their early release, after which such a person is later recaptured for an offense of a similar magnitude they had committed initially (Pifferi, 2016). Indeterminate sentencing can, therefore, lengthen or shorten the duration of a prison sentence that a particular inmate is expected to serve.

The system of indeterminate sentencing may appear to favor some violent offenders who pose a threat to the community. In such a case, such juvenile offenders end up being arrested and sent to jail when the result to criminal lives. When this occurs, a determinate sentence would be more appropriate, especially one that can keep the prisoners locked up until they attain the age that majority of the citizens have.

The Effectiveness of Diversion programs for Juvenile Offenders

Diversion programs for juvenile offenders have been in use since 1970. Many young adults get in trouble with the law, and when this happens, a civil citation can be issued without necessarily having to put the offenders in detention. In a majority of cases, this has turned out to be an effective method of effecting punishment. Based on a study undertaken on "The effect of youth diversion programs on recidivism," it emerged that diversion programs were very effective though they were rarely being used (Hoge, 2015). Few countries such as Scotland were the only exceptions amongst the nations that embracement the treatment of young individuals who defied various laws and statutes. Two of the most common diversion programs are the caution and formal diversion initiatives (Hoge, 2015). The former involves a scenario where the youths are offered a warning whereas the latter refers the young people to programming incentives or may necessitate admission of guilt.

Mentoring is one of the initiatives involved in the diversion programs. It helps to ensure that the youths are accountable for their action and eager to change their behavior. The Washington Post revealed that out of 500 youths who took part in a diversion program between March and June 2014, 90 percent were never rearrested (Pifferi, 2016). A range of between 2-81% regarding the rearrests that occurred among the youth who took part in the diversion programs contrary to 8-81% observed amongst the youth who were processed traditionally (Hoge, 2015). This translates to an average of 31.5% in the first case and 41.3% in the second one, thus indicating that diversion is fundamental owing to its efficiency (Hoge, 2015).

Effectiveness of restorative justice efforts

The chief aim of restorative justice efforts is to amend the relationship between the delinquent and victims (Doherty, 2017). It is a system that manages to make the offenders accountable for their crimes and also reduce the incidences of recidivism. The efforts mentioned are capable of reducing recidivism as can be observed in the program initiated by Barron County in 2007. Five years after the initiative began it emerged that recidivism had decreased by more than 49 percent (Doherty, 2017). In New Zealand, when restorative justice practices were introduced in 1989, incidences of juvenile arrests diminishing almost entirely and now the only incarcerations are mainly those concerning homicides (Pifferi, 2016). This is a clear indication that restorative incentives are effective. In most of the cases, the practice appeared to offer the victims greater satisfaction compared to the traditional punishments. This is mostly because the victims can gain closure in the process.

The above-mentioned illustrations show that practices such as indeterminate sentencing and recidivism are effective in reducing recidivism. There are programs designed to accommodate juvenile delinquents which ascertain that the can reform and become better people in the society. Approaches such as rehabilitation adopt mentoring initiatives where the young people get to be accountable for their actions. In cases where alternative means other than incarceration was used, it appeared that the rate of recidivism was extremely law. It is, therefore, imperative for the Justice system to take this into normalization to avoid unnecessary rearrests in future.


Doherty, F. (2017). Indeterminate Sentencing Returns: The Invention of Supervised Release'(2013). New York University Law Review, 88, 958-964.

Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Hoge, R. D. (2015). A. 3. Making Policy Effective: Evidence-Based Foundations for an Effective Juvenile Justice System. Youth, Offense and Well-Being, 105.

Pifferi, M. (2016). Reinventing Punishment. A Comparative History of Criminology and Penology in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (pp. 1-305). Oxford University Press.

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