Sometimes, you hear people (even parents) say that juvenile offenders need to suffer the consequences of their actions and be left to sit in jail for a while so that they learn a few “hard lessons.”
This is usually expressed in a well-meaning way, with the idea that jail may “wake them up” to the troubled path they’re on and shake the youthful offender up enough that they stick to the straight and narrow moving forward.
Except it doesn’t actually work that way. Study after study has repeatedly shown that children are done a huge disservice when they’re given jail time for juvenile offenses. Rather than “straightening them out,” it’s actually likely to derail their life permanently.
How does sitting in juvenile detention harm a child?
Basically, being put in juvenile detention or any type of jail setting automatically rips the child out of their familiar surroundings and strips them of the support circle they have with their parents, siblings, extended family members, school officials, friends and their community.
That alone can send a child spiraling into depression. In fact, one out of every three juveniles diagnosed with depression developed the disorder only after being incarcerated.
Even worse, children who are held in juvenile detention are twice as likely to re-offend than children who are not held in detention. That suggests that merely being arrested and charged is enough of a shock to the system to get many juveniles to rethink their behavior, while detention merely gives them new ideas or a powerful sense of resentment that leads to further criminal activity.
In addition, juveniles who serve time in detention are denied many education opportunities. The classroom instruction is minimal, special education services (which may be badly needed) are virtually nonexistent, and 60% of the kids who are detained end up either not returning to school at all or dropping out within a few months.
If your child is accused of a crime, don’t let your frustration with the situation lead you to a bad decision that could affect your child’s entire life. Find out what it takes to defend their interests and their future.