Policy Brief: Rehabilitation
Currently, the level of social disadvantage of the minors remains high throughout the world, as well as in Florida. In particular, one can ascertain the fact of an increase in the amount of violent acts and crimes committed by the young people. Despite the activities aimed at the reduction of the number of incarcerated adolescents with deviant (socially dangerous) behavior are being carried out both on the federal and state levels, a comprehensive and consistent system is yet to be created. One of the priorities of social policy of the state is the increasing role of social institutions in the prevention of socially dangerous activities of minors. The youth that has committed a wrongful act is subject to criminal penalties (namely, the imprisonment), which results in a particular paradox, which must be taken into account during the policymaking. By performing a supposedly humane function, i.e. isolating the delinquent youth from the community to protect it, the state separates him/her from the usual social environment, thus destroying social bonds of this person. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that there is a bias towards the youths of a different skin color, which results in a racial disparity in the juvenile justice system. As a result, the majority of the incarcerated young people are African Americans, which leads to the opinion that such people are more likely to commit a crime. However, it should be noted that a righteous, socialized individual does not commit a crime because of the fear of the potential punishment, but due to the threat it presents to a successful socialization of a person. Moreover, since the crime is related to impaired socialization, the punishment will be effective to the extent when it is able to make up for these shortcomings. Therefore, to ensure successful social adaptation of teenagers, one must rely on the activation of the processes that contribute to the restoration of social adequacy – their social rehabilitation.
Thus, it is clear that the problem of social rehabilitation is among the most pressing issues of juvenile justice not only in Florida, but also the entire country. Therefore, the following policy brief is focused on the reviewing the existing policies of rehabilitation of the incarcerated juveniles and young people in general in the state of Florida, as well as providing solutions for the improvement of the current situation.
In Florida, the activities concerning the rehabilitation of the incarcerated juveniles (detention services) are primarily carried out by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (FDJJ). In particular, the department has provided the educational services for the young people in detention, which are funded by the Florida Department of Education. In addition, the young people involved in the juvenile justice system are provided with medical and mental health services to ensure mental stabilization and avoid recidivism in the future.
Moreover, by cooperating with C. Casey Foundation, the FDJJ had developed and implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 1992. Its primary goal was to provide the incarcerated juveniles with an opportunity to become full-ledged members of the American society. This policy is based on data-driven policies, which were expected to reduce in number of detention placements, as well as increase the overall productivity of the system. In addition, it was meant to demonstrate that the replacement of detention with alternative social programs for low-risk delinquent juveniles is an efficient policy. The JDAI was expected to improve public safety, allow avoiding over-crowding of the detention facilities, and reduce the amount of costs spent on the processes of rehabilitation of the young people. It was also to improve the overall efficiency of the juvenile justice system of Florida, namely by reducing the amount of incarcerated youths in the long-term perspective, and, therefore, provide better outcomes for the delinquent juveniles.
The core strategies of the JDAI include:
- The collaboration and cooperation between juvenile justice entities of Florida, as well as the governmental, community, and private organization, which are involved in the process of policymaking;
- The constant diagnosis of the system in order to define and address any potential issues and problems, as well as assess the effect of the proposed reforms;
- The guidance of the detention decisions on the basis of admission criteria;
- The provision of the new alternatives to detention;
- The elimination of bias towards the other races, as well as the reduction of the level of racial disparity through the provision of a level playing field for such youths;
- The adoption of standards aimed at the improvement of the conditions of confinement of the delinquent juveniles.
It should be noted that the implementation of the JDAI has required the involvement of a wide array of both public and private entities. As a result, the rehabilitation policy of the FDJJ involved the outsourcing of the department’s certain functions to the private organizations, namely the residential centers of the state. The undeniable advantage of such approach is the reduction of costs require for the organization of rehabilitation process, and, therefore, an advantage for taxpayers that partially fund such programs. However, the delegation of powers has also results in an increase in the number of cases of abuse. In particular, the wide array of private organizations involved in carrying out the JDAI results in the lax control from the side of the FDJJ, leading to the situation when the cases of abuse remain completely unnoticed. Such problem is common for many residential centers collaborating with FDJJ, namely Thompson Academy, a private facility for the moderate risk offenders located in Florida’s Broward County. According to Gordon Weekes, a public defender of Broward County, Florida, the conditions in the facility are unsatisfying, which is also claimed by 56 youths sent there in accordance with the JDAI. In particular, the staff of Thompson Academy has been actively using mild drugs, namely marijuana in the workplace. Moreover, the workers provided the juveniles undergoing the course of social rehabilitation with it. The food quality is also rather poor, with the personnel of the facility often using it as a currency to reward the young people for a particular behavior. Another problem that emerges as a result of a lax control from the side of FDJJ is the excessive use of force, which leads both to physical and mental traumas. The issue is exacerbated even further by the fact that the wards’ meetings with defenders were delayed by the facility’s administration, which has ordered them not to mention the wrongdoing within it.
