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Psychosocial Effects of Prison on Juveniles The number of incarcerated juveniles is on the rise. “Crime rates are on the increase and juveniles are the main cause of this trend” (Greve, 2001, p.20). Lack of healthy socialization within penitentiaries can also cause juveniles to depend on the structure of prison life. Research shows that there are significant links between the psychosocial effects of juvenile incarceration and the alarming increase in the rate of recidivism, especially if the juveniles are put into adult facilities. The negative impact of the social structure within these institutions can further the permanent damage they already have suffered to their mental, emotional, and physical growth. If juvenile offenders are not being offered transitional services when reintegrating into society, this will negatively impact society. First, prison life effects juveniles’ personal identity development during a crucial stage of their lives. Because of the lack of healthy socialization as they are transforming into adults, it’s extremely difficult for them to face the many challenges of growing up, such as physical changes and sexually maturing (Greeve, 2001, p.28). The pressures of prison life restrict them from getting the proper socialization that is so vital for them to have at this stage in their lives. They try to cope with the combination of their own changing processes, and the pressure to conform to their surroundings through hyper masculinity, prison violence, and adhering to its rules (Berswill. 2004, p.118). It twists their concepts of not only themselves, but their future behavior. They become even more socially dysfunctional (Berswill, 2004, p.328-332, Greeve, 2001, p.29). Reintegration into society doesn’t work for offenders when they keep trying to use the prison mentality they acquired during incarceration.
In addition, the importance of peer socialization needs to be addressed. “Adolescents need societal opportunities for integration plus available relationships which allow them to experiment with their striving autonomy” (Berswill, 2004 p. 331). Depression and even suicide are a few of the negative effects of such a closed environment being that the only influence they get is from being around law enforcement and other deviant juveniles”(Greeve, 2001, p.28). How can we expect them to re- enter society successfully with no support? Their coping skills become aggression, violence, and manipulation. Haney explains that prisons can turn juveniles into harder criminals: “The long term effects of exposure to powerful and destructive situations, contexts and structures mean that prisons themselves can act as criminogenic agents” (Haney,2005.p. 78). Juveniles can learn to be unaffected by punishment and consequences. This in turn makes their behavior even more aggressive and they are more likely to commit worse crimes when they are released (Haney, 2005. p. 78, Greeve 2004, p.328). The callous environment of prison makes them develop less of a conscious about what is right and wrong. They actually learn not to care about their actions. The lack of healthy socialization becomes worsened when juveniles are forced to be housed with adult offenders. Almost all prisons house youth offenders (Fritz, 2003. P.8) Society needs to realize that the punishment for children and adults should be different because juveniles are more easily victimized than adults, and more easily influenced to use violent behavior. “One immediate concern is the vulnerability to violence: 47 percent suffer violent victimization. They are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon, and eight times more likely to commit suicide ”(Fritz, 2003, P. 8). These statistics show the startling dangers these juveniles learn to live with.
Imprisonment can cause permanent damage to juvenile offenders’ psychological approach to sexual intercourse. One study concludes that juveniles are pressured to adopt homosexuality or equate manliness with violence. Irwin & Owen explain, “The pressure toward homosexual satisfaction of one’s sexual needs, which provokes anxiety in many prisoners. The other tendency is for male personality traits such as toughness to become exaggerated in the absence of the opposite sex, thus distorting in psychologically painful ways the image of manliness” (Irwin, Owen, 2005. P.102). Imprisonment distorts their perceptions of sexual relationships. This would cause unhealthy relationships when they return to society. Also, juveniles can become dependent on the structure of prison life. Prison becomes their way of saving them from themselves. Because of negative parenting practices, prison meets the needs for structure, stability, security, and the need to be cared for. They become dependent on this structure and they can’t survive without it. They tend to sabotage themselves to get back in prison because they cannot cope with the outside world (Berswill, 2004, P.331). During Berswill’s study he documented a comment from a juvenile who had been incarcerated, which shows that the young man found the structure of prison life helpful and he also reported that he got off drugs only because of the structure of incarceration:“I have learnt to get by without drugs….I could not manage that before…this is why it is such a plus point that I went to jail…outside, I would’ve taken drugs, I wouldn’t have got off it outside, that’s clear”(Berswill, 2004, p.321). Recidivism can be a problem with juveniles. One study presented data about recidivism over a 15 to 17 year period. Results indicated that 60 percent of ample subjects released from prison were returned to prison, and most of those who failed did so within the first three years of release (Heide, Spencer, Thompson, Solomon (2001. P.97). It was suggested that youths today
