2016 New Jersey School Mental Health Conference: These Kids Need Treatment, Not Punishment

April 3, 2019 Off By Dennis Rhodes

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The number of young offenders in the country today is increasing exponentially. Reasons for this comes in a variety of factors – lack of parental love and support, no educational influence, peer pressure, and more which are then connected with mental health issues. But as these teens are caught up and brought in the juvenile justice system, something must be done to these detained youths. That is the topic during the 2016 New Jersey School Mental Health Conference.

The American Criminal Justice System, for more than one hundred years now, have always treated these juvenile delinquents with special care. They should be handled as such because they are children with problems. There are at least 70,000 teens below the age of eighteen who are confined at any given moment, waiting for their sentence or is assigned to juvenile system custody. Yes, they’ve done terrible things and has been a menace in the community, but if they had a better childhood – would they be infected by mental health issues which led them to be juvenile? This is the million dollar question.

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In the conference, it was stressed out that reform or treatment (like therapy and other methods) are necessary for these kids instead of punishment. It was discovered in a study done by Linda A. Teplin and her team of Northwestern Juvenile Project in Illinois that juvenile delinquents delivered by the system, at least 67% of these kids are already suffering from a mental health issue. Punishing them will not help their emotional and psychological well-being.

So what must be done to help these “lost” kids? Solitary confinement must be stopped. There are studies which proved that depression and self-harm are prone to these kids, especially those who are confined for an extended period. They must also be provided the mental health treatment that they need because punishing them is not effective at all. They will just get infuriated some more, and their anger is not healthily addressed.

For once, the government has to act on this growing “epidemic.” It must provide the necessary treatment for these kids once and for all; once they are treated and reformed, they have the possibility of leading a normal life far from their past.