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Juvenile justice systems at times require young offenders to undergo psychological evaluation. Most young offenders exhibit one form of psychological disorder or another. These disorders range from growing up in dysfunctional families, drug abuse to mental disorder. Evaluation requirement arises out of the need for the justices system to assign the proper collective rehabilitation measures. If disorders are diagnosed, the juvenile court system is mandated to recommend psychological treatment for the juvenile offenders found to be suffering from any given psychological order (Feldstein & Ginsburg, 2006). The treatments can range from substance abuse rehabilitation, psychological treatment to education assistance. The recommendation depends on the disorder diagnosed.
The treatment for the diagnosed disorders can be provided by state institutions. Alternatively, the court can order either the parents or right agencies to provide the necessary help required for complete rehabilitation of the young offender. This means that psychological evaluation of the offenders provides the court system with invaluable information (Naar-King & Suarez, 2011). From the information provided, the courts system is enabled to recommend the proper rehabilitative measures which the courts can incorporate in their sentencing. Therefore, in addition to whatever sentence the court assigns to the offenders, rehabilitative measures are included.
All juvenile offenders do not undergo psychologically review. Psychological review is requested by either the juveniles’ defense or the prosecutor. Defense attorneys’ also can have one undertaken as part of their defense strategy and use the review report to defend the juvenile. The interest in juveniles’ psychological state rose after there was an increment in youth related violent crimes in the 1990s (Hong, Robert, Harriman, & Mina, 2010). Studies were carried out to provide the corrective measure to be undertaken. The studies were also for the purpose of identifying the influential factors that trigger juvenile violence (Feldstein & Ginsburg, 2006). Most juvenile offenders were found to have psychological problems. This means that sentencing young offenders to juvenile rehabilitation centers or putting them on probation, without addressing their psychological issues, would do more harm than good. In order to ensure that proper rehabilitative measures are undertaken, studies on the effectiveness of juvenile rehabilitative centers have been carried out.
Lack of proper psychological treatment in these centers was among the issues found to curtail the effectiveness of the systems (Feldstein & Ginsburg, 2006). This increased the likely hood of young offenders failing to get proper rehabilitation. Those sentenced to serve incarnation period in these centers without the benefit of psychological evaluation were, therefore, likely to serve their time without their psychological problems being diagnosed.
The main goal of sending offenders to serve sentences in rehabilitative centers or jail is to ensure that their offending behaviors are corrected. However, common sense dictates that one cannot treat an ailment without being aware of its existence. Sending young offenders to rehabilitative centers without the benefit of knowing their problems is not much of a rehabilitative measure either. It is on this basis that the importance of undertaking psychological test on young offenders became clear. Juvenile correctional centers were also found to be inadequate in the provision of care for mental health problems (Feldstein & Ginsburg, 2006).
In their study Feldstein & Ginsburg (2006), found out that most juvenile correctional centers had problems diagnosing psychological disorders. This means that a young offender with undiagnosed psychological disorders is likely to undergo his or her sentence without the psychological disorder being treated.
Most of the psychological disorders prevalent among young offenders include substance abuse and mental illness. In a system where such issues are not properly addressed, the problem is likely to be compounded rather than being resolved. Feldstein & Ginsburg (2006) in their article recommends intervention so that such problems can be recognized and addressed instead of being swept under the carpet. This way, in their view, young offenders can be fully rehabilitated and emerge as better adults and citizens. This is better as opposed to serving their sentences only to commit more crimes after being released. Such a scenario would beat the purpose of sentencing them to rehabilitative centers in the first place. For this reason, proper evaluation of youthful offenders should be undertaken to ensure that those sent to these centers achieve the goals that these centers have been established to meet.
Their study also found gender disparity in young offenders. Young females, according to them, are the minorities in the juvenile justices system. Additionally, psychological disorders are less prevalent among the female offenders. They noted that among young females there was a higher likelihood of them acquiring psychological issues once they were put into the juvenile justices system as opposed to having issues before entering the system. For this reason, the system should be improved to ensure that those who undertake rehabilitative measures do not leave the system worse off than they were when taken into it.
The juvenile system and it challenges has always been subjected to heated debates, with protagonists arguing that it does more harm than good. Such arguments largely stem from the fact that the system is perceived to be inadequate in addressing issues of psychological disorders (Naar-King & Suarez, 2011). This coupled with the likelihood of young offenders leaving the system more hardened than they were when being sentenced gives some weight to their view. Correctional facilities are intended to make better adults and citizens out of the youths who commit crimes. They are taken away from the society for given periods of time to ensure that their do not repeat their offences (Benedek, Ash, & Scott, 2010).
Sentences are also handed out to ensure that they undergo the proper corrective measures that would help them turn away from crimes. This reduces likelihood of young offenders repeating their criminal activities and turns them into productive law abiding citizens. As such, the system should then be capable of addressing the root causes that drive the youth to committing criminal offences. Additionally, the system should be able to make recommendations on how to address the problems of young people engaging in crime, so that crimes committed by the youth can be reduced. Such a crucial task can not be achieved within a system that is unable to diagnose psychological issues that influence criminal activities among the youth (Benedek, Ash, & Scott, 2010). For this reason, a proper diagnostic evaluation mechanism should be in place. This is to ensure that youth offenders who enter into the juvenile justices system are not sent into rehabilitation centers to be hardened rather than rehabilitated. We should note, however, that juvenile correctional centers are a total failure. Some offenders do get rehabilitated on serving their terms.
