When a parent faces the possibility of having a child locked up for criminal activity, there may be a concern for that young person's well-being while being held. However, there has been a significant effort in recent years to keep youths in New Jersey and across the nation out of juvenile detention facilities. Such locations used to be full at all times but may now be populated at 50 percent or less of their capacities in some areas. These lower rates are primarily due to the increasing use of probation, but there is a growing concern that probation is having a negative impact on these young people.
In the adult system of criminal justice, probation is primarily aimed at an individual's staying out of trouble. However, judges using probation as a consequence for juvenile crimes may create extensive lists of requirements for those young offenders. In some cases, these requirements can be difficult to follow, making it easy for a youth to get in trouble for a probation violation. A judge might insist that an individual obey their parents, for example, which could be challenging for just about any teen at times. Confinement to home with an electronic monitoring device could create problems for a young person who tends to be active and athletic.
Because research indicates that involvement in the justice system can lead to future brushes with the law, it is important for criminal justice professionals to identify ways to positively impact young people as they deal with their errors. Probation, unfortunately, often further entangles youths in the system.
While a juvenile who is dealing with a first offense might benefit from probation in lieu of being held in a detention facility, it may be wise to review the terms of probation first. It might be important to have a lawyer help in addressing a judge over areas of concern, especially those that could undermine the purpose of probation.