For much of the public, the knee-jerk reaction to hearing that anyone was accused of a crime is to argue that they should “serve their time” in prison. Some view this as a punishment, while others argue that it is a deterrent to future crimes. Others may say that it can help those who commit crimes turn their lives around and avoid repeat incidents when they get out.
But does this really work? Studies have shown that, at least for juvenile offenders, it absolutely does not. In fact, prison time can just make things worse.
Why don’t prisons work for youthful offenders?
Juvenile prisons don’t help, but why not? One of the major reasons is that young people are best supported by their own communities. These include family members, schools, faith communities, and the like. Those who are sent to prison are cut off from all of these sources of assistance. If the goal is to help someone turn their life around, putting them behind bars actively takes them away from the very people who could help them do so.
Additionally, sending time behind bars can derail a young person’s plans for a productive future. The psychological effect of prison alone could drop out of high school, never go to college, get trapped in a cycle of poverty and never realize their full potential. This often just creates more criminal activity in the future, not less, because they don’t have many options. Should one mistake at a young age be allowed to ruin their entire future?
Are there better options?
If you are the parent of a young person who has been accused of a crime, you absolutely need to know what legal options you have. There may be defenses and alternative methods of handling the situation that will keep your child out of a juvenile jail.