The goal of incarceration of youths should be rehabilitation. In order to fix a problem we have to define it as clearly as possible. It makes no sense to put a cast on one's leg if it's the arm that's been broken: the interventions have to meet the real and not the assumed needs of the young offenders.
All too often, when juveniles are incarcerated it is just the start of a repeated pattern of committing crimes and then being jailed again. If the assumption is made that criminal behavior is the result of choices, then the solution to breaking the cycle of crime/conviction/prison may be to increase the real choices young people have. To provide them with better choices, the juvenile justice system must consider the factors that contribute to youthful criminal behavior, including: poverty; inadequate education; psychological problems; drug and alcohol abuse; boredom; and lack of more appropriate peers and role models.
Juvenile facilities can set up programs to address these problems, but unless they design programs that relate to the incarcerated youth and don't talk down, patronize or lecture them, it seems likely that the participants will go through the motions when required, but otherwise brush the efforts off as not relevant to them. So the people who design and implement these programs must have a real understanding of the youth with whom they will be working. They must be willing to start at the point where the young person really is and not where they wish he or she was. For instance, they can't just demand on-time behavior if the young person has never shown the behavior in the past. They must be willing to teach all the skills the young person needs, including those they believe the person should have already acquired.
Many youths beginning...