Social programs only part of juvenile justice solution

August 20, 2010

I found Sonia Kumar's letter ("Improving Juvenile Justice," Readers Respond, Aug. 18) to be very interesting, but very one-sided in believing that more programs will improve a juvenile's situation. In part this is true, but I believe that a major part of the problem is the lack of facilities, as there are those children that do need to be removed from society, to protect other children and society.

Also, the court must not only look at the individual youth on a particular offense, but the total situation and how their behavior fits into the total picture. It isn't fair to be lightheartedly lenient when the entire family is affected. I agree, the way any authority handles things is abysmal and results in a total failure and graduation to the adult system.

First, with the preponderance of guidelines, sometimes conflicting, authorities have no way dealing with out-of-control juveniles, which makes them both conflicted and frustrated, oftentimes taking it out on the juvenile's parents[s]. Juveniles are not dealt with their transgressions in a timely fashion, which not only racks up the offenses, it results in an increasingly out of control youth. At times, dangerous offenders feel that they can get away anything they want to. Often, serious offenses are allowed to rack up without either judgment or aid for the child.

Another facet that would improve juvenile justice is more diligence in investigating those who aid the juvenile in their activities, such as adults who provide transportation and housing so they can run away; or adults who supply drugs. If police are able to put more of those people behind bars, it will be harder for the offenders to do the activities that get them in trouble in the first place.

Regardless, most juveniles deserve to be punished or detained for what they have done. It's part of the punishment/rewards that guide most of our lives and thought processes. In my experience as both a father and with friends who worked at juvenile services, I realize that one can only point offenders in the right direction for their future, but it is the individual juvenile who decides enough is enough and strives for a higher quality of life. That is where the programs of development come into play. Every part of the system, must be dedicated to realistically changing that individual's mindset.

In total, whether police, the government responsible for handling offenders or private organizations, the area of juvenile care (outside the family) is irresponsibly underfunded and thought out, with no foresight for either community safety or the juvenile's best interest, as neither seem to be cared about.

Michael W. Kohlman, Baltimore

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