Incarceration is Only One Piece of a Rational, Effective Juvenile Justice System

by Judge George Timberlake, Retired

To read this article on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website, click here.

A visitor from another planet – or even another country – who reviewed the juvenile justice system in most states, might conclude that we are committed to continuing crime through our addiction to incarceration.

The overwhelming lessons of science and experience should be enough to convince policymakers to use detention, jail or prison as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. Instead, most states perpetuate large punitive institutions at great cost even though best practices demonstrate that local community-based, family-involved treatment is more effective at reducing juvenile crime. Imprisonment fails as a strategy to rehabilitate because it seldom changes behavior except to worsen it.