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Public Safety

An article published by the Baltimore Sun earlier this year highlights how locking young people up will not result in less crime. New legislation and initiatives are being created in the hopes of addressing crime and violence in Baltimore. The crime rates among youth are due to many of them living in poverty conditions and having experienced trauma. These factors are hard ones to deal with when it comes to addressing crime rates and violence. A program was created named the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success that successfully looks at coordinating with city and community partners to address youth crime. The office launched BmoreLive to provide meaningful and entertaining programming for youth to enhance public safety and keep them occupied off the streets.

This programming helped keep crime rates down in juveniles and has shown to be effective. With identifying gaps in services and partnering with community actors, the BmoreLive is working to reduce youth crime and promoting better youth development. A punitive system is not helpful when fighting against crime in youth. Incarcerating youth does not teach them right from wrong when it comes to crime and does reduce their mentality surrounding the issue. When a child is incarcerated at a young age, it is very likely that they will commit another crime and end up in prison as an adult. Further, locking children up can lead to suffrage from trauma sustained in prison or mental health issues.

Because of these issues surrounding young incarceration, policy-makers are investing in more community-based services and programs that work on reducing incarceration and recidivism in youth populations. Putting juveniles behind bars does not solve public safety issues and does not result in less crime. Prevention efforts and justice reform for youth is necessary when it comes to keeping them occupied and committing less crime.  

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Justice Reform

With criminal justice reform, comes discussions on focusing towards better serving children and teens on the autism spectrum who have become entangled in the juvenile justice system. Washington State University posted an article about how youth on the spectrum need more access to mental health support and programs. This would allow for them to have counseling and supporters that can advocate for their needs in the system.

A juvenile probation counselor in Washington’s Cowlitz County thinks more training is necessary for police and corrections officers to help them recognize signs of autism, as many do not realize the wide variety of signs that people can exhibit. According to the CDC data from 2016, 1 in 54 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, making this a very real and relevant circumstance that officers or court officials will come into contact with a child suffering from autism.

With this comes the approach of transitioning from a punitive system to a more rehabilitative one to help youth and reduce recidivism. Effort must be put into creating more resources and support for children suffering from autism that are intertwined with the law. By taking a more rehabilitative approach, the juvenile justice system can improve recidivism rates and keep children out of prison. Individuals need to be more cognizant and supportive that children who suffer from autism do not necessarily realize right from wrong. Even though they may require more mental health support, they are children who wish to have a normal life and are as teachable as other children not suffering from autism.

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Recidivism

People might think convicted felons solely deserve retribution, but it has been proven ineffective in avoiding recidivism. Retribution is defined as punishment being inflicted on someone for a wrong or criminal act, whereas rehabilitation is the action of restoring someone to a healthy or normal life through training and therapy. Inmates have lost their freedom and are serving time as their punishment, however, rehabilitation in and after prison is the key to helping prisoners avoid repeating offenses once released back into society. 

In the article How Norway Turns Criminals into Good Neighbours, Norway realizes that a punitive “lock-up” approach does not effectively change the behavior of inmates and by moving away from this approach, they are sharply cutting reoffending rates. Instead of guards working to establish a “masculine, macho culture with a focus on guarding and security”, they can now focus on rehabilitation and interacting with inmates as if they are not convicted felons, serving as role models, coaches and mentors. Everyday inmates participate in activities alongside guards like yoga and eating meals, encouraging socialization. With this rehabilitative and social approach, the prison can feel more like home and less like an entrapment they are stuck in. This method has proven to be effective, reducing recidivism rates to only 20% after two years in Norway, compared to 50% in the UK. 

These methods do come with a higher cost to maintain the prison. A place at Halden Prison costs about £98,000 per year compared to an annual cost of a prison in England being around £40,000 to £60,000. However, the drastic reduced recidivism rates correlates to improvement in inmates overall health, mental stability and calmness. It is proving to be worth the extra spending, not to mention the cost savings of avoiding re-incarceration. Norway has a policy where no inmates are sentenced for life. Governor of Halden Prison, Are Hoidal, says they are essentially “releasing your neighbor” and “if we treat inmates like animals in prison, then we will release animals on to your street.” They have established that prisoners cannot be treated poorly to then be expected to act orderly and civil once they are released. The prison provides the inmates with positive opportunities and learning experiences to help rehabilitate them, no matter the crime they have committed. 

It is important to continue to understand that the punitive approach is ineffective compared to rehabilitative methods in prison, probation and parole systems. TRACKtech, LLC recognizes the importance of rehabilitation as the solution to reducing recidivism and helping inmates adjust to life after prison. TRACKtech provides resources and support to keep program members on track and continuing to adjust more smoothly into society. 

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