The criminal justice system in the United States has faced criticism for its failure to have better ways of dealing with petty juvenile offenders. Sending them to prison for minor crimes only creates avenues for them to become hardened criminals. In this program, the goal is to come up with an alternative justice system where minors can be subjected to non-custodial sentences where they get to serve society as they learn how to become law-abiding citizens. The program also looks at ways in which there can be a fair representation whenever a juvenile is taken to court for a given offense.
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The Proposed Program: Introduction
The criminal justice system in the United States has been subject to criticism over the past several decades because of factors such as discrimination and unfair treatment of juvenile offenders. According to Leukefeld et al. (2017), it is common to find juveniles sent to jail because of a simple crime such as stealing food from a local food outlet. The authorities fail to investigate the primary goal of why a minor was forced to steal food and ways in which such habits can be discouraged without necessarily sending them to jail.
Krohn and Lane (2015) note that in most cases, these minors sent to jail because of minor crimes end up becoming hardened criminals. They interact with other criminal-minded individuals and learn new tricks, which enable them to transition from petty offenders to dangerous individuals who can kill to achieve their goal. In this program, the focus is to find an alternative justice system for juvenile delinquents in New York.
The justice system has failed most of the youth who, for one reason or the other, find themselves on the wrong side of the law. As Tanenhaus and Zimring (2014) explain, while it is important to ensure that crime is not condoned, sometimes it is necessary to evaluate why a juvenile committed a given crime and whether jail term is the best corrective measure that should be taken. Historically, the minority groups in the United States have been affected by the unfair justice system in the country. When an African American or a Hispanic minor commits a minor crime such as theft of food, the system is always quick to brand him or her as part of a major gang that deserves maximum punishment. The same is not always the case when a white person commits a crime. Sometimes, these juveniles would be sent to prison for a crime they did not commit.
Ryona, Earlyb, and Kosloski (2017) observe that in this country, being in the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to make one, especially minorities, be sent to jail. Continued discrimination against people of color and other minority groups is making it difficult for the criminal justice system to achieve its goals of fighting crime in the community. The program will focus on these weaknesses for the benefit of both the affected group and the government.
Purpose within a Community
The purpose of this program is to bring together law enforcement agencies, court and correctional officers and volunteers within New York with the aim of finding an alternative justice system. The goal of this program will be to ensure that petty offenders who are below 18 years of age are not sent to jail, especially those who are convicted for the first time. It will help to ensure that these minors do not get to interact with hardened criminals in jail. The program will also create a platform where juvenile delinquents are fairly represented in courts irrespective of their race or socio-economic background. If any of them have to be sent to jail, it should be because of the magnitude of their crime and not their race or inability to pay the legal fee required.
How Culture Fits into the Topic
In the United States, the culture of discrimination still exists, despite the campaigns made by the effort of various stakeholders in the country. Minority groups, especially people of color and Hispanics, often find themselves without defense on various platforms. In the criminal justice system, it is common to find cases where justice is denied to an individual primarily because of skin color. It is easier to convince the judge and the jury that an African American male is a murderer than it is when the suspect is white. Leukefeld et al. (2017) explain that there is a misconception that African Americans are drug addicts and violent. Such prejudice often clouds the judgment of people, making it difficult for them to get the justice they deserve.
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The criminal justice system has a mandate of reducing crime rates in society. This goal cannot just be achieved by sending offenders to jail. Zimring, Langer, and Tanenhaus (2015) observe that having a very high number of people in jail is not only a huge burden to the taxpayers but also an avenue through which petty offenders learn to become hardened criminals. As such, it is necessary to have a compromise, especially when handling juvenile delinquents. Some of them are often pushed into crime because of peer pressure. With proper guidance, they can become law-abiding citizens who can take part in the country’s socio-economic growth.
The concept of alternative justice, especially for juveniles, has attracted the attention of many scholars. According to Burfeind and Bartusch (2016), the criminal justice system in the United States is sometimes too harsh when it comes to handling minors. For instance, a juvenile may steal a firearm from home with the aim of bragging to his friends. Such a crime may be overemphasized, especially if the offender is an African American or a member of other minority groups (Leukefeld et al., 2017).
