Former sailor tackles ways to improve juvenile justice
University of Mississippi Communications
Juvenile detention rates across America have declined dramatically over the past decade, but overdependence on juvenile detention centers remains a major problem for society, according to data compiled by the National Institute of Justice.
In addition, racial disparity is a serious concern, with many more blacks and other non-whites sent to detention centers than whites, and young people with mental health problems often end up in detention rather than in institutions. treatment centers.
William Agudelo, a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi’s online Masters in Criminal Justice program, led a wrap-up project that brought together real-world research highlighting the long-term negative effects associated with detention. minors.
Kimberly Kaiser, assistant professor of criminal justice and legal studies and director of the graduate program, inspired Agudelo to join the program.
“When Will first joined our masters program, it was clear from the start that he had a great enthusiasm for learning and always had a positive approach to the many challenges of graduate study.
“This was reflected in his synthesis project where he was able to apply the skills and knowledge he developed in our program to write a high quality, research-based synthesis project on this important topic.”
“The importance of recognizing the value of alternative sanctions is the first step towards improving the youth justice system and improving outcomes,” Agudelo said. “Our children should be at the forefront of everything we do – including those who may be raised in unstable environments and exposed to less favorable conditions.
Young people who have been confined to detention centers are very likely to relapse into criminal behavior, according to previous research by the National Institute of Justice. Once minors enter the justice system, they are instantly disadvantaged and their chances of becoming productive and successful members of society begin to diminish.
The justice system continues to rely on lockdown – low-risk minors and pre-trial detention continue to make up the majority of juveniles assigned to detention centers, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The racial disparity in the system reflects issues rooted in structural inequality and a lack of support and resources in communities of color.
Research conducted by the Prison Policy Initiative has yielded suggestions for improving youth outcomes and reducing relapses into criminal behavior through alternative programs, such as a focus on strengthening families to reduce problematic behaviors. for young people. Evidence shows that stable and strong families have an early impact on family ties, school ties and the reduction of delinquency and conduct disorders.
Additionally, the initiative’s research suggests that family treatment, compared to other diversion programs, is one of the most effective methods of reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders and creating more positive outcomes.
“Our nation, in some regions more than others, continues to face issues with young people in the justice system,” Agudelo said. “I would encourage people to explore different avenues to get involved. There are a variety of different programs where we, as mentors, can engage with children in at-risk communities. Opportunities are everywhere, just look.
Based on the research findings and data reviewed, Agudelo uncovered a series of recommendations available to juvenile justice system leaders, advocates for change and reform, and key stakeholders that provide a detailed plan for rehabilitate minors at risk and increase the chances of successful reintegration into society.
“First, maintaining statistics at the national level will provide researchers with the data needed to better understand and define the extent of the problem,” Agudelo said.
“Second, stakeholder engagement is essential to create shared and heightened situational awareness, promoting collaborative ways to design and implement new treatment alternatives. This requires cooperation at all levels – including state and local agencies, child and family departments, mental health, probation service, police services, and the community school system.
Third, Agudelo emphasized that adequate funding is a key feature of using evidence-based programs – research-based programs and documented outcomes – for young offenders.
“The potential for savings is one aspect of alternative programs – especially in the long-term analysis – that has been advocated by policy makers,” Agudelo said. “The emphasis on resource allocation and funding should be directed to alternative programs, such as the provision of qualified therapists.
“The fourth recommendation is corroborated with a professional psychiatrist, a basic mental health assessment is recommended before initiating the treatment plan. Research suggests that mental health needs are linked to recidivism and delinquent behavior. These data should be used to inform policies, practices and programs.
Finally, Agudelo recommended that policymakers identify communities of color and neighborhoods where a high percentage of households are headed by single parents, and use this information to allocate resources and support.
Agudelo grew up in Brentwood, Long Island, and moved to North Carolina at the age of 16. He studied political science and criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and joined the US Marine Corps after graduating in 2012.
As a Marine, he was trained in the military police and then specialized in forensic medicine during the second half of his military career. He spent 10 months in Afghanistan, putting his skills to use with a small task force in Helmand.
Agudelo credits the online Masters in Criminal Justice program for giving it a deeper understanding of the justice system as it seeks to make the transition to the government sector.
“It also opened up a lot of doors to higher level opportunities. The many relationships you will build throughout the program are certainly both meaningful and impactful. “
For more information on the Faculty of Applied Sciences’ Masters in Criminal Justice program, visit https://legalstudies.olemiss.edu/ or call 662-915-2517.