Human civilization has from ancient times acknowledged the fact that children are the future of the present civilization. Our modern era also believes in these ideals and this being the case, our society has always strived to ensure that children and the youth are given the best opportunity to excel. However, despite all the good intentions of society, there are still several children and youth who continue to be on the wrong side of the law. Cole and Smith (2006) note that this increase in juvenile deliquescence is a result of social, economic, and other factors prevalent in this era. The policymakers have taken care to ensure that these troubled children are not left behind in the quest for a brighter future for all the children. Measures have been taken to ensure that the troubled children who are charged with offenses are afforded a chance to rectify their mistakes and become respectable citizens through rehabilitation programs. This has been through the implementation of juvenile justice systems which have been characterized by their correctional as opposed to punishment role.
Despite the presence of a functional juvenile justice system in the country, there has been a marked increase in crime rates among children and youths. As a result of these rising rates of crime amongst youths, policymakers and other concerned parties have pushed for the implementation of other alternatives that may help reduce recidivism among the youth and other juvenile delinquents. This is a move that is hailed by some as being the best manner to reduce juvenile crimes and therefore safeguard society’s peace. This proposal has gained prominence due to the fact that the juvenile justice system has proved to be ineffective and inefficient in rehabilitating juvenile delinquents.
In this regard, this study shall delve into the various alternatives that have been in use in various communities. The main focus shall be on Residential Treatment Programs which have been instrumental in providing rehabilitative assistance where juvenile correctional facilities have failed. The methods used to administer service shall be analyzed. In addition, the level of efficiency or lack thereof in these programs shall also be discussed. A proposal regarding who should run such programs shall also be recommended.
An overview of the Residential Treatment centers
Up to date, there is no conclusive definition of Residential Treatment Program (RTC). However, various scholars such as Merlo & Benekos (2003) assert that RTC can best be described by the services they offer. As such, Merlo & Benekos (2003) contend that RTCs are establishments that seek to offer therapeutic services to troubled adolescents exhibiting various antisocial behaviors. The mission shared by most of these centers is “the promotion of healthy behaviors and relationships through prevention and treatment of at-risk individuals and families (Merlo & Benekos 2003 p.19).” To further explain this statement, Merlo & Benekos (2003) reiterate that RTCs have in the recent past proven to be the last resort alternative for parents having teens with dysfunctional tendencies.
Despite the viability of the centers, many opponents have criticized the notion citing that they are not well recognized and institutionalized to deal with troubled youths. In addition, Merlo & Benekos (2003) asserts that most parents do not utilize this alternative due to a lack of adequate information about their services. As such, it would be a worthwhile endeavor to explore the services offered by RTCs and their efficiency in regard to service delivery.
Services offered by RTCs
Residential Treatment Centers are predisposed to have the best interest of the children or youths in consideration and offer some form of defense and rehabilitation for the troubled children. As such, the underlying goal of these centers is to guide the young offender towards life as a responsible and law-abiding adult (Sim & Preston, 2006). By description, RTCs are facilities similar to boarding schools where youths suffering from different social, emotional, and psychological problems are enrolled for specialized treatment and care. However, there is a great difference between traditional boarding schools and RTCs. For example, while the boarding schools offer a core curriculum system of learning, RTCs offer personalized psychiatric and psychological treatments for troubled children depending on their disabilities.
Studies indicate that group therapy is the single most effective intervention for various disorders and that with proper implementation; it can negate the need to be involved in other forms of interventions (Eliany and Rush, 1992). This being the case, management of juvenile delinquency and disabilities by use of group therapy is observably the most cost-effective means of treatment. The procedures used in normal practice include talk therapy, hypnosis, and non-stimulant medication. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of individuals using group therapy as a mode of treatment exhibit improvement in drug abuse symptoms as well as behavioral disorders. However, this treatment can only be effective if there is a follow-up program and sponsors to reduce juvenile recidivism.
Models used for service delivery
It should be noted that different individuals suffer from different disorders. As such, RTCs often implement various treatment models to suit specific disorders. The most common models include but are not limited to: psychological, cognitive, speech, and psychiatric therapy. As Quinn, Rutherford & Leone (2005) state, there is an obvious overrepresentation of children with various disorders in our communities. As such, theories have emerged to try and explain this prevalence of troubled children in society. These theories include; School failure, susceptibility, differential treatment, and metacognitive deficits (Fink, 1990; Leone & Meisel, 1997; Quinn, Rutherford & Leone, 2005). The school failure theory advances that children who suffer from one disability or the other are more predisposed to fail in school. This failure results in a negative self-perception being exhibited by the individual and this culminates in delinquency behavior.
