Can We Make “Juvenile Justice” More Just?
Crime is prevalent everywhere in our world. When a person commits a crime, they are punished and, depending on its severity, are eventually brought back into society. While many crimes are perpetrated by adults, teenagers and even children – juveniles – can also commit offenses. A person is considered a juvenile delinquent if they are under the age of eighteen and commit an act that otherwise would be considered a crime if they were an adult. Many juveniles are placed in adult prisons and forced to endure sentences that are inappropriate to their age. The criminal justice system needs to realize that simply locking up a juvenile and throwing away the key is not the answer. We must find ways to keep our young people out of adult facilities and do whatever we can to rehabilitate them and keep them away from a life of crime.
The Sentencing Project compiled a study in 2011 that showed nearly 8,000 minors were in adult jails or prisons that year. In my opinion, this is simply unacceptable. If we work to rehabilitate our juveniles and do whatever it takes to keep them out of prisons and jails, it can lead to better futures for them.
But what can we do to keep our juveniles out of prison and jails? In my opinion, we must develop programs that focus on brightening a child’s future instead of darkening it. According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, “every synagogue must organize clubs and classes for the neglected children in the community so that they may be saved from physical, mental, and moral breakdowns that lead to delinquency and crime.”
There is an urgent need in our society to reframe the way we handle juvenile delinquency cases. Stop locking up our juveniles for minor crimes. Instead, lets rehabilitate them back into society and attempt to help them become successful and lead them down the right path. Whether that may be setting up an organization or club to help them learn what is right and what is wrong, or if it is a set of classes that teach them morals and norms in society, we must do whatever is in our power to keep our youths from falling into the hands of the criminal justice system.
Cameron Vasta is a senior at Oneonta State University, studying Criminal Justice. Originally from Middletown, New York, he is a member of Temple Beth Jacob in Newburgh, New York.