Communities have been focusing on reaching out to at-risk juveniles. One way they are doing that is by establishing programs suggested by the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model, a research project funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The model offers programs and goals for communities trying to prevent juvenile delinquency and to efficiently rehabilitate youthful offenders.
The model urges communities to teach juveniles who commit crimes that their greatest obligations are to their victims over and above the state. The model also emphasizes creating meaningful rehabilitative programs that provide each youth, upon leaving the juvenile justice system, with at least one meaningful way to earn a living.
The model reminds communities that the best way to maintain safety is to both create meaningful sports or other programs of interest to at-risk juveniles and establish community groups and individuals willing to help monitor troubled juveniles.
Early Intervention Programs
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s training programs:
- address addictions and other self-defeating behaviors through such vehicles as specialty courts
- provide eligible juveniles with vocational training programs
- expose the destructive aspects of gangs to those who might seek to join them
- help juveniles before or after they commit hate crimes to understand, appreciate and respect people in the community who do not look or act like them or hold similar beliefs
Instead of sending all juvenile offenders to one court, some communities have specialty courts designed to help juveniles address their behavioral problems.
Drug Court: When a juvenile goes before a drug court, he or she usually is required to undergo drug treatment and random, observed drug tests.
Gun Court: Law enforcement personnel and attorneys often donate their time to speak to juveniles recently arrested for the non-violent use of guns. Also, people in the community who have suffered gunshot wounds or who have lost a loved one because of homicide talk to juveniles to discourage them from using guns for criminal purposes.
Teen Court: Some teenagers can go before a court composed of a jury of their peers when they are accused of non-violent crimes or status offenses, such as vandalizing a house or shoplifting.
Mental Health Court: This court sees teenage offenders who have a serious mental illnesses and monitors them for generally 18 months.
Vocational Training Programs
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention urges every type of business group in a community to create programs that will help at-risk juveniles develop job skills before they become involved in committing crimes or status offenses. One program of this type involves the building trades. The Home Builders Institute created Project CRAFT (Community Restitution and Apprenticeship Focused Training) in 1994. Its goal is to provide youth with a variety of social and job-search skills, along with pre-apprenticeship certificate training in a variety of building skills.
Efforts to Decrease Youth Gang Violence
The federal government provides training seminars to law enforcement and other officials to prevent the formation of gangs and eradicate or limit the amount of gang violence committed each year.
During the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s June 2008 National Youth Gang Symposium, the office presented the progress made since it created the Gang Reduction Program in 2003. The program has three main goals:
- It prioritizes the recruitment of faith-based community members and representatives from small community organizations to provide alternative programs and activities for at-risk juveniles.
- It encourages “multiagency collaboration,” both in neighborhoods and communities and in federal agencies.
- It stresses the importance of partnering with the private sector. Community businesses and at-risk juveniles each benefit when gang violence is minimized. Gang theft and vandalism cost businesses each year. Community programs that help juveniles develop job-related skills allow them to focus on their future.
Juvenile Hate Crimes Prevention and Rehabilitation
In recent years, the federal government has defined hate crimes as bias-motivated crimes, offenses motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, ethnicity or national origin. Cities such as Los Angeles are creating programs like Juvenile Offenders Learning Tolerance, which tries to rescue and re-educate juveniles who have recently committed a hate crime.