Though the number of juvenile delinquents living below the poverty level has declined a great deal since 1993 it is still a great deal larger than older Americans. (Snyder & Sickmond, p. 1, 2006) In 2002 an average of 4 juveniles have fallen victim to murder in the United States and currently “persons ages 7-17 are about as likely to be victims of suicide as they are to be victims of homicide.” (Snyder & Sickmond, p. 1, 2006) The statistics also show that the number of criminal offending youth held in public and private facilities increased 28% between 1991 and 2003. (Snyder & Sickmond, p. 5, 2006) Many programs have been established that facilitate rehabilitation methods offering alternative options to these young minds.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have funded a variety of programs that are geared to assist professionals and communities develop programs that successfully prevent, as well as intervene with juvenile delinquent behavior. These programs vary in type; however the more intense programs require inpatient treatment. (Development Services Group (Comp.) 2006)
The Juvenile Drug Courts (JDC) is a popular program established by the JJDP for the purpose of providing specialized support services for youth, as well as their families, who have become involved in drug use. These programs were developed in the 1980’s for the adult offenders and became successful. It was only natural that the focus turn to the population of youth offenders, the first facility was established in Key West, Florida in 1993. (Development Services Group (Comp.) 2006)
The process of this particular juvenile program consists of the JDC judge maintaining close contact and involvement of each juvenile case through regular meetings. To assist with the rehabilitation a support team is established that is comprised of representatives from “treatment, juvenile justice, social services, school and vocational training programs, law enforcement, probation, the prosecution and the defense.” A successful plan is developed within the team and its progress is monitored collectively. These programs are funded by government grants through the Department of Justice, for the purpose of early intervention for first time offenders. (JJDP, p. 45, 1996)
The Delaware Juvenile Drug Court Diversion program specifically targets juvenile offenders who are first time misdemeanor violators. The goal is to assist offenders as they work to develop new skills and maturity, both of which are necessary in preventing further criminal activity. In order to assist youth in developing these skills and monitor progress Delaware JDC provides case management services obtained from a private agency that conducts regular urine screenings, court reporting, as well as someone to accompany teens to their monthly court reporting. The program requires that juveniles “maintain sobriety, attend all scheduled treatment sessions, and refrain from criminal activity.” (Kervick, 2006) Non-compliance does not always result in termination, however in order to graduate from drug court, the youth is required to complete all of the plan requirements and be in compliance with the program’s guidelines for a designated period of time. (Kervick, 2006) The state of Delaware evaluated its success rate with the drug court program by studying one group of 154 offenders admitted into the program and another group of 154 not in a treatment program. At the time of the study, the percentage of relapse for the drug court group was 25.9 and the relapse percentage for the comparison was 36.4. After 12 months of comparison, the relapse percentage for the group who had successfully completed the program was 35% as opposed to the comparison group, whose relapse percentage was 60%. (Kervick, 2006) The downside to this program is the fact that during this study the statistics were reevaluated at 18 months and the differences became less defined. The control group had a 47.7% of unsuccessful program completions. (Kervick, 2006)
Another approach to juvenile delinquent rehabilitation is the Student Assistance Program (SAP). These programs created for the purpose of “(1) Strengthening cooperation and communication between school districts and probation departments. (2) Providing schools with alternative strategies for dealing with students who exhibit behavioral problems or students who are suspended or have been expelled from school.” (JJDP, 1996, p. 13) The JJDP reports that these programs are successful because of the strong relationship formed between the juvenile justice system, law enforcement officials, as well as social agencies and families. (JJDP, p. 13, 1996)
In a partnership between the PA Department of Education’s Division of Student and Safe School Services and the PA Department of Public Welfare Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services a program was established in 1984 for juvenile delinquents within the school system that developed a plan for offending students that promoted forward progress through team planning – an approach that empowers students through positive reinforcement. (PDPW (Comp.), 2004)
The Pennsylvania version of SAP is a methodical approach that uses techniques to organize the available educational resources and remove any barriers that inhibits the offending students from learning. The foundation of the program is a team of professionals consisting of school staff and associates from community rehabilitation programs, such as alcohol and drug prevention and mental health agencies. (PDPW (Comp.), 2004) In 1994 it as reported that the PA program had serviced “91 to 104 students annually” and at that time the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency had “allocated more than $2 million to replicate the model in other Pennsylvania districts.” (PDPW (Comp.), 2004)
There are four phases to the PA model – Referral, team planning, Interventions and Recommendations, and Support and Follow-Up. The professional members of the team are adequately trained in Cognitive Behavior Treatment methods that help alter behavior through positive reinforcement. The program allows parents to have full access to all school records, as it is their federal right to become involved in their child’s rehabilitation, the process encourages parent participation. For students receiving treatment in a community facility, the student’s assistance team collaborates with the community agency to develop an in-school support program that helps the students and parents remove any existing barriers that are inhibiting positive school performance. (PDPW (Comp.), 2004) The downside to the SAP program lies in the fact that all support team professionals must be adequately trained and work in synch – often these programs fail because members of the team do not communicate with each other to maintain the foundation of support for the student. (Johnson Institute (Comp.), p. 25, 1993)
In comparing the two programs for juvenile delinquent rehabilitation, I feel that the Student Assistance Programs provide a more positive environment for students. This program provides instruction through positive reinforcement and empowers the student through consistency. (Johnson Institute (Comp.), p. 25, 1993) A key concept of this program is to provide real-life opportunities that encourage real-life practice. These programs are geared to give students a group of positive role models that present accurate information, clear expectations, and encouragement towards independence, life-skills training and a balanced system addressing individual concerns. (Johnson Institute (Comp.), p. 26 – 27, 1993) The student isn’t rehabilitated by the fear of immediate jail time; he or she has the support of a group of professionals in a positive environment with educational tools at his or her disposal.
The Drug Court programs, though necessary for some juveniles, have shown their ability to improve statistics. However, in larger populations an approach solely within the court system would not provide positive reinforcement on an individual level as the number of offenders would be larger. These students would not have the educational resources readily available to the students, nor would a solid personalized educational plan be constructed in an environment that the student could immediately begin application; therefore notice the immediate benefits. The lack of personalized care, as well as the number of juveniles within the system would only increase the likelihood of failure.
It is necessary to incorporate the educational institution into a juvenile’s rehabilitation program to provide the immediate opportunities that allow students to apply what they’ve learned. Education is imperative for students to succeed in the real world and providing immediate access to this environment, as well as having a properly trained team to support the juvenile, rehabilitation is likely.
Development Services Group (Comp.). (2006). OJJDP: Drug Court. Retrieved from
Development Services Group (Comp.). (2006). OJJDP Model Programs Guide. Retrieved from
Johnson Institute (Comp.). (1993). Turning Troubled Kids Around: The Complete Student Assistance Program for Secondary Schools. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden PES.
Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention (Comp.). (1996). Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan. Washington, DC: DIANE Publishing.
Kervick, C. (2006). Helping America's Youth: Delaware Juvenile Drug Court Diversion Program. Retrieved from
Pennsylvania Dept. Of Public Welfare (Comp.). (2004, August 17). Pennsylvania Dept. of Public Welfare: Student Assistance Program. Retrieved from
Snyder, H. N., & Sickmond, M. (2006). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (Rep.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Jusince, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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