Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Addressing the Needs of Juvenile Offenders

Yet more research is showing that custody fails to address the underlying needs of juvenile offenders.

Sydney Morning Herald Report - 23 Sep 09

A new study from Australia reveals that locking up juvenile offenders has no greater deterrent effect on the rate of re-offending than lesser non-custodial penalties.

The finding contradicts earlier studies, one which found juveniles given custodial sentences were more likely to re-offend and another which found lower reoffending rates for jailed car thieves but higher rates for those locked away for other offences.

The latest study, released on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Criminology, involved a detailed assessment of 152 juvenile offenders given detention sentences and 243 handed a non-custodial sentence, all in NSW.

All were interviewed at length about family life, school performance, drug abuse and association with delinquent peers.

The study indicates that, other things being equal, juveniles given custodial orders are no less likely to reoffend than juveniles given non-custodial orders.

The study found about half of each group re-offended during the follow-up period, with mean time to re-conviction about five months.

Of note, various non-custodial programs are proving to be very effective in reducing juvenile recidivism.

The key to reducing re-offending is to change the 'thinking and feelings' of the offender. Achieve this and we change the 'behaviour'. As shown in many other studies, owing to the impact of damaging experiences in life, juvenile offenders tend to have very negative thoughts and feelings about themselves and others, hence their behaviour.

Prison often reaffirms the thoughts that the individual is worthless, promoting feelings of anger and frustration. Only by accessing positive thoughts and feelings can the process of change be realised. Place an individual in a safe environment, build their confidence and self-esteem and watch the behaviour change. It is one of the most basic needs of us all.

No comments: