The mental illness prevalence in the youth population has not increased generally, but there has been an increase in the public’s awareness of adolescents and children with these problems. Similarly, as medical awareness and knowledge of these issues grow, so should the diagnosing ability of treating adolescents and children with mental health problems. The mentally ill children’s needs receive acute neglect in the juvenile justice system. Families with such children face services denial, placements on waiting lists or even the services do not exist. This critical situation poses negative consequences towards the youth, communities and families. Without enough community services, a higher percentage of the youths in the current society end up in the criminal justice system (Benedek, Ash & Scott, 2009). These environments do not prove to be quite supportive and just exacerbate their mental problems.
Most of the techniques utilized in correctional facilities such as prolonged restraints and isolation, result into an increase in antisocial behavior. For instance, in the case of a youth who is mentally ill, this isolation increases their occurrences of self harm. Often correctional facilities are not quick in responding to undiagnosed youth’s needs resulting to further mental status deterioration. In addition, these slow responses lead to increased discipline and rules’ violation among the undiagnosed youths (McShane & Williams 2007). The unfortunate reality is that the more these mentally ill youths undergo bad experiences in the juvenile centers, the more probable they will become rooted deeper into the criminal justice system. The initial placement in a juvenile detention becomes more of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Over the last decade, many concerns have escalated over the rising figures of the youth with distinct mental health needs that have involvement with the juvenile justice system. The youths’ presence in the juvenile justice system poses distinct challenges to the mental health and juvenile justice systems. The challenges are felt at a program and policy level and seen as a presentation of major crises in the juvenile justice system. Until recently, the public had little knowledge concerning the kinds of mental health disorders and its prevalence among the current populations.
According to a comprehensive review carried out in 1992, the research on the mental health disorders prevalence among justice-involved youths produced estimates that varied broadly (Samaha, 2006). This is because the research study was methodologically weak. This variation was primarily a result of the various factors such as problematic study designs, non-standardized and inconsistent mental disorder definitions. The lack of information in the juvenile justice system has impeded their ability to comprehend these youth’s needs in terms of developing care and appropriate responses.
Epidemiology of the Affected People
Research has it that 70.4%, which is the majority of the youth confined in detention juvenile centers meet criteria for a minimum of one mental health disorder (Rapp-Paglicci, 2005). Recent juvenile studies depict that the youth confined in the juvenile centers experience high disorder rates across the various mental health cases. Disruptive disorders such as conduct disorder are the most common among these youths, followed by substance use disorders like alcohol abuse. The least common are anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive behavior and mood disorders with depression as an example.
Figure 1. Percentage of youths affected by various types of disorders
Virginia detention centers mirror similar trends to the national statistics. There are a disproportionate high number of youths with mental health illnesses in the correctional systems that are in acute need of mental health care. A research study undertaken in the year 2003, revealed that sixty and forty percent females and males respectively in Virginia Detention Homes need mental health services. Another 2007 research study depicted that an increase of sixty five percent of youth held in Virginia’s justice system have a diagnosis of mental illness even before admittance (Gido & Dalley, 2009). In addition, it uncovered that girls in the system have more mental problems compared to boys due to the abuse and trauma.
Figure 2. Percentage of people with a positive diagnosis
It is evident that as much as there is a high rate of the various types of disorders; this does not prove to be the cause of high mental disorders rates among the youths. Research analysis proves that with the removal of conduct disorder during the calculation process of the mental disorders prevalence, 66.3% of the youth still attained the criteria of a mental disorder even with its exclusion. Similarly, it is possible that most of those youths face drug-related offenses adjudication. Consequently, substance use diagnoses usually account for the high disorder prevalence. However, after removing the second disorder of substance use from the analysis, 61.8% of youth still attained the criteria of mental health disorder with the exception of those related to substance use (Rapp-Paglicci, 2005). In fact if both types of disorders received exclusion from the analysis, almost half percentage of the youth would be identified to be having a mental health disorder. Succinctly neither substance use disorders nor conduct disorders by themselves account adequately for the high prevalence rates regarding mental illnesses.
