As our society continues to grow, so does the amount of youths who become involved in the Juvenile Justice System. It has become something that Americans are all too familiar with. Youth involved with the juvenile justice system often have substance abuse problems along with many other problems that include: mental health disorders, gang affiliation, poverty and much more.
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We know that while experimenting with drugs and alcohol could be a rite of passage from adolescence into early adulthood, it also could be a start of a path more and more teens are experiencing today (Broderick, 2012). The media tends to often cover news about all the negative things the youth are doing instead of focusing on how our society and the criminal justice system could work with youth to decrease recidivism and increase rehabilitation. This paper will cover the following topics: issues with the criminal justice system, why it has become a social justice issue, implications for micro, mezzo, macro practice, and reflections on my thoughts and feelings about this issue.
Substance use disorder among Americas’ youth are national problem with tremendous consequences. It appears our society focuses more on the consequences than treatment but as time continues to pass and statistics show that treatment for youth outweigh the benefits than locking up a child in jail. Recidivism is a big problem that we face with our trouble youth. Recidivism is primarily known as when one person convicted of a criminal act get release from jail and then reoffends. We all know that high recidivism rate would mean more youths being placed in the juvenile justice system until they reach the age of 19. By everyone coming together, we could develop more programs that would help reduce the recidivism rate. This would have to mean instead of building or opening more correctional facilities, we focus our attention on facilities that handle substance abuse and/or co-occurring disorders. This could be anything from a youth with a diagnosis of conduct disorder that suffers from alcohol abuse to a youth who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that copes with this by using marijuana. What makes this a social justice issue is because it takes money, time, parents, counselors, and the state to all come together as a team and figure around the cost of opening these facilities and running them. Another social justice issue is that the correctional facilities are becoming more and more overcrowded which in turn, takes away from actual treatment that the youth may need to receive because they are spending most of the time trying to watch the youth in the facilities. On average, 23.5 million people over 12 need treatment for drug or alcohol abuse each year (NIDA, 2018). Studies have shown that treatment reduces drug-related crimes about 15 times more than incarceration.
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