Juveniles in Adult Prisons

Running head: Juveniles in adult prisons Juveniles in adult prisons 8 May 2011 Juveniles in Adult Prisons Introduction Misbehaving juveniles are often not spared the incarceration process for their criminal activities. As a result, they are punished with the corresponding penalties for their criminal actions. There are however, major issues raised in the incarceration of juveniles, especially if their incarceration is in adult prisons. One of these issues is the fact that juveniles are exposed to different types of abuses in these adult prisons. These abuses may cover physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse.

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They are also exposed to other criminal elements in these prisons which often make them even worse offenders upon their release. Based on 2005 statistics, there were about 2200 youths in adult prisons in the US. Majority of these youths were serving life sentences without possibility of parole for crimes they committed when they were minors (Campaign for Youth Justice, n. d). Studies also indicate that juveniles in adult prisons are twice more likely to be beaten up by a staff or by another inmate; and they are 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon (Campaign for Youth Justice, n. ). Considering these circumstances, this paper shall now critically evaluate and discuss the issue of juveniles in adult prisons. This paper shall be conducted in order to establish a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the issue and its appurtenant highlights for improvement. Discussion The juvenile justice system was conceptualized about a hundred years ago in order to safeguard children from the abuses they were previously subjected to in adult prisons (Schiraldi and Zeidenberg, 1997). Trends indicated that n the traditional system, the children were often returned to society as hardened criminals. A juvenile system was therefore devised for juveniles in order to ensure that they would be housed in centers different from adult offenders where they can undergo rehabilitation, retraining, and other appropriate reformation processes. However, in recent years, due to the increase in the number of juvenile offenders, as well as the crowding of juvenile detention centers, moves to incarcerate juvenile offenders with adult offenders have been suggested (Schiraldi and Zeidenberg, 1997).

Needless to say, that this suggestion has been met with much opposition from child advocates, law enforcement officers, criminologists, and other interest groups. They primarily point out that placing juveniles in adult jails would have negative and detrimental effects on the juveniles, especially as their incarceration seems to exacerbate the criminal behavior of these juveniles after their release. Law enforcement officers are one of the first to point out that locking up a juvenile with murderers, rapists, and robbers promotes the same future criminal behavior among incarcerated juveniles.

These officers also point out that for the most part, juvenile offenders need proper adult guidance from appropriate role models. And these “appropriate” role models would hardly be found in these adult jails (Dilulio, 1996, as cited by Schiraldi and Zeidenberg, 1997). Surveys also document instances of juveniles being subjected to various. In fact, in Ohio, a juvenile placed in an adult jail for a minor infraction was reportedly assaulted by a deputy jailer; and in another case, in Kentucky, 30 minutes in a jail cell prompted a 15 year old to hang himself (Schiraldi and Zeidenberg, 1997).

Four other deaths were seen in Kentucky jails among juveniles who were incarcerated with adults for various minor offenses (Schiraldi and Zeidenberg, 1997). In the paper by Sapp and Reddington, (1997) the authors have established that the number of juveniles in adults jails have increased in recent years. Based on some laws passed, some states have already revised their transfer laws first, by decreasing the age of by which these juveniles can be transferred to adult jails and second by expanding the criminal activities which merit adult jail incarceration. Corrections administrators ave realized and acknowledged the fact that there are unique safety concerns which juveniles under the age of 17, face when they are placed in adult prisons. These administrators also point out that juveniles contribute to the overcrowding in adult prisons. This overcrowding issue itself presents a safety concern in these adult prisons (Sapp and Reddington, 1997). A warden commented that working with juveniles proved sometimes to be more difficult than working adults because “their mouths run faster than their asses” (as cited in Sapp and Reddington, 1997).

The juveniles were usually more bold and arrogant in challenging authorities and this often resulted to harsh reprimands from wardens and prison guards or physical retaliation from other inmates. Sapp and Reddington (1997) also point out that there is an issue which relates to how juvenile offenders are perceived. Based on public surveys, respondents believe that all juveniles sent to prison are sent to adult facilities. This is not always the case. But this perception affects the behavior which the society later displays towards these juveniles (Levitt, 1998).

They are often treated as violent offenders; they are shunned and discriminated against; and they are labeled negatively by society. The truth of the matter is that, even if these children may have indulged in juvenile behavior, they are still considered novices in the actual criminal workings of society. And our adult jails expose them to all sorts of criminal tendencies and activities. In effect, “the implications of incarceration of juveniles in adult prisons, with the resulting safety issues and the lack of needed treatment, does not bode well for the future behavior of those juveniles” (Sapp and Reddington, 1997).

