Law enforcement agencies and judicial institutions across the world have designed and implemented the norm that, upon commission of crime and successful prosecution, offenders below the age considered as adult (mostly 18 years) are subjects to juvenile correctional and incarceration facilities. However, unlike prison facilities, juvenile diversion programs are special programs for delinquent teenagers, which serve to rehabilitate and mentor young offenders without ruining their juvenile records. These young people are still held accountable for their criminal acts but not through the expensive and caseload court processes. Juvenile programs play a big role in deterring the lives of young people from being wasted and the inception of disastrous adult criminal careers. This reduces the level of crime and insecurity that would be anticipated or affect the society in the future severely. This paper intends to explore two juvenile diversion and intervention programs in the United States of America, their goals, operations and contribution to society.These juvenile diversion programs are the Teen Court - Queen Anne’s County and the Take Charge Inc, both in Maryland.
The Queen Anne County Teen Court Program was established in 2003 by former Attorney of Queen Anne County, Frank M. Kratovil. The goal of this Teen court program is to edify young people on the judicial system and give a second chance to young offenders to learn from their blunders without the weigh down of a juvenile criminal record. The activities of Queen Anne’s County Teen Court operate and engage volunteering teenagers. Volunteering adults also play a big role and dedicate time to offer free judicial services, since they include judges and district attorneys. District and Circuit Court judges administrate the proceedings and offer guidance to the teenage jurors. The volunteering teens play the roles of the Prosecuting and Defense Attorneys, Bailiff, Clerk, and members of the Jury on court proceedings. The Teen Court Coordinator volunteers his or her time to manage the volunteering youths, follows-up on feedback and administers all the operations of Teen Court (Maryland Teen Court Association, 2013).
In this Teen court, juvenile offenders appear before a jury of fellow teens and not before a juvenile judge. A defense attorney is appointed for the juvenile offender, whereas the state is represented by a teenager who volunteers as the prosecutor. The teen lawyers are assisted by an assistant state attorney. These educational events and experience help both the juvenile offenders and volunteers to understand the judicial system in a better way. After listening to both parties, the jury deliberates and makes a decision on the appropriate sanctions to be implemented. The sanctions include Teen community service, Court jury duty, afterschool extracurricular activities, detention center tours, apology letters, smoking cessation programs and medical appointments at the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health or a drug abuse program. Records of results from this program show that it is highly effective and successful, and the rate of re-arrest of the juvenile offenders is becoming very low (Advocates for Children and Youth, 2010).
The Take Charge Diversion Program Inc. was started by service professional and community leader Shaar R. Mustaf, in 1990, with the aim of strengthening families and implementing juvenile prevention, intervention, and behavior change. It is a non-profit and community-based institution in Forestville, Maryland. This community-based organization is sponsored by the non-governmental organization, business corporations, and generous people. As an organization, they believe that there is a potential adult in every young person waiting to be nurtured and developed for the good of the community at large. The clients include female and male persons of age 18 years and below. They include teens hanging out with ill-mannered peers, poorly performing teenage students, disrespectful youths to parents, teachers and other older people, and delinquent teenagers who have been arrested or adjudicated. Parents and guardians are required to take part in the whole program and parenting enhancement sessions, hence an improved parenting endeavors. The youths are also trained basketball, and this is used as a yardstick to teach about life skills. The teenagers are also taken through discipline classes and leadership training especially male youths. The Take Charge Diversion Program is more effective than the Queen Anne County Teen Court Program because of the intensive training, outdoor capacity building activities, and the parenting enhancement sessions (Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program, Inc., 2011).
In conclusion, many young people taking part in criminal activities are influenced by societal and economic forces. Youths from struggling families are more vulnerable to take part in crime such as theft than youths from middle class or rich families. Peer pressure also influences many teenagers to get lost in crime. Street and criminal gangs are also on the rise and gang members instill fear into other youths to join them. Drug and substance abuse distort the ability of young people to make right decisions hence end up committing offenses, such as kidnapping and torture. Drug abusers also carry out robbery activities to get cash and buy more drugs since they find it hard to work and earn money. Weak law enforcement systems and poor parenting encourage growth of crime among the youth. Therefore, these juvenile diversion and intervention programs play an important role in safe-guarding and rehabilitating the youths to be responsible and reliable people in the community (Greenwood P., 2008).