are more predatory than those of generations ago (Heide, Spencer, Thompson, Solomon. 2001, p.98) Several juvenile homicide experts forecast that murders by juveniles were likely to reach epidemic proportions in the 21st century if this trend keeps going” (Heide, 1995, p. 98). These disturbing facts are a reality that society needs to find proactive ways to start dealing with. Many studies suggest that there needs to be a shift from incarceration to treatment and transitional services. “Exclusively individual-centered approaches to crime control (like imprisonment) are self limiting and doomed to fail unless they simultaneously address criminogenic situational and contextual factors. This fact argues in favor of redirecting crimefighting resources and strategies away from nearly exclusive reliance on prisons and into ones that emphasize preventative programs and interventions that are designed to reduce the structural causes of crime”(Haney, 2005, p.78). This shows that if offenders are not shown how to prevent being incarcerated again,they will be more likely to keep up their old ways. While incarcerated, they need to be taught other life choices and how to better control themselves so they don’t end up back in the system. “Society should respond to the growing view that tough reactions are appropriate, that punishment, including incarceration shouldn’t take precedence over treatment and education”(Greeve, 2001.p21). Another study actually asked the offenders about their own experiences in these re-entry programs and how it made a difference for them (Lane, LanzaKaduce, Frazier, Bishop, 2002, p. 440-441). One offender learned to have hope for a better life through being educated in a transitional program: “This program is alright because you can get
your education…and they have community college people come to teach here. They will help you get into college. That’s what I’m planning on doin’…I got to the 9th grade on the outside. Then I dropped out, made real progress since I’ve been here. I’m up to the 11th” (Lane, LanzaKaduce, Frazier, Bishop. 2000 p. 440).Education is vital to understanding how to make changes
within yourself. Education will improve anyone’s life, especially someone who has never really had hope for a better future, and who has accepted that they are always going to be stereotyped because of their mistakes, and then maybe lose the will to try to improve their lives. There is such a need for intensive aftercare services for juvenile offenders to have support for a successful transition into society. Studies show this is actually the hardest time for them. This transition is a long process that takes a few years. Most of these programs start during the incarceration period. If left to do this on their own, many don’t follow up on this care. “It is so easy for them to lose control in the absence of prison. Integration into society winds up being an obstacle course of social discrimination and marginalization (Berswill, 2004, p.318). As a society, we need to put more efforts into the prevention system rather than the prison system. Incarcerating adolescents without treatment only increases the likelihood they will continue bad behavior, addiction, and be hardened into career criminals (Haney, 2005. Pgs. 66-86). Studies are proving that these re-entry programs are working for many of these young people. In conclusion, improper socialization can cause juvenile offenders to acquire dependency on the structures of the prison system. The increasing rates of recidivism prove this. Many studies show that transitional services are proving to be much more effective than just imprisonment to keep these juveniles from returning to the prison system. Without these services most of these juveniles will not make any positive changes for themselves and there will be no improvements within the society they live in.
Works Cited Bereswill, M. (2004).inside-out: Resocialization From Prison as a Biographical Process. A Longitudinal Approach To The Psychodynamics of Imprisonment. Journal of Social Work Practice, 18(3), 315-336. doi:10.1080/0265053042000314401 Florsheim, P., Shotorbani, S., Guest-Warnick, G., Barratt, T., & Hwang, W. (2000). Role of the Working Alliance in the Treatment of Delinquent Boys in Community-Based Programs. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29(1), 94. Fritz, G. K. (2002). Adolescents Incarcerated With Adults: A Growing Problem. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 18(11), 8.
Greve, W. (2001). Imprisonment of Juveniles and Adolescents: Deficits and Demands for Developmental Research. Applied Developmental Science, 5(1), 21-36. Haney, C, & Irwin, J. Owen. B. (2005). The effects of imprisonment. The Contextual revolution in Psycology. Harm and the contemporary Prisopn. and the question of Prison effects. Portland , Oregon: Willan Publishing. Eds: leibling, alison. Maruna, Shadd Heide, K. M., Spencer, E., Thompson, A., & Solomon, E. P. (2001). Who's in, Who's Out, And Who's Back: Follow-up Data on 59 Juveniles Incarcerated in Adult Prison for Murder or Attempted Murder in The Early 1980s. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 19(1), 97-108 Kapp, S. A. (2000). Pathways to Prison: Life Histories of Former Clients of the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 27(3), 63.
Katsiyannis, A., Zhang, D., Barrett, D. E., & Flaska, T. (2004). Background and Psychosocial Variables Associated with Recidivism Among Adolescent Males: A 3-Year Investigation. Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders, 12(1), 23-29. Kuanliang, A., Sorensen, J. R., & Cunningham, M. D. (2008). Juvenile Inmates in an Adult Prison System: Rates of Disciplinary Misconduct and Violence. Criminal Justice & 35(9), 1186-1201. Lane,J. lanza-kaduce. L. Frazier.E.C., Bishop. M.D., July 2002. Adult Versus Juvenile Sanctions: Voices of Incarcerated Youths. Crime & Delinquency. Vol: 48.P.431 DOI: Behavior,
10.1177/0011128702048003004 Muñoz, L., Frick, P., Kimonis, E., & Aucoin, K. (2008). Types of Aggression, Responsiveness to Provocation, and Callous-unemotional Traits in Detained Adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(1), 15-28. doi:10.1007/s10802-007-9137-0
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