Historical Description of Addressing the Issue
In 1993, Virginia established the Comprehensive Services Act designed to supply the Commonwealth youth with cost-effective, community based, family focused and child centered treatment. Virginia is one of the countries that spearheaded the solving of this critical issue in historical records. The program pools resources and funds to best meet the youth’s needs and would end the custody relinquishment practice for treatment in Virginia effectively through adequate funding. Mandated populations, like foster care, received over two hundred million dollars n the year 2005 while non-mandated populations received around nine million (Gido & Dalley, 2009). Juvenile offenders fall under the non-mandated category which has undergone a number of improvements through funding.
Current Description of Addressing the Issue
Significant steps have come up in the recent years, especially about the standardized assessment and screening instruments development tested for utilization with this population. The instruments represent essential research advancement since they enable comparisons among the research studies cum the subpopulations that are within the juvenile systems. Researchers have begun using the tools thus capitalizing on the presented opportunities. Their research utilization has expanded the juvenile’s knowledge base regarding the mental health disorders’ prevalence in the system (McShane & Williams 2007). This has yielded more consistent approximations ranging from sixty five percent to seventy percent among the youths held in residential juvenile justice facilities.
In the year 2002, the General Assembly allocated half a million dollars for two years towards the retention and recruitment of psychiatrists in areas that receive medical undeserving. In 2005, Virginia financed a community based program, with the help of eight state Community Service Boards. The program’s target is children with mental illnesses confined in detention centers offering assessments, medication, crisis intervention, group counseling and individual counseling. After the Virginia Tech shootings, the 2008 General Assembly allocated more than five million dollars to cater for children’s mental health. In addition, it appropriated around two million dollars to assist in the law enforcement training as first crisis responders (Gido and Dalley, 2009).
Denver Juvenile Justice Integrated Treatment Network.
There are several exemplary service providers who incorporate promising practices that address the mental health, co-occurring youths’ needs and substance abuse. This is in relation to the youth that are specifically in contact with the criminal justice system. A good epitome is the Denver Juvenile Justice Integrated Treatment Network. The Denver, Colorado, based Juvenile Treatment Network offers regular alcohol and other drug screens at every point of juvenile justice involvement (Kaminer & Winters, 2011). To ensure regular referral and identification for youth who have substance abuse disorders, each point of the juvenile system undertakes a preliminary screen for the identification of any drug use. At any point of the juvenile’s life at the justice system, they receive a referral to the Denver Juvenile Treatment program.
There are some measures that are in widespread use yet they tend to recidivate the juveniles in the detention centers. This offense severity and recidivism rates seem to increase after their release from the adult prisons. For instance, juvenile boot camps are one of the barbaric measures that should be abandoned completely from the juvenile justice systems. They are military-kind correctional programs for criminal youths. The program reiterates on physical and conditioning and discipline in a typical manner. Their development into a rigorous alternative is to achieve longer confinement terms in juvenile correctional facilities. Most of these programs have a proceeding probation period or some aftercare form. First-time and non-violent offenders face restriction from boot camps.
However, they do not decrease recidivism. Several juvenile and adult boot camps studies depict that graduates improve in terms of recidivism. Incarcerated offenders together with those sentenced to consistent probation supervision record better advancement in comparison. In fact, scholars unravel that boot camp graduates have a higher probability being re-arrested than other offenders. More formal interagency collaboration and commitment are in need to plan comprehensive and integrated service delivery systems for youth juvenile offenders with mental health illness.
In addition, the affected youth should be diverted from the criminal system through the development of robust community based and in-home services in order to evade critical crises. These services should include psychiatric care, in-home care, respite, family support, and crisis stabilization. With effective evidence based support and treatment, youth and children with serious mental illness may experience success in their homes and communities at large. Accurate and adequate screening instruments for earlier identification are a vital aspect for the success of the services.
Benedek, E. P., Ash, P., & Scott, C. L. (2009). Principles and Practice of Child and Adolescent
Forensic Mental Health. Arlington: American Psychiatric Pub.
Gido, R. L., & Dalley, L. P. (2009). Women's Mental Health Issues across the Criminal Justice
System. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Ḳaminer, Y., & Winters, K. C. (2011). Clinical Manual of Adolescent Substance Abuse
Treatment. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub.
McShane, M. D., & Williams, F. P. (2007). Youth Violence and Delinquency: Monsters and
Myths. Westport, Conn: Praeger.
Rapp-Paglicci, L. A. (2005). Juvenile Offenders and Mental Illness: I Know why the Caged Bird
Cries. New-York: Haworth Social Work Practice Press.
Samaha, J. (2006). Criminal Justice. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.