Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Vocational Training in Juvenile Detention: A Call for Action

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Vocational Training in Juvenile Detention: A Call for Action

Article excerpt

Given high recidivism rates and the vulnerability of detained youth, the authors posit that juvenile detention centers may be most efficacious by serving as both place and process to create career opportunity through vocational training. The authors review the psychosocial factors contributing to delinquency and the primary theories of rehabilitation that extend to detained youth. They highlight key ingredients to effective vocational programming in juvenile detention, such as integration of traditional career theories with constructs pertinent to this population (emerging adulthood, sociopolitical development, social cognitive career theory). Considerations for successful implementation of vocational programs in juvenile detention are also offered.

Keywords: career counseling, vocational training, juvenile detention, sociopolitical development, social cognitive career theory

[A]mong all of the policy areas affecting vulnerable children and families, juvenile justice probably suffers the most glaring gaps between best practice and common practice, between what we know works and what our public systems most often do on our behalf.

- Annie E. Casey Foundation (2009, para. 2)

More than 80,000 American youth are serving time behind bars (Sickmund, 2010). With recidivism rates ranging between 50% and 80%, they are behind bars again and again - foretelling a picture of crime for society at large and of compromised futures for the young people the juvenile justice system attempts to rehabilitate. According to WaId and Martinez (2003), "no other government agency could be so unsuccessful without a major outcry" (p. 24). This article situates vocational training as one vital response to the problems of the juvenile justice system, as well as a tool of empowerment for youth caught up in an unjust sociopolitical system. Following a discussion of die population, setting, and two exemplary programs, we describe several challenges to mounting a programmatic response and the important theoretical constructs that should inform and ground future programs. This article is a call to action rather than a prescription, a prompt for career counselors to use their intervention and advocacy skills to aid this marginalized segment of society.

This article is based on the premise that the myth of the dangerous, unreformable young criminal is simply untrue. Youth largely commit crimes because they suffer from lack of opportunity that their communities, schools, and families are remiss in providing them. We believe the sociopolitical forces contributing to juvenile justice - including poverty, racism, generational acceptance of crime, and neglect by civic and educational leaders - are unjust and inequitable. If detained youth are not included in vocational development literature and programs, they will forever be disconnected and criminalized. Career counselors, career educators, and vocational trainers involved with youth in the justice system not only help these individuals directly, and their communities indirecdy, but also redistribute social justice toward legions of youth without prior opportunity. Career counselors are thus in a unique position to act as change agents in the lives of these youth and society at large.

What Is Juvenile Detention

In the United States, there are currendy over 3,000 facilities housing young people whom courts have deemed threats to public safety; the majority of these are secure detention centers, residential treatment facilities, and group homes (Hockenberry, Sickmund, & Sladky, 2009). According to Hughes and Reuterman (1982), detention centers arose as an alternative to adult jails because youth are not entirely culpable of guilt, and a separate system was deemed important to foster better outcomes. However, the authors mentioned that there has been no consensus on the exact function of detention throughout history; it can vary wildly between counties and states, and within centers themselves. …

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