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Reflections on the Juvenile Justice System

Over the past couple months I’ve had the privilege of contributing weekly to Reclaiming Futures Every Day. I’ve learned about a majority of topics pertaining to the juvenile justice system including how genders are treated differently throughout the system, how illegal substances play a role in adolescents’ lives, the importance of attending school regularly and even the prevalence of illegal substances in our nation’s schools.

Above all, I learned just how complex the juvenile justice system is. There seems to be countless different influences impacting children’s futures from their economic status to educational circumstances. And the circumstances leading up to arrests are not the only factors influencing youths’ futures in the juvenile justice system. How adolescents were treated throughout processing and sentencing played significant roles as well.

Providing reliable positive role models is one simple method that contributes to juveniles being successful throughout and after they make it through the system. In addition to creating positive relationships with adults, it’s important to address the basic needs of the children processed in the juvenile justice system because those unmet needs can often lead to larger issues. Providing needed resources can alleviate pressures that lead to kids committing violations that land them in trouble.

However, few problems and solutions are as simple as providing a positive role model. For the millions of kids in the system there are a million different stories. The system cannot function as a one-size fits all strategy.

The good news is that there are states already making dramatic changes as to how they address juveniles in the justice system and these innovative models are seeing good results.

The juvenile justice system has made major strides over the past few decades but I doubt anyone would agree that it's anywhere near perfect. It must be an ever-changing process that constantly evolves in order to always best serve the teens who end up in the system.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to write for Reclaiming Futures this summer and learn about the complexities of the juvenile justice system. While this post will be my last for this blog, as my internship is ending, you can follow me on Twitter at @melboulton.

Melany Boulton is a digital communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in public relations and a minor in business administration.