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Juvenile delinquency

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Juvenile delinquency remains an ever-present issue in today’s society. Puzzanchera (2009), indicated that juveniles are being arrested at alarming rates. In 2008, 2.11 million juveniles were arrested. Knoll and Sickmund (2010) stated the juvenile courts have handled more than one million delinquency cases annually since 1974. The Department of Juvenile Justice as well as other agencies who work with the juvenile delinquent population continue to be plagued with the problem of increasing juvenile arrests and recidivism. There is a need for these youthful offenders to undergo treatment so that they may successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Juvenile delinquency continues to be a major problem in society today. A 2009 report prepared by Public Policy Associates, Incorporated for Michigan Department of Human Services, the Bureau of Juvenile Justice, the Federal Grants Unit and the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice indicated, “in 2006, law enforcement agencies in Michigan made an estimated 30,352 arrests of juveniles between the ages of 10 and 16.” In 2006, 2,760 children were incarcerated in Michigan’s juvenile justice system (OJJDP Book, 2006). These nearly 2,800 Michigan youth were placed in either a public or private treatment facility.

The ultimate goal of treatment is to reintegrated the youth into their community. Along with that goal is the hope that upon successful completion of the treatment program the youth will become a productive member of society. This includes completion of high school, attendance of college and/or enrollment in a vocational program. Unfortunately, recidivism continues to be a major problem for those youth who enter the juvenile justice system.

Recidivism is a problem nation-wide, however, juvenile justice systems vary greatly among the states, therefore, a national recidivism rate would not have much meaning (OJJDP, 2006). Many states (27) provided data on rates of recidivism, but there was no standard collection, which is another reason a national recidivism rate, at this time is impossible to obtain. Some states produced data from studies that ranged from 1991 through 2003, while others did 12-month follow-ups and still others completed studies with time frames ranging from 3 months to 5 years. Time frame for the studies was not the only different factors of the studies. Offense type and offense measure (for example, court referral or re-entry into treatment) also differed among the studies.

The Michigan Bureau of Juvenile Justice conducted a study examining the rate of recidivism of juvenile delinquents supervised by the Michigan Department of Human Services. This study included 1,978 males and 401 females from both public and private facilities. Conducted from January 1st, 2002 through December 31, 2005, the study tracked offenders released from residential treatment for varying time periods during the study due to differing release dates grouped by calendar years. Findings from the study indicated that youth released from a facility were likely to recidivate within two years from release. These statistics indicate a need for both effective treatment facilities and programs.

Minor, Wells and Angel (2008) indicated several treatment programs and interventions have been developed and put in place to help mitigate the recidivism rates of juvenile delinquents. However, the afore mentioned statistics show that much work still needs to be done. Farrouki and Mapson (2007) and Trupin, Stewart, Beach and Boesky (2002) listed New York’s Delinquency Prevention Program (The Title V Program), the Juvenile Counseling and Assessment Program (JCAP), the Chicago Area Project, Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program, probation and restitution programs as some of the programming available to treat juvenile delinquents with an aim at recidivism reduction. Quinn, Poirier and Garfinkel (2005) stated prevention of juvenile delinquency is best achieved through a multiagency, collaborative approach. School systems, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Juvenile Justice have collaborated to develop treatment programs that have a positive effect on the reduction of program participants rate of recidivism (Quinn et al.,2005; Ryan and Yang, 2005).

Problem Statement

Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship between background characteristics, offense type, counseling options, educational programs, and the time spent in juvenile facility and recidivism of juvenile delinquents in Michigan. This quantitative study will employ a secondary data analysis of Michigan juvenile detention facilities records to answer the following research questions:

  1. What is the relationship between the age of the delinquent, offense type, family background, counseling type, educational instruction delivery and the duration of the juvenile program?
  2. What is the relationship between the age of the delinquent, offense type, family background, counseling type, educational instruction delivery, duration of the program and the rate of recidivism?

Theoretical or Conceptual Framework

Significance of the Study

Juvenile offenders affect society in numerous ways. Financially, the cost of providing treatment, probation or jail time can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, with repeat offenders it is not uncommon to see a cost in the six-figure range. Emotionally, the victims of the offenders undergo much stress and insecurity. Effective treatment programs that influence the rate of recidivism will benefit the youthful offender as well as the members of the community where the youth will return.

Budgetary issues are influencing legislators to consider closing state operated facilities in favor of private facility placements. Public facilities showing that the educational and counseling services that their facility provides has a positive effect on the reduction of the recidivism rate will provide legislators with information to cause reconsideration of closing those facilities. Effective programming will save both money and jobs.

Definition of Key Terms/Concepts

JJOLT-Juvenile Justice On-Line Technology is a computerized record keeping system for state operated facilities

Recidivism-the repetition of a criminal offense. In this study recidivism is a return to a treatment facility resulting from the repetition of a criminal offense.

Limitations of the Study

This study makes three assumptions. First, that all public operated facilities administer the same counseling and educational programming and do so in the same manner. Second, that all youth receive a successful release from the treatment program rather than being pulled out of treatment. Finally, that all youth who re-offend are caught.

Both remaining public facilities provide counseling services via treatment group leaders, psychologists and/or psychiatrists. However, as the facilities are separated by more than 4 hours and counseling information is not shared amongst the staff from each building, there is no way of knowing how each session is conducted or what occurs during those sessions. At each of the facilities educational services are provided by state licensed teachers. However, there is no standard lesson plan or delivery method, therefore educational delivery will vary.

All youth released from the treatment program have not necessarily successfully completed the program as designed. A number of youth, for various reasons, do not complete the program as designed. Some of these youth are at the facility so long and make little to no progress that their court pulls them from the facility and places them elsewhere.

The final assumption that all youth who re-offend are caught limits the study as there are a number of youth who are either never caught or do not receive further adjudication. Lacking this information skews the data as there are most likely a large number of youth omitted from the study.


Juvenile offenders affect society both monetarily and emotionally. Treatment programs, both state and privately operated, seek to rehabilitate the young offender and reintegrate them successfully into the community in which the will return. A successful reintegration involves the youth completing high school, entering college or a vocational school, obtaining employment and not re-offending.

Repetition of a criminal offense or recidivism is a serious problem in today’s society. Public and privately-operated facilities through their treatment programs seek to reduce the rate of recidivism in juvenile offenders. Budgetary issues have caused legislators to look at closing state operated facilities in favor of privately operated facilities in order to save money and help to balance the budget. The intention of this study is to show that a state operated facility’s counseling and educational programs are an effective way of reducing the rates of recidivism. In showing the effectiveness on reducing recidivism rates, the state-run facility will prove its value and cause legislators to allow the continued operation of the facility.

In keeping the state operated facility open, more treatment opportunities exist for juvenile offenders. Many private facilities refuse to take offenders that are extremely violent and assaultive, mentally ill or for any other reason their administration deems fit. By contrast, state operated facilities must take any offender sent to the facility regardless of offense type or status of the offender. This not only keeps the worst juvenile offenders off the streets, providing them with an opportunity for treatment rather than sitting in a cell with no hope for change, but also keeps state employees working.

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