As a result, the outsourcing of the detention services has resulted both in lack of supervision and the culture of rehabilitation. In turn, one cannot expect the young offenders to become full-fledged members of the society in such conditions. Moreover, weak supervision by FDJJ results in the emergence of the inhumane corporate culture in the detention facilities that undermines the entire process of social rehabilitation. As a result, the young people that have received such treatment are likely to become more violent, which is a common reaction of an individual with undeveloped psychics to the abuse and the other negative external factors. In turn, the rate of juvenile crime in Florida will rise, having a negative impact not only on the victims of the criminals, but also the society as a whole, namely its younger members. In particular, it is a common knowledge that juveniles are much more perceptive than adults, i.e. they are equally open both to positive and negative influence. Thus, by observing the delinquent behavior of their peers, they may also adopt it, becoming potential criminals.
Therefore, it is clear that the current policy of social rehabilitation (JDAI) that is conducted by the FDJJ is far from being perfect. Despite the constant diagnosis of the system in order to define and address any potential issues and problems being one of the core strategies of the JDAI, it seems that it is not implemented efficiently, which disrupts the work of the entire juvenile justice system of Florida and may lead to the abovementioned outcomes. Therefore, there is a need for the reorganization of the work of the system in this area, namely by implementing the new social rehabilitation policy.
In order to improve the current situation, it is possible to propose several policy options. The first of them is a major revision of the existing JDAI system. In particular, it will involve the following reforms:
- The establishment of strict control over the private facilities engaged in the rehabilitation process, either by FDJJ or the abovementioned governmental and community organizations;
- The introduction of the system of accreditation of the private facilities to ensure the conditions within them meet the FDJJ standards;
- The continuous struggle against the bias towards the other races, as well as the reduction of the level of racial disparity in the Florida’s system of juvenile justice through the involvement of the representatives of racial minorities (no less than 20%) in the rehabilitation process.
In addition, the new social rehabilitation policy will be focused on the partial replacement of detention with the alternative activities. Moreover, the conditions, in which the process of social rehabilitation is carried out, clearly indicate the need for the creation of a special social and pedagogical system that would contribute to solving of its complex and urgent problems. At the same time, it is clear that no methods and technologies, even the richest and most innovative, can provide the constant improvement of such process because its meaning is not a simple change of the tools of influence on the person, but a new understanding of the essence of human personality as a self-developing system. Thus, the interaction must be aligned with the youth – his/her individual experiences, values, motivations, needs, tastes, aptitudes, and moral principles. The juvenile must be accepted as he/she is, and raised to the human values and culture together with the specialist he/she works with.
Another option is to refuse from the outsourcing completely, leaving the activities on social rehabilitation in the hands of the FDJJ. In this case, governmental, community, and especially private organizations will mostly play a supportive role in the policymaking process. All the stages of rehabilitation will be under the direct control of the FDJJ, without the involvement of any intermediaries. At the same time, the department will continue its work in accordance with the other abovementioned core strategies of the JDAI, as well as moving out to the described humanistic approach to the youths.
The provided policy options are a solution of the problem of juvenile rehabilitation in Florida. However, since their simultaneous implementation will result in a significant strain on the budget of a state (which was the primary reason for outsourcing of the certain activities in this field to the private organizations, and, therefore, the mentioned negative consequences), there is a need to analyze and assess them to make the most efficient and feasible choice.
By taking into account the abovementioned events, one may assume that it is required to refuse from outsourcing, with FDJJ having a full control and supervision over the process of social rehabilitation of the delinquent juveniles. On the one hand, such option provides the following advantages:
- The possession of complete control over the process of social rehabilitation, which eliminates the chances of the occurrence of the abovementioned negative events (namely those that took place in Thompson Academy);
- The possibility of the most efficient implementation of the developed programs and initiatives due to the fact that the coordination of such processes is to be carried out on the scale of a single organization;
- The absence of the need for supervision of the third-party organizations will result in the reduction of the workload on the staff of the FDJJ that is engaged in these activities.
At the same time, its following disadvantages are likely to outweigh the abovementioned benefits:
- The absence of the possibility to outsource certain activities will result in an increased workload within the FDJJ in general;
- Without the reliance on the third-party support, the costs of all the activities conducted by the FDJJ, including the social rehabilitation of the incarcerated juveniles, will increase significantly;
- The supportive role of the governmental, community and private organizations will mean the lesser degree of their involvement in the rehabilitation process, which may reduce its efficiency.
On the other hand, the proposed option of the revision of the existing JDAI has the following advantages:
- It is based on the model that has been implemented and developed since 1992, i.e. it is familiar to the staff and the partners of the FDJJ, and, therefore, is much more cost-saving than the previous option;
- The proposed changes and reforms are not of an extreme nature, Therefore, their implementation is unlikely to meet the opposition of the FDJJ staff, as well as its partners and the third-party organizations;
- The humanistic, individual approach to the youths may give much better results than the rigid and directive one;
- The involvement of the representatives of racial minorities (no less than 20%) in the rehabilitation process may serve as a powerful message both to the society and delinquent youths, allowing successfully combating the bias towards the people of the different skin color.