Studies have shown that for adolescents to do develop into law abiding productive adults, their psychological well being is crucial. This is especially so for those who commit violent crimes in their youth. In their study, countries such as USA have a significant number of young adults being sentences to serve jail terms in adult correctional facilities. Their crimes are perceived to be too serious to be handled through the juvenile correctional facilities. This is sending the wrong message to the society on the capabilities of the juvenile correctional centers which are already in doubts. The essence of evaluating young offenders then becomes remarkably clear. It is helpful to the young offenders whose psychological issues if found would be addressed. It also can provide the juvenile justices system with a yard stick to measure their effectiveness. Thus, it is possible to evaluate the improvements that a young offender acquires within the system, when his psychological state prior to entering the system is known.
The risk factors that have been indentified to contribute to Adolescent Violence include; upbringing dysfunctional family setting. This is whereby children are brought up in broken down families that are incapable of providing them with proper structured lives. In such settings, adolescents are likely to be exposed to violence, prostitution, drugs and other criminal activities from a young age .They, in turn, grow up perceiving such vices to be part of life, and are, therefore, likely to get involved in criminal activities.
In order to turn around such adolescents, an appropriate, structured life setting is required. The question that arises is on the capability of juvenile correction facility having the capability of addressing such need. This is where psychological evaluations can help the court system administer appropriate sentences. This can be done either through allocation to appropriate agencies to provide the right guidance or removing such adolescents from inappropriate home settings. Family setting thus has been identified as one of the risk factors that can determine violent and antisocial behavior among the adolescent. Adults who persistently commit crimes can have the root of their offending behaviors traced to their childhood. Most being committing offences in their adolescence and this behavior persist and often escalate in their adulthood. With such proven facts, it is possible to prevent such individuals from commuting future crimes if the root causes are addressed in their adolescence (Barlow, 2008). This can only happen if they are properly diagnosed and curative measures put in motion.
Other factors that have been recognized as having the capability of turning children into violent and antisocial individuals include cognitive defects, attention problems and hyperactivity. Cognitive deficits in childhood stages can lead to violent offences in adolescent stages (Hong, Robert, Narriman, & Mina, 2010). This is because such children grow up without the benefits of realizing that their behaviors are not appropriate in the society. Hyperactivity in childhood, as well as attention problems in childhood, is also exposed to violence, and antisocial behavior causative risky factors. Such issues if not addressed can lead to violent and antisocial behaviors in young adults. Perhaps one of the most influential risky factors is peer pressure. Youths join gangs and commit antisocial acts, “to be cool”.
In their struggle to be accepted by their peers adolescent are known to commit violent acts to impress their peers (Hong, Robert, Narriman, & Mina, 2010). Most of gang activities are normally crimes against the society they range from vandalism, drug running, murder, stealing to rape. All these activities are punishable by law whether committed by the youth or adults. Peer pressure is also one of the influential factors that lead the youth into substance abuse. Since drugs are expensive the only way of feeding their habits once they get addicted is by stealing, prostitution, drug trafficking or even murder (Naar-King & Suarez, 2011). A number of violent acts among the youth result in the process of committing other crimes.
Environmental influences can also put the young at risk of becoming antisocial and violent human beings. Violent neighborhoods where gang activity is a norm are known to influence youths into joining criminal activities. Regions where there are wars can also turn youths into violent individuals. This is because adolescent youths can be forced into joining fighting armies and militia. Institutions can be sources of antisocial behaviors. Juvenile correctional facilities, foster homes and schools, are among the social institutions where teens are likely to be exposed to violence and abuses. Children at risks of such exposures can turn into violent and antisocial youths (Benedek, Ash, & Scott, 2010). Abuses and violence such as hazing or harassment can, therefore, be determining factors of violent and antisocial behaviors.
Among the controversial factors that arise where behavior is concerned, in adults or youths is the biological factors. There are those who believe that behavior is predetermined an individual’s genetic makeup or nurture. Others believe that nature is responsible for an individual’s behavior. It is a proven fact that an up bring setting can heavily influence their behavior patterns. As earlier noted, the environmental influences can also put the young at risk of becoming antisocial and violent human beings (Hong, Robert, Harriman, & Mina, 2010). From violent neighborhoods to regions where there are wars, the youths are often at risk of either being on the receiving end of violence or being the ones committing the violent acts. Such environments are recipes for individuals turning to young offenders. No one was born into a gang it is when individuals grow up that the make such choices and end up committing crimes. However, what cannot be denied is that people have no choices in circumstances that surround their birth or up bring.
There is gender disparity in committing crimes as well as the roles that psychological disorders play to influence crime as earlier noted. Females, according to one study, commit fewer crimes and female offenders have less psychological issues. In regards to this issue, research is limited. Therefore, further studies should be undertaken to clarify the issue.
It is clear that psychological factors are influential factors in determining youthful behavior. It should, therefore, be a requirement for young offenders to undergo psychological evaluation. This can be useful in the justices system since it can help in assigning the proper collective rehabilitation measures. If disorders are diagnosed, the juvenile court system should recommend psychological treatment for the juvenile offenders.
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