This week’s article (click HERE) focuses on Dane County’s juvenile justice system. It seems that that the major stakeholders (judges, prosecutor, police chief, etc.) have differing ideas about what should be done about problems with troubled youth in the County. What are your thoughts about their opinions?

10 Comments on Juvenile Justice System

  1. “…as a county, we cannot and should not want to simply incarcerate our way out of our juvenile justice problems.” I think this is the most poignant thing that was stated by the District Attorney. I feel our current justice system is so focused on punishment and accountability that they avoid the reasons juveniles commit crimes in the first place.

    It was interesting to see that they have arrested juveniles who are already on their probation bracelets…They blame that punishment is not fitting the crimes and that there is nothing to deter the behavior; however, only slightly recognize the causes of the behavior. I feel like they are being disingenuous to admit that they are aware of the root problems but dismiss them so quickly because they are looking for a “quick fix.” Fixing the problems of juvenile delinquency are not ones that can be fixed in a year or even five. The whole system needs an overhaul that needs to start with the causes of delinquency, not the deterrence.

  2. According to MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain, the MPD has identified “30 young people who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the crime”. This means that a majority of the city’s resources are focused on a very small percentage of the youth in the community. Also, the allocation of resources is not reducing the behaviors of this group. They think it’s a joke and are not deterred by the juvenile justice system. I understand the frustration experienced by community members, law enforcement, and the District Attorneys’ office.

    I agree with Chief Koval in that community-based restorative justice initiatives can be successful, but the community deserves more from law enforcement regarding serious, felony behaviors. I do not have a solution to this issue; however, I do believe that more community-involved resources need to be provided and more focus should be given to the environmental factors that cause/lead to juvenile delinquency.

  3. As the article states, the issue with juvenile justice is not the number of youth being arrested, but the small amount that are responsible for a disproportionate share of the crime. The frustration with city officials seems to revolve around the idea that it does not feel like they are making any progress in deterring these individuals.

    While the frustration is warranted, any short-term solution to this problem is like putting a band aid on a gaping wound. While seeking out new methods to deter repeat offenders can’t hurt, it’s best to focus on this issue from the bottom-up. I believe that centering in on the geographic areas or socioeconomic groups that are most at risk for juvenile crime is a good start.

  4. This article pin pointed many problems in juvenile justice system. In my opinion, I do agree with the fact that juvenile justice system should focus on the reasons of crimes committed by juveniles and demand changes to prevent the crime from happening. Instead of giving harsh punishments for those who committed minor crime, we should really look into their background. Most of the teens who end up being in a justice system are from a household where they are emotionally or physically abused. Often times they are not getting sufficient care or attention. Some teens commit crime to help their family’s living. Unless the basic problems are not taken care of, juvenile justice system will be keep facing the same issues. Also, the fact that it is actually small number of teens who commit most of serious crime need extra attention as well.

  5. I found this article interesting and extremely relevant. I agreed with a lot of what the article was saying. Something that stood out to me was, “it’s not necessarily that there are more juveniles being arrested, it’s that a small group of them are committing more serious crimes more often — and seemingly without much fear that police or the court system will do anything to stop them”. If a juvenile gets it into their head that they can commit a crime and won’t get in trouble for it or will get a light punishment it is likely they will try and get away with more and more. I think that we as a society need to do a better job of getting it into children’s heads that you need to follow the rules, you cannot break the law, and if you do break the law you will be punished for what you have done. Kids are getting away with too much nowadays and it is causing them to walk all over society. If we pound it into kids heads (not just kids but considering the course title) at an early age maybe it will prevent the behavior before it starts or before it gets even worse.

    Law enforcement and the justice system need to be working together. They should not be blaming each other for the things going on in society, they should be coming together to make a change. They both want change and it is not going to happen with them constantly butting heads and blaming each other.

  6. My greatest concern would be the group of 30 juveniles responsible for the majority of the serious crime, especially, ones who are being arrested while they are already on the bracelet from a previous arrest. I understand that it is difficult to single out individuals and I do think juvenile justice system needs to be universal which includes police and judges working together to combat this issue. Restorative justice programs are good, however, probably not the best form of deterrence or punishment for youths who obviously have no respect for authority at such a young age. Essentially, restorative justice is about righting their wrongs by shaming the offender and helping the victim and community to heal. This could be improved by making this more of a wraparound approach which could include mental health care, trauma-informed care, substance abuse treatment, and linking the families of these juveniles to resources to help meet their basic needs to survive.

  7. I agree with Chief Koval when he says we have a need for, “restorative justice efforts and other alternatives to more punitive treatment of young criminals who have had difficult upbringings and been exposed to early-childhood trauma”. And I definitely agree with the district attorneys that we should focus on juveniles if we think building community repertoire is beneficial. The youth are the next generations adults. There needs to be a compromise between persecuting juveniles in the harshest ways legally possible versus not disciplining them at all. It is very hard to compromise with anything in general, but to compromise the way everyone part of the criminal justice system treats juveniles is a lot to ask but everyone needs to agree in the best cause for action, which I think won’t happen any time soon.

  8. In a statement, the four Dane County Circuit Court judges who have since at least August 2017 been handing juvenile cases noted that juvenile offenders and their families “often have long-standing deprivation, serious mental and cognitive health issues and multiple trauma experiences.”

    I thought the article was overall, interesting. All of the ideas do show possible solutions to the problems with troubled youth. I thought this quote mentioned above should be one of the focuses when dealing with this problem. Making the punishments for troubled youth more harsh is not going to work, this will just make them into criminals when they grow older. They see going to jail or prison as something that just happens when they engage into those activities. It could even give them status in their groups. Fixing the families from deprivation, and other problems will, on the long run be more beneficial since they are fixing the problem where it could start. It would also be a long term solution because kids could be controlled from home.

  9. Having lived in Madison and worked security across the city for over 2 years, I can definitely agree there is a rising issue at hand. While I agree with the judges that the county shouldn’t simply turn to incarcerating away its city’s youth, I also agree with chief Koval in that serious felonious crimes conducted by a child should be handled much different than simple misdemeanor crimes. The most concerning part of the article to me is both police and judges giving each other blame as well as blaming the community as well. There should definitely be more concern finding ways to combat the issues at hand rather than publicly calling each other out in newspapers and blogs. When you have police officers calling out judges and a failure of the system, of course individuals are going to start making a mockery of the system. There should be a concern in finding ways to reach these children, whether its after school programs, mental health facilities or providing ways for these children to be active in their communities instead of running the streets committing crimes. I agree with chief Koval that something must be done with the serious felony crimes committed by these children. By not arresting them and allowing them to keep committing the acts it shows that this behavior is ok and acceptable to the community. The group of 30 kids should be arrested and held accountable for their crimes, their parents should also be held responsible as to why their children are running around Madison stealing cars and beating elderly people up. Accountability is the major issue at hand here.

  10. The fact that about “thirty young people were identified as responsible for a disproportionate amount of juvenile crime” didn’t surprise me that much since we’ve read over and over how little juveniles commit more than one offense, so if we bring it down to one town, especially the West Side of Madison, it makes sense. What I found interesting though, is that finally, someone pointed out that cops are being blamed for basically (not quoting the article, just generalizing) “targeting certain kids” or “patrolling too much in a certain area” when there indeed are only a few that do violate the law repeatedly and cops are trying to do their job. I think that because they are seen and people may not fully understand the justice system, it is the police who often get blamed the most. While I do strongly agree that there should be more effort for restorative justice and treatment for children involved in abuse and neglect, releasing chronic youth offenders with misdemeanor charges is clearly not doing the trick.

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