The disadvantages of this policy option are mostly of a subjective nature and are as following:
- It will still be impossible to guarantee that the private organizations will be performing their duties conscientiously;
- The initiative aimed at an increase of the number of the representatives of the other races being involved in the social rehabilitation process may lead to the conflict in the workplace;
- Ensuring the transparency of the accreditation procedures may be difficult due to the possibility of corruption, namely bribing.
Thus, it can be seen that the negative effects from the implementation of the policy option that is focused on the JDAI revision are mostly potential, i.e. they may ether occur or not. At the same time, the refusal from the outsourcing will result in an increased workload and costs, which may lead to a strain on the state budget. Therefore, it is clear that the revision of the existing social rehabilitation policy is the most feasible choice out of the proposed options.
Maladjustment and deviant behavior of the young people, regardless of its form, always represents a danger to the society due to its destabilization and is always defined as a social problem. The policy brief suggests that the delinquent juveniles require, above everything else, re-socialization that is primarily associated with the reorientation of values, the formation mechanism of social and positive goal setting, working out in the person of strong stereotypes socially positive behavior, the formation of positive self-esteem. Therefore, it is important that the policy of social rehabilitation that is conducted by the FDJJ remains efficient.
In order to improve the efficiency of this process, it is necessary to create a special environment that can provide the juveniles with psychological and pedagogical support. In turn, such initiative will result in a positive impact on the existing personal strain; it will also help to ensure a positive experience and form the positive social behaviors. The policy brief suggests that juveniles possess a large potential for such activities, which are meant to replace the detention. By being engaged in them, the youths will express themselves in positive social activities, aiming to receive social approval, change the attitude of the society towards them, and correct their personal values and moral guidance of their behavior. In turn, they provide an opportunity for a gradual change in self-esteem, the harmonization of the personal needs of the different levels, the development of moral consciousness, and the formation of an adequate and balanced self-esteem. By acquiring more proactive stance in the course of these activities and living in a situation of personal responsibility, the juvenile gets a chance to gradually acquire psychological comfort that is based on the socially approved. Most importantly, all the personal changes that are associated with the re-socialization and rehabilitation do not take place forcefully, but rather in the process of self-construction and self-realization of an individual, which ensures their high efficiency.
Thus, the social rehabilitation of juveniles with deviant behavior is possible in case of the provision of a special education that takes into account social, pedagogical and psychological principles. Of course, in order to carry out such initiative, it is critical to establish the collaboration and cooperation between the FDJJ and the governmental, community, and private organizations, which justifies the selection of policy option that is aimed at the revision of the JDAI and the maintenance of the existing ties with the community.
In order to ensure the success of the selected option of juvenile justice policy, it is possible to provide a set of recommendations for its implementation. In particular, in case of the mentioned accreditation, it is feasible to define the four levels of the rehabilitation facilities. The criteria for determining the level of their compliance must be based on a variety of factors, from the supply and delivery of services to the financial and economic conditions and social protection of personnel. The level is to be assigned in accordance with lowest of the indicators. For example, even in case all the indicators of the facility are on the fourth level and the organization of the social protection of the staff is only on the second, it will receive an accreditation as a second-level organization. Thus, the accreditation will serve as a certificate of quality. In order to comply with the new requirements, the rehabilitation facilities will need to provide the youths with the sufficient conditions: accommodation, solving of their domestic and social issues, education, and so on. Moreover, for the administration, the accreditation will be a stimulus for the better performance: the highest level of accreditation means a pay increase.
As for the elimination of racial disparity, it is possible to provide the following recommendations. First of all, the FDJJ should collaborate with the communities with the high numbers of the previously incarcerated members (not the recidivists) in order to provide assistance in the young peoples’ rehabilitation and reintegration in the society by using a real-life experience as a basis. Moreover, the department must interact with the representatives of a law enforcement system of Florida on the problems of race and racial disparity, namely by organizing cross-system training courses. Finally, it is important to ensure racial diversity not only of the personnel of the rehabilitation facilities, but of the FDJJ as well.
Finally, the entire process of social rehabilitation of the delinquent juveniles must be guided by the following principle: the youths involved in the juvenile justice system are no guilty people but the ones that need help. In other words, each of them must be treated as a patient rather than an outcast – such attitude towards them shows they are still members of the society and are closely tied to it rather than outsiders that have no responsibility for their actions.
By following the provided recommendations, the FDJJ will be able to complete the revision of the JDAI rather painlessly, thus maintaining a sustainable level of quality of the provided services (with the potential of its improvement in the future), as well as avoiding the loss of credibility both for the governmental structures and the community.