And when they rejoin free society, they are less equipped to deal with the regular and the extraordinary challenges of normal society. For which reason, there is a need to reconsider the prudence of putting in juveniles with adult offenders. In a Florida study of children in adult prisons, author Annino (2000) was able to present various effects seen among children sent to adult prisons. In a project carried out by the Florida State University Children’s Advocacy Center, the center was able to evaluate thirteen and fourteen year olds incarcerated in Florida’s adult prisons. A good number f these respondents revealed that they never actually spent time in juvenile facilities after they were apprehended. Instead, they were sent straight to the adult prison (Annino, 2000). The center verified these claims by looking into the records of the detention centers. It was able to establish that out of about 1100 inmates falling within the 14-15 age range, 43% were never committed to a juvenile facility (Annino, 2000). In this case, for this particular group of offenders, the juvenile justice program never had an opportunity to succeed because it was never given a chance.

The children who were often in this category were those who possessed one or two the following qualities: child committing his offense in relation to older juveniles; child intending to commit a property crime which later turned into a violent crime; and the child being a bystander during a violent offense where an older juvenile was armed (Annino, 2000). These qualities imply that the juvenile offenders are those who are negatively influenced or pressured by older peers, or those who intend to carry out a simpler and less heinous crime, or those who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

These are circumstances which do not imply violent and severely criminal tendencies. Sending them to adult jails may cause them to progress into other criminal activities or to be mentally and physically overwhelmed by their situation. The latter possibility is the one which leads to suicide and other mental health issues. For children sent to adult facilities, a common argument seems to stem from the assumption that the public would be better protected in adult jails than if they were placed in juvenile centers.

This is an unfounded assumption because citing a study of recidivism rates for Florida children convicted and sentences as adults, authors were able to establish that about 30% of these children were re-arrested within two years from their release (Bishop, et. al. , 1998). In the Bishop study, it was established that juveniles released from adult prisons had a lesser chance of being actually rehabilitated. As a result, they were more likely to be recidivists and to continue living a criminal life. Annino (2000, p. 482) goes on to discuss how adult prisons are “nurseries of crime and vice.

Children thrown into the adult prison system are thrown into a world where their role models are hardened criminals”. And this trend does not bode well for the future of the child who is exposed to criminal elements at an age where he is most vulnerable to negative influence. Another important consideration in this issue is the fact that there are limited post-prison life opportunities for convicted felons and child inmates. They are legally prohibited from some types of work and they cannot enter the military (Annino, 2000).

Based on a New York Times article, Jessica Robinson who was sent to adult prison will be released from prison at the age of 22. On her release, she would have no education beyond the 6th grade; she would have no job skills; no friends within her age group; and no experience of a normal teenage life after the age of 13 (as cited by Annino, 2000). She would also have a felony record, a record which would not have appeared had she been placed in the juvenile justice system. Moreover, she would also have different mentors, mentors with violent and severely criminal histories. She will have been raised by wolves, and then she will be released, like most juveniles convicted in adult court, when she is still young enough to commit many more crimes” (Annino, 2000). After considering the above discussion, I believe that juveniles should not be sent to adult prisons because the purpose of incarceration – which is rehabilitation – would be defeated. Instead, these children would be exposed to a life which would open them to an even more criminal life. It would endanger their safety and would destroy their opportunities for a promising future.

Conclusion Juveniles in adult prisons are not viable methods of serving justice. It is a practice which can potentially endanger the safety of these juveniles, exposing them to physical, emotional, as well as sexual abuse. It opens them up to a life of recidivism as they learn about the commission of other more heinous and serious offenses. Sending juveniles to adult prisons is not the best remedy for these juvenile offenders. Instead, letting them stay within the juvenile system improves their possibility for a better future and a less criminal life.

Adult prisons waste these juveniles’ lives. It makes them less productive citizens and it makes them a bigger burden to society and to the law enforcement system. Works Cited Annino, P. (2000). Children in Florida Adult Prisons: a call for a moratorium. Florida State University Law Review, volume 28, pp. 471-490 Bishop, D. et al. , (1998). Juvenile Justice under Attack: An Analysis of the Causes and Impact of Recent Reforms, J. L. Public Policy U. FLA. , volume 10(129), pp. 145-46. Campaign for Youth Justice. (n. d). Youth in adult prisons factsheet. Act for Justice.

Retrieved 04 May 2011 from http://www. act4jj. org/media/factsheets/factsheet_26. pdf Levitt, S. (1998). Juvenile crime and punishment. The Journal of Political Economy, volume 106 (6), pp. 1156-1118. Reddington, F. & Sapp, A. (1997). Juveniles in Adult Prisons: Problems and Prospects. Journal of Crime and Justice, volume 20(2), pp. 139-152. Schiraldi, V. & Zeidenberg, J. (1997) The Risks Juveniles Face When They Are Incarcerated With Adults. Justice Policy. Retrieved 04 May 2011 from http://www. justicepolicy. org/images/upload/97-02_REP_RiskJuvenilesFace_JJ. pdf


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