In terms of the juvenile justice system, upon what area should there be focus in order to see improvement?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there has to be a moving away from the punitive nature of punishment for the juvenile offender.  As budgets have reduced and as social desire for retribution has become more sharply defined, I think that there has to be some level of legislative and judicial courage to recognize that long term results of a punitive and less understanding system of justice breeds more difficulty for society.  In the end, "locking up" more youth is not proven to be a deterrent to criminal behavior.  In fact, it enhances it.  Children end up learning to become career criminals when incarcerated in adult facilities.  When they are released because their sentences are up, the result is that they reenter society without any tools to function as a contributing member of it, but rather can only do harm to it.  There has to be a focus on understanding that the brain of the juvenile is still developing, and greater emphasis on social work and therapy as part of the solution to working with at- risk youth and juveniles who commit crime.  I think that the political discourse has a tendency to shroud issues, making it imperative that legislators and judiciaries recognize that in sentencing juvenile criminal offenders, the long term benefits towards rehabilitating them is vitally important to both their interests and society's as a whole.  It is here where I think that greater emphasis is needed and greater focus is required.


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