Time Magazine turns the idea of juvenile detention upside down.
Researchers found that rather than rehabilitating young delinquents, juvenile detention -- which lumps troubled kids in with other troubled kids -- appeared to worsen their behavior problems. Compared with other kids with a similar history of bad behavior, those who entered the juvenile justice system were nearly seven times more likely to be arrested for crimes as adults.
While the study involved only boys in Montreal, US News observed, "the researchers note that the juvenile justice system in the province of Quebec has a reputation of being among the best."
What we don't have, is an alternative.
Sure we have alternatives. Our current justice system is designed to 'get tough on crime' and focuses almost exclusively on punishment rather than prevention. There have been extensive studies performed that demonstrate investments in early childhood development pay off long term in reduced crime rates. But those programs are demonized as handouts to the undeserving who should instead pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When they fail, we lock 'em up, cycling them through the system in perpetuity. Its stupid, wasteful policy, but wins the soundbite wars, so voters demand that politicians 'get tough on crime' and cut social spending, all of which exacerbates the cycle.
Couldn't agree with bsimon more. We know what works. We just don't have the will.
As a society, if parents are not providing children with the ingredients for success at an early age we ought to intervene. Bad parents can learn to be good parents, but they need to be taught. We are diverting money away from some terrific parenting programs as we speak. It frustrates me. There is nothing but talk about early childhood...no one is stepping up to the plate with the money that is needed to do it. Large foundations will not fund this stuff because there have not been any double blind studies on early childhood parenting. ( And there never will be, who is going to be the lucky baby assigned to the bad parents?) I volunteer with a program that McKnight used to fund and they are changing their focus to reading programs for that very reason. Apparently there are studies on how kids turn out if they can't read by 2nd grade...so lets get everyone reading by 2nd grade. Not a bad initiative but zero to five development is so critical.
Organizations such as the Children's Defense Fund have supported research indicating that every dollar spent on early childhood education and resources saves $7 in later expenditures for the prison system.