Recidivism for Juvenile Criminal Offenders

Recidivism for Juvenile Criminal Offenders

Juvenile criminal cases are something that every American knows of due to the large coverage in national and local news coverage. Juvenile criminal offenders are citizens of below legal age who engage in such illegal activities such as theft, burglary and murder. Normally, the offenders when found guilty are incarcerated although in separate jails. The current state sentences of juvenile criminal offenders have led to very high levels of recidivism in the US. These rates have remained high for a long time not because nothing works but due to ignorance on the part of the administrators. Essentially, most actors have minimal access to the large body of research that is available in the US. The effect has been a repetition of the offences committed by the juveniles. That notwithstanding, the government can reduce the recidivism rates among juvenile criminals by following effective methods.

One proven method of reducing recidivism would be the maintenance of a system that captures the results of ongoing needs assessment and risk screenings of the offenders. In this respect, the assessment must be done on an individual basis with no generalization. Assessment of the offenders should also be valid and reliable for effective management of caseloads. To improve this efficiency, the staff needs to be trained formally in administration of the assessment tools for the juveniles’ risk factors. The assessment of the juvenile offenders needs to be a continuous process. The information should be informally sourced through the interactions with youths and their respective caseworkers. The process of information gathering could be through formal assessments, observations and conversations (Lipsey, 2009). The manner in which the assessment information is gathered and then used to develop case plans should be prioritized.

The second option in reducing recidivism is enhancement of intrinsic motivation. The government needs to train probation officers in motivational interviewing techniques. The main reason for this method is the fact that behavioral change is better off when it comes from within. In fact, studies have shown that self-initiated change is much more permanent and lasting. The caseworkers should therefore be able to relate with the offenders in sensitive and constructive ways to enhance the process of intrinsic motivation among the youth offenders. The government should incorporate interpersonal interactions that strongly influence the ability of an offender to change behavior. Motivational interviewing should be part of the intrinsic behavioral change process because it communicates with the offenders thus helping them overcome negative feelings. Studies have shown that motivational interviewing is much more effective in initiating and maintaining behavioral change as compared to persuasion techniques.

The next techniques should incorporate target interventions including treatment, dosage, need for responsivity and focus on risks. It is very important that the caseworker and probation officer prioritizes treatment and supervision resources on the high risk offenders. Science has shown that concentration of supervision and treatment resources on low risk offenders has minimal effects on reduction of recidivism. By focusing resources on high risk offenders, the public is guaranteed of safety and harm reduction. In addition, the case workers should focus on the individual characteristics of juvenile offenders. In this regard, the treatment and dosage levels should be determined for each individual before administration. Lower risk offenders require much lower levels of treatment and dosage as compared to high risk offenders (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006).

The fourth method should focus on cognitive therapy that aims at changing cognitive behavior. The staff should emphasize on cognitive behavior strategies and teach the individual offenders on the same. In this regard, the probation officers need to be adept with facilitation of treatment for antisocial thinking, communication techniques and social learning. The administration of these skills should go beyond mere teaching and should include demonstration and practical application. The therapy’s self-approach and enabling nature is much more effective in typically resistant juvenile offenders because it increase their participation. The therapy ultimately reduces further criminal behavior when coupled with other types of support such as employment, counseling, education and training.

Increasing positive reinforcement is another technique that can work towards reducing recidivism among young offenders. Research suggests that increasing positive reinforcement directly improves the chance of long-term behavioral change. Past studies have also proved that juvenile offenders respond better when approached with positive criticism. In this respect, the people can maintain their learned behavior for long periods of time making the process of behavioral change much more permanent. However, the technique should not be an excuse for hindering the caseworker form giving negative remarks when the juvenile repeats unacceptable and inappropriate behavior (Lipsey, 2009).

Another technique involves the engagement of on-going support in the youth’s community. It is imperative that the juvenile offenders be involved in pro social supports within the community. Studies have shown that intervention programs positively reinforce the desired new behaviors. In addition, the programs should draw on the offender’s family and friends for more effectiveness. The measurement of relevant processes and practices is also another effective technique in the reduction of recidivism among juvenile offenders. The documentation of the cases should be as accurate as possible to facilitate in the validity and success of the processes. It is therefore important for probation officers to assess the changes in cognitive and skill development. This assessment is particularly important in ascertaining the offender recidivism. Moreover, the measurement feedback of the processes should be availed especially to the youths to improve their motivation.

Reducing and changing programs that are commonly used but end up being ineffective would also work towards reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders. The elimination of such programs can help in guaranteeing that the juvenile justice system does not end up bringing more harm than good to the intended targets. In this respect, isolation programs should be replaced with programs that help reintegrate the offenders into the society (Lipsey, 1998). Large and overcrowded correctional facilities should for instance be replaced with personalized case to case probation depending on the offender. In addition out-of-home mental treatments and boot camps that are restrictive in nature should also be done away with. These programs should be substituted with family centered approaches that have been proven to be much more effective.

It is no doubt that juvenile offenders have increased with each passing day. It is also true that the rates of recidivism for these offences have doubled over the last decade. The programs that are currently in place are not effective in reducing recidivism because they focus on punishing the juvenile offenders rather than on correctional approaches. The government should change tact if it harbors any hope of reducing the recidivism rates among juvenile criminal offenders.



Lipsey, M. W. (1998). Can Rehabilitative Programs Reduce the Recidivism of Juvenile Offenders-An Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Practical Programs. Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L., 6, 611.

Lipsey, M. (2009). The primary factors that characterized effective interventions with juvenile offenders: A meta-analytic overview. Victims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and Practice. 4(2) 124-147.

Snyder, H., and Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national report. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs.

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