According to a Global Youth Justice report, mentoring is the ideal way to rehabilitate justice-involved youth. Mentoring has emerged as a low-cost delinquency prevention and intervention option that capitalizes on the resources of local communities and caring individuals. “Mentoring programs can build proactive tendencies and improve young lives and, eventually, adult productivity in ways that the Juvenile Justice settings leave youth impacted and deterred from guidance,” states the report.
Although 26 states in the United States have developed mentoring programs, there are different pathways to mentoring for each of the juvenile justice services and basic qualifications a justice-involved teen must meet to participate.
Teens in the juvenile justice system can be referred to one of the following services:
- Teen/Youth Court has diversion and mentoring programs which are administered on a local level by law enforcement agencies and probation departments.
- Delinquency Court is commonly associated with juveniles who have committed a crime, offense, and/or violation and a juvenile’s actions are confined to the jurisdiction of the Delinquency Court.
- Dependency Court is associated with foster care, abuse and neglect issues involving youth and youth decisions are monitored and administered by the state. Often youth appear in Dependency and Delinquency Court simultaneously.
- Juvenile Correction is considered a high-security facility for long-term and safe custody of juveniles having committed a felony or multiple misdemeanors with the continuum of services and mentoring referral determined by state statute.
- Juvenile Detention is a secure residential facility providing temporary and safe, usually 72 hours or less, custody of juveniles who have been restricted to an environment with the juvenile services and referrals determined by the jurisdiction/private entity operating the facility.
- Juvenile Probation provides supervision and monitoring to youth under the jurisdiction of the court, and probation officers have the ability and jurisdiction to determine services and supports for the youth and his/her family needs.
Though there are different policies for each of the six services, in each case the teen must want to voluntarily participate in a mentoring program.
There are many different services and facets of the juvenile justice system a youth may fall under depending on their offense and background. However, there are opportunities for mentoring in all circumstances and those options should be reviewed. Multiple obstacles may stand in the way of a teen’s ability to participate in mentoring programs. Among these are disapproving parents, an unwillingness to participate, too deeply involved in incarceration, unsafe environments, or disinterest in the program post-release. But studies show the increased life productivity of youth who are admitted into mentoring programs.
Mentoring programs provide youth with the skills and structure to develop relationships with mentors and probation officers to maintain during sentence or service and post-release for continued life success.
Kat Shannon is a Digital Communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a student at the University of Oregon studying Public Relations, with a minor in Business Administration. She is an Oregon native and a California dreamer.
Updated: November 28 2012