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The Role of Mentorship in Enhancing the Juvenile Justice System

Taking Strides to Reduce Incarceration and Increase Rehabilitation

By andrewdeen14Published 3 months ago 4 min read
The Role of Mentorship in Enhancing the Juvenile Justice System
Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

People need to be loved and supported. When they don't receive this consistently in life, negative behaviors result. Those consequences may be internally felt, as in emotional problems like anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies, and/or they can be externally expressed in the form of anger, aggression, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminal activity. Regardless of how such behaviors are demonstrated, children who are subjected to less-than-ideal social situations can get themselves into a variety of trouble that can eventually snowball into illegal activities.

No matter how or why a youth may be acting out, once they find themselves in the criminal justice system, they are subject to a whole new reality, one that is detailed by intense, regulatory expectations. Often this looks like serving time in juvenile justice, and while the severity of crimes also varies just as widely as the background, demographic, or hurt that an individual may feel, youths who are required to go through this system come out being changed. Some for the better; Most for the worse.

In an attempt to enhance the rate of secondary offenses in first time youth offenders there has been a long-standing tradition of utilizing mentorship as a way to revitalize offenders. The following is a look at the role of mentorship as it is used to enhance the juvenile justice systems.

History of Mentorship in the Juvenile Justice System

Mentorship generally speaking may not be a new concept in human history, but the use of mentorship as a means by which to better reform and educate juvenile offenders is a fairly recent development. Youth mentorship for those who might be considered “at risk youth” points back to the origins of organizations such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) club during the early decades of the 1900s. It was during this time period that many states were using juvenile court systems.

As a result of the increasing number of youths who were turning up in the New York City courts, an idea was born that promulgated the mission of intervening in at-risk youths' lives. By introducing these youths to older, caring adults that could help guide them into healthier decisions for their lives, the hope was that a more stable, responsible influence would help to mitigate further progression into delinquency.

Given the low costs and wider availability of support from adult volunteers’ court systems began to adopt the principles and programs.

At Risk Youth

There are far too many children who have lived or are living in compromising situations. The range of both age and cause that can lead a child to delinquent behavior is broad as well but, interestingly, there are a few categories which stand out as having higher corollary rates of influence on such development.

People from low-income families or communities, those of decreased educational rates, are of the LGBTQ+ identification, or of Black or Hispanic race are far more likely to be exposed to what are called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Not only are those groups more likely to be immersed in compromising situations and environments than those of higher educational levels, greater income, White, or heterosexual identification, they become more prone to delinquent behavior. There is also a strong connection to age.

Adolescents who were involved in ACEs between the ages of 5-7 are far more likely to develop delinquent behaviors because of the influences of pronounced traumas and socially irresponsible conduct.

Mentorship programs on the whole sought to create a system in which at-risk youths were paired with mentors in an attempt to form relationships through activities and consistent meetings. Defined as a one-on-one relationship of biologically unrelated persons, mentorships are intended to create emotional bonds that emphasize commitment that can help to develop increased levels of respect, loyalty to others, and a greater source of personal identity formation.

Mentorships as a whole have progressed beyond the previous intentions of just serving disadvantaged youth and has grown to become a sound choice for helping children who tend to struggle in the following two areas: poor scholastic performance and delinquent activities. The success of these programs has been recognized by political leaders to such a degree that congress has stepped forward to allocate funding to support a number of these programs.

Proven Effectiveness

Despite racial disparities in the criminal justice system, mentorships have been scientifically verified as being able to reduce the rate of juvenile delinquent behavior and aggression levels in those youth who are in that at risk category. They also have proven themselves as being able to help keep kids out of the juvenile justice systems entirely by rerouting behaviors from progressing into increasingly compromising behavior. Mentorship programs have demonstrated themselves as potentially reducing the rate of drug and alcohol abuse and even arrest rates within 18 months of consistent participation.

Additionally, those same programs have shown themselves to make a drop in the rate of relapses into criminal behaviors for those kids who have already been a part of the justice system.

Programs that can create a greater sense of structure in the lives of ACEs have shown to be more effective primarily with males in comparison to other types of programs. Mentorship approaches that involve activities, monitoring, and coaching with the use of specific goal achievement are more effective than other approaches.

These tactics help to reduce substance use, abuse, as well as in creating lasting, healthy emotional relationships, most notably in those children whose parents are in the criminal justice system themselves.

A solid mentorship program is one that uses a wide selection of goals that the mentor and mentee can go over together. The more interactions, the longer the duration of those relational building moments and the strength of those bonds leads to success in juvenile justice rehabilitation, as well as better academic performance and social behaviors.


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    andrewdeen14Written by andrewdeen14

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