Perceptions of Successful Graduates of Juvenile Residential Programs: Reflections and Suggestions for Success

Article excerpt

Abstract

This qualitative study conducted in urban Miami, Florida, explored the essence of juvenile delinquency and recidivism: its causes, its relations to communities, the roles of families, and the myriad roles of residential treatment programs at rehabilitating young offenders. Data were collected from nine young adult participants who had satisfied their court-ordered sanctions in different residential facilities. Data were analyzed to discover themes, patterns, or clusters of meanings. Several themes and sub-themes emerged. These included overcoming patterns of delinquent behaviors, facing challenges of remaining focused and goal-oriented, and providing suggestions for young offenders as well as recommendations for change to correctional leaders and accounts of successes and failures. Implications are included for lawmakers, criminologists, and juvenile justice administrators as measures for reducing juvenile delinquency and recidivism.

"There is a lot of goodness in us, but some of us are just lost. Maybe part of our journey is to venture through the system to find the good that lies within."

-Mike

Background

Juvenile delinquency and recidivism in America are major issues being debated by federal, state, and local governments. Criminologists and lawmakers consider what can be done to impart intervention and prevention measures. They seem to agree that crime prevention through education is a viable means for diminishing juvenile delinquency. Providing youth with a combination of academic and counseling services appears to be at the forefront of this approach. While varying philosophical perspectives and limited data continue to fuel the recidivism debate, the overarching question remains, "How do we reduce juvenile recidivism?"

Community members are becoming gradually more aware of this growing epidemic and its impact on communities and family lives. This issue requires the attention of both policy makers and citizens given the deleterious impact of juvenile recidivism on youth and their communities, notwithstanding their shared or mutually exclusive viewpoints.

Philosophical Perspectives/Changes

The original perspective of the juvenile justice system was grounded in a rehabilitative stance (Ferrali, 2002). Social-welfare appeared to be the overarching paradigm as court systems throughout the United States stressed individualized treatment as a healing balm for combating delinquency. In response to what appeared to be a growing epidemic of juvenile crime and delinquency, a philosophical change was necessary. By the 1960s, the U.S. court system regarded the social-welfare approach ineffective (Ferrali) and began instituting a series of alternative approaches to address the problem.

Accountability became the central mechanism for handling delinquency. Modern reformers countered the assertion that juvenile offenders were too immature to understand the rationales for their delinquent acts, embracing the notion of accountability and community protection as their philosophical correlates (Ferrali, 2002; Granello & Hanna, 2003; Reppucci, 1999). This approval evolved into the restorative justice movement (Ferrali; Karp & Brelin, 2001). The focus of the movement centered on the premise that juveniles would be made accountable for committing delinquent acts. The change in philosophy focused on punishing the juveniles for their delinquent behaviors. This restorative-judicial process included a criminal trial and proceedings that were similar to the adult court system. These juvenile courts resembled scaled down versions of adult criminal courts as opposed to a blend of justice and social service (Crawford, 2001 ).

Theoretical Perspectives

The Control Theory and the Differential Association Theory provided theoretical perspectives on juvenile delinquency and recidivism. Both theories established rationales for why young people engaged in deviant behaviors. …