Instead of investigating the issue to understand the reasons why such a child carried the gun to school, law enforcement agencies and the prosecution team may be quick to jump to conclusions, such as the child being a member of a criminal gang. They can easily find ways of justifying the claim. Consequently, this child may be sentenced to several years in prison for making one wrong decision even if no one was harmed in the process (Tanenhaus & Zimring, 2014). Such acts of injustice should be discouraged in society. In the described scenario, the child may be corrected but in a fair manner, away from prison, to ensure that they do not make such mistakes in the future.
In this program, one of the relevant theories considered is the ethics of care. According to Burfeind and Bartusch (2016), the theory holds that moral acts are often centered on interpersonal relationships. The dependence that people have on others means that their actions are largely influenced by society. A juvenile taken to prison for a minor crime is likely to become a dangerous criminal because of the people he or she will interact with (Krohn & Lane, 2015). Having an alternative facility where a child will still feel the pain of punishment, but in a way that he or she does not interact with other criminals, may make it possible for the juvenile to reform.
How the Program Takes Part in the Criminal Justice System
The proposed program will involve bringing together volunteers (mostly lawyers), law enforcement agencies, and court officials in a discussion that focuses on finding an alternative criminal justice system for juvenile offenders convicted of petty crimes in New York. When minors are arrested, the program officer should be notified immediately, and a course of action should be determined. The proposal is to have these minors presented before a judge, if that is unavoidable, within a few hours after their arrest to ensure that they do not spend time in jail. The program officer should find one of the volunteer lawyers ready to work pro bono.
Working with a court official, a decision should be reached, and the offender should then be transferred to the probation officer who will supervise the community work. As a result, working with other volunteers such as religious leaders and local celebrities, the child will be taken through guidance and counseling, which will transform them into responsible citizens. The team will also use the local media to promote responsible behavior among youth in New York.
Ethics and Morals
The program will focus on promoting the ethics and morals of offenders. The need to avoid jail term is meant to ensure that these minors do not interact with people who will have a negative impact on their morals. Through this program, they will understand the importance of embracing ethics and moral behavior in society. Moreover, interacting with religious leaders and successful members of society will also help in promoting moral behavior among these juveniles.
Budget and Staff’s Hierarchy
The team will need to have a budget that outlines sources of income and how the money is spent. The funding for this program will come from charity organizations, the local and state government, and well-wishers. Major areas of expenses include telephone bills, the movement of staff, and a promotional campaign on the local media, purchase, and printing of t-shirts, among other expenses. Table 1 below is a summary of the budget.
Table 1: The Proposed Budget.
|Telephone bills||5,000||Donations from charity organizations, the government, and well-wishers||36,500|
|Movement of staff (volunteers)||11,500|
|Promotional campaigns on local media||6,700|
The team involved in the project will include the director, who is the coordinator, a court official, law enforcement officers, financiers, probation officers, and volunteers, most of whom will be lawyers. Figure 1 below shows the staff hierarchy.
The proposed program will play a significant role in reducing the number of juveniles in various correctional facilities within New York. Studies have found that most of the juveniles who serve sentences are likely to become criminals once they are released from jail. As such, it is prudent to find alternative ways of punishing them in a way that does not involve serving a prison term. The program is also meant to promote fairness in the justice system, especially when it comes to handling minority groups.
Burfeind, J., & Bartusch, D.J. (2016). Juvenile delinquency: An integrated approach (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Krohn, M.D., & Lane, J. (Eds.). (2015). The handbook of juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice. Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
Leukefeld, C.G., Cawood, M., Wiley, T., Robertson, A.A., Fisher, J.H., Arrigona, N., … Donohue, P. (2017). The benefits of community and juvenile justice involvement in organizational research. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 6(1), 112–124.
Ryona, S.B., Earlyb, K.W., & Kosloski, A.E. (2017). Community-based and family-focused alternatives to incarceration: A quasiexperimental evaluation of interventions for delinquent youth. Journal of Criminal Justice 51(1), 59–66.
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Tanenhaus, D.S., & Zimring, F.E. (Eds.). (2014). Choosing the future for American juvenile justice. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Zimring, F.E., Langer, M., & Tanenhaus, D.S. (Eds.). (2015). Juvenile justice in global perspective. New York, NY: New York University Press.