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Research recommends alternatives for juvenile offenders

Our nation's prisons are overcrowded and the state of Virginia is no exception. However, many of those who occupy some of these cells are getting a second look by researchers. The focus? Juvenile offenders.

A two-year research study has revealed that a startling number of juveniles are finding their way to incarceration instead of rehabilitation. A law professor from the University of Virginia shared his report's findings. Together with a group of lawyers, psychologists and sociologists, the professor and his colleagues collected data from various sources to compile the results.

While the researchers' findings do support that juveniles who could be a danger to others should be isolated, those who aren't deserve to have the opportunity to satisfy their penalties through alternative means.

For example, in some cases the reports show that the rate of reoffending was reduced by as much as 40 percent when young offenders were given alternative programs that focused on community service or restitution. Additionally, the research shows that removing juveniles from their support network -- friends, family and community leaders -- can actually do more harm than good.

Another key point that has been shown in other studies surrounding teens and young adults is the physiological difference between them and older adults. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Juvenile Research shared that the brain is still developing neurologically until the age of 26. What this means is that their impulse control is not has established as those closer to the age of 30.

Changing the way that juvenile offenders are treated by the justice system can help young people who are convicted of crimes pay their debt to society as well as learning how to make better choices that won't land them in the same predicament later on. If your child has committed a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately in order to learn what options are available.

Source: The Daily Progress, "UVa-led report calls for less incarceration of juveniles," Samantha Koon, Nov. 20, 2012

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