The susceptibility theory on the other hand suggests that as a result of the various disorders that are inherent in the disabled person, he/she is unfavorably predisposed to antisocial behavior. The differential treatment holds that as a result of their disorders, the disabled juveniles are accorded different treatment to the other delinquent youths despite having engaged in similar misdeeds. Mental disorders are prevalent among youths in our community, however, studies reveal that only a small proportion of this group receive psychiatric treatment. Research by Gus (2005) on the health issues for adolescents in the Justice System pointed to a significant lack of Mental Health Resources and services in juvenile correctional facilities. Children in the juvenile justice system with emotional and behavioral disorders were largely neglected. Findings indicated that mental disorders among juvenile delinquents were substantially higher than among youth in the general population. As such, RTCs strive to cover this deficiency and use these theories to determine the most appropriate model to use for each individual.
Advantages and disadvantages of RTCs
The main advantage of enrolling troubled juveniles in RTCs is that these organizations, offer specialized treatment for each patient. This not only makes them more effective than juvenile correction facilities, but it also enables the juveniles to interact with society and change at their pace. Juvenile correction facilities are often crowded and in most cases, the individual needs of the juveniles are rarely addressed. As such, the chances of getting positive results are minimal. In addition, juvenile correction facilities are often associated with criminals. As such, the juveniles in these systems view it as a punishment for wrongs done. On the other hand, RTCs are viewed as intervention-based institutions seeking to understand the problems of the juveniles and address them accordingly. These maternal perceptions make them more effective than their counterparts.
However, RTCs are also subjected to various challenges that affect their level of efficiency. For example, the rising rate of violent juvenile crimes is the primary cause of the greater number of juvenile transfers to criminal courts that have been observed in the previous decades. A report by Yeckel (1997) indicated that between 1989 and 1993, juvenile waivers had increased by 41% as a result of a surge in violent crime and a marked increase in the number of weapons used in crime by juveniles. This clearly pointed out the failure of the juvenile system to perform one of its core functions: deterrence. Arguably the most important role played by the criminal justice system is deterrence. This is because the most desirable function of punishments should be to deter would-be wrongdoers thus leading to a harmonic society. In an ideal environment, punishments should never have to be executed but their mere presence should cause all to abide by the rules and regulations in place therefore peacefully coexist.
Gaines and Miller (2006) contend that the lack of punishment in RTCs has greatly contributed to their failure in recording a high success rate of intervention. In most cases, RTCs often treat the disease instead of the symptoms. What this means is that changing the behavior or teaching and individual to cope is only half the battle. This is due to the fact that society plays a central role in behavioral change. Therefore, when an individual is released back to the society that put him/her in a bad situation, chances are high that recidivism will prevail.
In addition, poor human and financial resource management contributes to the lack of efficiency in most RTCs. As Merlo & Benekos (2003) contend, most of these centers do not meet the standards required to operate such facilities. In addition, most of the services offered are administered by high-end professions. They are very expensive. As such, there have been documented roofs in various states citing malpractices in RTCs due to inadequate resources and unskilled personnel.
Financing of RTCs
As mentioned earlier, the running process of these centers requires a lot of capital if they are to provide quality services. As such, the majority of them are run by NGOs and other government institutions. However, complaints of abuse and misappropriation of funds have been significantly high in these centers. In addition, the delivery of quality service has also been evident in centers using these forms of management. This can be attributed to the fact that such financiers often look for ways to cut costs. As such, overcrowding these centers and having fewer employees than required often characterize these centers.
These bleak realities, therefore, suggest that RTC centers should be run by private owners seeking to make some profit out of the ordeal. This recommendation is mainly due to the fact that profits are equals to quality service when it comes to such sensitive services. As such, using profit as a motivator, RTCs can restore the lost glory and thrive in the provision of service for troubled youths.
This study has clearly demonstrated that there are other alternatives that can be offered to juveniles during their rehabilitative endeavors. RTCs present one such alternative and if properly managed, they can be an answer to juvenile delinquencies and disorders even in years to come.
Cole, G. F. & Smith, C. E. (2006). The American System of Criminal Justice. New York: Cengage Learning.
Eliany, M. & Rush, B. (1992) How effective are alcohol and other drug prevention and treatment programs? Ottawa: Health and Welfare Canada.
Gaines, L., & Miller, R. (2006). Criminal Justice in Action. New York: Cengage Learning.
Gus, M. (2005) Juvenile Justice: Process and Systems. California: Sage.
Merlo, V. A. & Benekos, J. P. (2003). Defining Juvenile Justice in the 21st Century. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1(3), 276 – 288.
Quinn, M. M., Rutherford, B. R. and Leone, E. P. (2005). youths with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. New York: Cengage Learning.
Sims, B., & Preston, P. (2006). Handbook of Juvenile Justice: Theory and Practice. New Jersey: CRC Press.
Yeckel, C.J. (1997). Violent Juvenile Offenders: Rethinking Federal Intervention in Juvenile Justice. Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law, 51, 331.