Juveniles: Our Future or Just More of the Same?

He stopped coming to our house as much and I would see him wandering around town sometimes late into the night. He began to take on the look of a child making poor choices with no supervision.

  • More manpower or dedicated staffing
  • Increased and better quality training opportunities
  • Funding

These responses indicate law enforcement professionals want more information, more resources and more money to assist with dealing with juvenile criminal justice issues. Prevention and intervention were mentioned, as well as, community-based options for diversion. Many agencies have lost resources and positions dedicated to juveniles. Focus has shifted to just handling the adult population and those juveniles deemed violent or recidivistic enough to be categorized as adults. As a practitioner, this makes sense. We have to deal with the problems right here and right now. Public safety is of the utmost concern when resources are tight. The criminologist in me, on the other hand, sees this strategy as counter-productive. If we don’t put the time and resources into prevention and intervention, aren’t we just creating more crises in the future?

What Can We Do?

Keep an open mind and not get frustrated and jaded by those we cannot help and the “every victim is tomorrow’s suspect” mentality that permeates our occupation. Try to make a small difference every day for someone. Continue to learn and utilize resources such as trainings offered by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Educate ourselves on how the juvenile justice system works. What resources and alternatives are out there? What are the best practice approaches and programs in existence? We need to ask ourselves, “Should we have specialized juvenile justice practitioners or should a policy of educating all line staff be adopted?” The biggest question, I believe, we need to ask ourselves, “What is the risk of doing nothing and waiting too long?”

I want the images of the boy on the bench, the child in cuffs and my son’s young friend to stay fresh in my mind. I do not want to turn my head and walk on by. I still believe each of us can make a difference and that we should continue to try. We can’t save them all, but as justice professionals we don’t have the luxury of just giving up.


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About The Author:

Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.

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