Punishment and Reward Systems in Juvenile Detention Facilities: Do They Really Work?

source: jjie.org

When a youth is sent to juvenile detention they are provided with a set of rules. These rules are required to be followed at all times or the juvenile will find themselves being punished in one of many different ways. Youth can have privileges taken away for bad behavior and rewards given for positive behavior, in much the same ways as they could if they were at home, but these can be more serious when a youth is in a detention facility.

The Rewards

source: thedailybeast.com

Rewards while in juvenile detention include things like, the ability to write with pens and pencils, draw, read or play games. Even having visits with their family are rewards that are given only if the youth exhibits good behavior. These rewards are given simply by following the rules and behaving. But it’s extremely possible for those rewards to be taken away just as easily (or even more so) than they are provided to the youth. While this is the way of life even when the youth is not in detention, it can be a big problem for these youth especially.

The Punishments

source: tulsaworld.com

Being able to participate in activities, such as drawing, writing and playing games is crucial to a child’s development. Being a part of group activities and having socialization is a requirement and yet, in a juvenile detention facility, these requirements for a happy and healthy life, can easily be taken away for a child simply behaving like a child. This can result in extremely hazardous effects on a child’s psyche because they are being taught that behaving as a child is in fact a bad thing and that they must grow up too quickly and also that they must be antisocial and withdrawn.

Punishments that take away the ability of a youth to socialize capitalize on the negative traits that could have led a youth to participate in these types of behavior in the first place. Even more, denying a youth the ability to interact with loved ones because of poor behavior only increases the likelihood of poor behavior as well. The youth needs support and encouragement from those in their family and when these opportunities are denied it can result in the youth feeling rejected and unloved. This results in further withdrawal from the family upon release and can result in even more negative behavior.


What Can Be Done?

There is a fine line between protecting the youth that are in the facility from harm, including keeping rules in place to reduce the future risk of these things, and completely pulling them away from their life and their family as well as their ability to be kids. The point of juvenile detention is to keep a youth as a youth, without having to worry about them being hindered further in their development and change by adults. But punishing them by pulling them away from others, and rewarding them only for staying away from others, is not a benefit to anyone.

Youth who end up in juvenile detention facilities are already suffering from problems in their lives, whether personal problems or problems in their home. Encouraging socialization and encouraging any positive interaction and support from family is crucial to helping them move on with their lives and continue to develop and grow as successful adults after they leave the facility. Yet the facility will often try to curb these types of behavior or will use them to punish the youth, resulting only in more problems rather than helping them come back to themselves in a positive manner.

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