The efficacy of juvenile prisons

 Research proposal
The efficacy of juvenile prisons has been a controversial subject, due to the rising
incidence of recidivism. In the United States, the recidivism rates among young juvenile
offenders are reported to be significantly high, i.e, almost 94% (Lewis et al, 1994). Hagell
(2002) found that 88 percent of young British juvenile offenders were prone to recidivism
within about two years after their release from custody. The U.S. Department of Education
however, found that 83% of the juvenile offenders incarcerated in prisons have reading
problems ( It appears that students who are unable
to perform well in school feel that they are stupid or inferior and unlikely to succeed in life,
which in turn leads them into drugs and a life of crime. As a result, including educational
programs in prisons may be beneficial in reducing the recidivism rates by providing offenders
the opportunity to improve their chances of getting a job rather than having no other option
but to offend again. This research study will examine the benefits of educational programs
and poses the research question: Can improvement in educational programs lead to a
reduction in the tendency to take up criminal activity?
Behrman and Stacey (1997) are of the view that providing training in parenting and
following this up with early childhood education, school based supervision of teenagers and
getting them involved in educational programs designed to promote community cohesion
could be helpful in reducing crime (Behrman and Stacey, 1997:240). This implies that
schools can play a significant role in reducing crime by providing education and supervision
necessary to prevent young people turning to a life of crime.
Another study that was carried out to examine the association between mental health
disorders and offending identified four key groups of young people with emotional and
behavioral difficulties as being at risk for offending. The study found that recidivism is more
prevalent among young offenders with mental health problems, with young people from
ethnic minorities being over represented. Since crime tends to be centred in low income, 
minority group neighbourhoods, this further suggests that educational programs could help
to address the causes of crime such as poverty, by providing a means to less affluent
members of society to be able to find a means to improve their lot and their chances of
succeeding in later life. (Behrman and Stacey, 1997:240).
In a study of young prison inmates, the findings suggested that criminal behaviour in
juveniles could be deterred by offering solutions such as better educational opportunities
through smaller classes and more individual teacher attention, sports programs, training for
jobs and greater involvement by churches (De la Torre, 1997). For example, in the U.K.,
adolescents are being offered the opportunity to train as apprentices, in order to better
prepare them and equip them with the necessary job skills to function within a competitive
In yet another study that was carried out by Dr. Stan Kaseno at the San Bernardino
juvenile hall, the findings showed that 70 to 75% of the inmates who had problems in visual
processing ( Most of these inmates also
demonstrated recidivism and were not in prison for the first time. Dr. Kaseno found however,
that when these inmates were given educational vision development exercises to correct the
problems of convergence, tracking and similar problems, the rates of recidivism of such
prisoners dropped to below 16%. This provides a strong indication that the vision processing
problems could well have contributed to the feelings of inferiority of the inmates, leading to
low self esteem. This also places such young people experiencing feelings of low self worth
at risk of dropping out of school or taking to drugs and similar activities, all of which can
contribute to criminal activity and recidivism.
The Long Beach community has commenced the Safe and Smart After School
program in order to provide after school education programs to students and reduce
crime.( In this way, the high risk atmosphere after school is
addressed by providing a safe environment for students to improve their education rather 
than resorting to crime. Promotional materials for this program have stated that research
indicates that after school programs deliver $3 in benefit for every $1 that is invested. Such
community based educational programs and the success they are enjoying in contributing to
reduction in crime levels by safely engaging students in after school activities also reinforces
the potential benefits that could accrue from educational programs.
On the basis of the findings above, it is proposed to carry out this research study
through a comparative survey carried out among juvenile offenders at two separate prisons,
i.e, one where prisoners are being provided educational programs and one where they are
not. The recidivism trends from both prisons will also be examined by interviewing former
inmates from both prisons in order to determine where the outcomes have been more
progressive in terms of former inmates securing jobs and becoming productive members of
society. The survey will include questions that would seek to determine the perceptions of
the offenders themselves about whether or not educational prison programs would have
helped them to choose not to offend.
This study is likely to demonstrate that improving educational programs and
especially providing educational programs in prison would be beneficial in reducing
recidivism and criminal activity. Since recidivism results from the low self worth of offenders
who are unable to cope in school, aiding the process of helping these individuals to acquire
an education and be better prepared from a vocational standpoint is likely to contribute to
reducing recidivism. 
Behrman, Jere R and Stacey, Nevzer. "The social benefits of education, University of
Michigan Press.
De La Torre, Adela "Rescuing lives without hope: Smaller classes, sports programs, jobs,
church involvement: These are possible solutions to juvenile crime", Los Angeles Times: 7.
(1997, June 18).
 "Education can reduce crime",;

Hagell, A. "The mental health of young offenders - bright futures: working with vulnerable
 young people ", London: Mental Health Foundation, 2002.
Lewis D.O, Yeager C.A, Lovely R., Stein A. and Cobham-Porterreal, C.S. "A clinical followup of delinquent males: ignored variables, unmet needs and the perpetuation of violence",
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33: 518-28 (1994).
"Reduce crime. Fight gangs. Improve our schools",;   

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