ICCA supports juvenile justice systems and programs that operate in the best interests of children. Children and youth have distinct personal and developmental needs that require specialized programs completely apart from adult offenders. The juvenile justice system must provide specialized care and rehabilitative programs for young offenders consistent with the protection of the public and focused on the principle of accountability for behavior. The juvenile correctional system includes: prevention, diversion, specialized treatment programs, family focused therapies, school-based services, wrap-around services, therapeutic foster care, mentoring, mediation, community residential detention, and probation.
Juvenile crime overall has decreased every year for over a decade, falling 27% from 1997 through 2010. In the vast majority of delinquency cases, the juvenile is not held in secure detention. Furthermore, the overall number of youth held in detention has been declining for over a decade.
Emerging trends in juvenile justice include:
- a recognition of the impact that childhood trauma and exposure to violence has on youthful offenders; many of those affected are later victimized in other ways, become perpetrators of violence themselves, or engage in dangerous or risky behaviors;
- reducing the disproportionate minority contact observed at each decision point in the juvenile justice system; and
- the use of “informal” adjudication, in which the youth agrees to some sort of voluntary sanction—such as restitution—rather than receiving a formal sentence of probation or incarceration.
III. STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
Juveniles who commit crimes should be held accountable and communities must be safe-guarded. While juvenile corrections has an overarching responsibility to provide programs that suppress crime, it also seeks to fulfill the goals of family restoration, competency development, and healing the harm to communities. Consistent with those goals, ICCA supports a menu of evidence- based, least restrictive programs offering various levels of community treatment, care and community reintegration.
Government agencies at all levels should develop and support policies and fund programs that will sustain a comprehensive, balanced approach to delinquency, youth crime and prevention while reducing racial disparity. In partnership with juvenile corrections professionals, elected officials, the educational system, the media and the community should all be leaders in providing adequate resources and positive role models for children at risk.
Policy-makers, juvenile justice officials, and agencies should:
- Develop a system that offers a continuum of care, including prevention and early intervention, remedial, extended care, specialized treatment services, after care and custody. The priority of this continuum should be to eliminate the risk of delinquent behavior.
- Provide a range of community and residential programs and services to meet individual needs, including education, vocational training, recreation, religious opportunities, individual and family counseling, medical, dental, mental health, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS counseling, sexual offender treatment, and culturally and gender responsive health treatment.
- Appropriately classify and place non-violent offenders in juvenile community-based programs.
- Provide a system of comprehensive assessment of risk to re-offend, criminal risk factors, and developmental needs which inform the services and interventions in the youth’s case plan.
- Recognize the importance of partnerships with related service providers, schools, and the importance of collaborating with community members.
- Engage families in the work with youthful offenders.
- Recognize the effect of childhood trauma on youthful offenders, and design programs and interventions that address the ongoing impact of this trauma.
- Provide mentors: Mentoring programs have been shown to improve behavioural, social, emotional, and academic outcomes for at-risk youth.
- Programs and policies should emphasize strengths and protective factors of communities, families, and individuals.
- Provide transition services for juveniles released from secure residential facilities to less restrictive, community-based residential programs.
- Address the child’s need for permanence and bonding with the family and the community.
- Safeguard the accuracy and privacy of juvenile records.
- Expand and utilize research and evaluation of what treatment and services are most effective in preventing delinquency, supervising juveniles accused of criminal behavior, offering alternatives to incarceration, and providing support and community reintegration for those released from secure care.
- Monitor and evaluate program outcomes to assure quality and fidelity to program design.
Reviewed and adopted by the ICCA Board of Directors
Date: September 13, 2014