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Juvenile sentencing alternatives may reduce recidivism

People in South Carolina may be interested in the results of a new study recently released by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The analysis conducted by the researchers looked at juvenile recidivism rates in states that are using community-based sentencing alternatives as opposed to long periods of detention and incarceration.

States in which these alternatives are used showed lower juvenile recidivism rates than states with high rates of juvenile incarceration and detention. The study demonstrated that long, out-of-home residential placements for juvenile offenders may do more harm than good in the long run.

The study's authors indicated that they are not saying that all residential care facilities for juvenile offenders are bad. They simply indicated that lower-risk and less serious juvenile offenders may be better benefited by adjudications to community-based programs while remaining at home. They believe that removing juvenile offenders from their communities and homes may harm them by breaking important familial and social bonds. Even when the bonds are not healthy ones, removing a low-risk juvenile offender is not helpful as no work to mend those bonds can be done when they are placed in a residential facility.

The philosophy underpinning the juvenile court system is based in part on a belief that children respond better to rehabilitation and education than to punishment. This study clearly indicates that to be the case, and courts should thus consider community-based sentencing alternatives for less-serious juvenile offenses instead of locking them up in a juvenile detention facility. Those who have been charged with a juvenile offense may benefit by seeking the help of a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel might help by negotiating an agreement to allow the juvenile to remain at home instead of being placed in a facility.

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