As I’ve grown as a criminologist, I’ve changed my views a bit. The biggest change is in my belief our mental health system offered more to children than the juvenile justice system did. I no longer believe that having seen too many children and their families failed. The resources I believed existed often don’t. So, when a child is assaultive, it’s unrealistic to believe the mental health system will jump in, offer wrap-around supports and help the family and child with therapeutic resources. And without these services, along with not holding the child criminally accountable, the child learns assaultive behavior is okay and will go unpunished. This is not the lesson or the kind of person we want walking among us.
So, many questions remain: What can we do? What should criminal justice professionals strive to do to keep violent children from hurting others? Can they be supported and change their behaviors? How can we help facilitate that? How do different jurisdictions and disciplines work together for a common goal? Are these children hopeless? What about trauma? How does this play in how we help and how we avoid inflicting more damage?
In my next two columns, I’ll explore, in depth, the two sides of the mental health versus juvenile justice argument looking at what’s working, what’s not working and what needs to be done. Until we find solutions, we need to continue dialoging on individual situations and doing the best we can.
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.