TREATMENT FOR JUVENILE OFFENDERS: A RESTORATIVE JUSTICE/AFROCENTRIC APPROACH
The criminal law under the Punishment Model focuses on the behavior of the individual. Possible societal factors are at best a minimal consideration when the law is applied. Discrimination, poverty, classism, and other factors are irrelevant. Behavior that violates the statutes may induce state action. The offender is answerable to the state and not the victim or the "community" per se. The sociopolitical framework implies that the law represents the will of the victim and the community (Hasnas, 1995).
Since this is a violation against the state and not the individual citizen, the victim plays a relatively minor role in proceedings. In addition, the offender plays a minor role in the proceedings as well. The primary focus is to convict the defendant, achieve revenge for society, incapacitate the offender, and send a message to deter others from doing the same act. Most Americans believe that justice is not attainable because judges are not harsh enough. Another justification for the use of the criminal law is general deterrence. The general perception of the public is that punishment of the offender will deter others from committing the same act.
In a study, Gertz and Gould (1995), however, supported prior research that found no direct link between the fear of punishment and personal level criminal inhibitions. Moreover, the punishment approach may weaken the community (Bazemore and Umbreit, 1995) by taking productive individuals out of the community in the prime of their lives and providing a training ground for criminals. In addition, the prison population is presently at or near capacity and it costs the American public billions of dollars (Elikann, 1996).
Since the inception of the present criminal justice process, the role of the victim has been subordinate to the roles of the offender (and defense attorney) and the state (Henderson, 1985). Victims and their advocates argue for more of a voice in the entire process, from arrest to parole hearings. The victim rights model advocates meeting the material and non-material needs of the victim.
Despite the political force of the victim's rights movement in argument from the law pushing crime-control legislation, many victims' rights groups are encouraging community articipation in the entire process, but again the state is the major player (Long, 1995). The victim rights paradigm, in fact, is the primary focus for the restorative justice movement in the United States.
Balanced and Restorative Justice for Juvenile Offenders
Over the last 20 years, in light of the failure of the juvenile court to curb crime, professionals in the field have begun to call for research efforts of discussing policy, targeting the concept of delinquency and chronic young offenders (Bazemore and Umbreit, 1995). In Minnesota, a total shift in focus took place. The system moved from a retributive to a restorative model. A balanced restorative model conceptualizes crime as harm. A balanced restorative justice also encompasses a triangulation of responses: the community, the victim, and diverse reparative sanctions for juvenile offenders. Today, jurisdictions are balancing dimensional competencies, development of program specificity, system-wide accountability, and public safety goals in an effort to restore victims, communities, and offenders (Pranis, 2000)
Need for Culturally Specific Treatment
As of 1997, Blacks accounted for 33 percent of female juveniles and 41 percent of male juveniles in residential placement settings in the United States. As well, Blacks account for 58 percent of persons under the age of 18 admitted to State prisons in this country (U.S. Department of Justice, 1997). Many of these youth as of all youth in detention have serious psychological problems.
The issue of treatment has led to the therapeutic jurisprudence movement, that started in the United States in 1987 (Finkelman and Grisso 1994). This framework argues that all legal and mental health professionals should examine both the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic consequences of the law. In addition, the primary goal of the legal process should be the improved mental health of defendants. In addition, non-adversarial means of resolving disputes, such as mediation and restorative justice, are better means of achieving satisfactory results, especially where mental health problems exist (Kondo and Ross 2000).
However, supporters of restorative justice and of therapeutic treatment argue that programs must deal with the multicultural implications involved in the system (Umbreit and Coates, 1999) given the disproportionate number of non-Hispanic Black juveniles in the juvenile justice system. Few organizations have a truly culturally specific programming. If the programs use the Afrocentric model for African American juvenile offenders, the success rate could improve. According to scholars, the juvenile justice system must move away from the traditional, Eurocentric concept of rehabilitation. Under the predominant Eurocentric perspective, which coincided with the wave of non-White Anglo Saxon Protestant immigrants in the United States, the state (or rule of law) is viewed as the primary means for an individual to achieve social stability.
Focusing on the individual rather
than the community and on the nuclear family rather that the
extended family as a resource, (a central tenet in both Restorative Justice and many culturally specific programs), the Eurocentric paradigm assumes that the state (under the rule of law) carries the responsible of dealing with crime and other social problems. This approach, which is derived from English common law, uses the state as the primary agent in dealing with the treatment offenders and the compensation (if any) of victims; the community is subordinate to both the needs of the victim and the rights of the defendant.
The primary goal is social control and the punishment of the individual who violates the statute. Under restorative justice, the primary goal is to restore the juvenile to the community through restitition to compensate for the wrongdoing. The scholarly literature (Smith, 2001) outlines how such an approach could address the mental health needs of juvenile offenders. Through a restorative justice approach coupled with a culturally specific focus, the community could be added to the search for justice.
There are similarities between the restorative model and the Afrocentric approach. Both approaches require a major paradigmatic shift away from the "State" controlled, individualistic models of dealing with crime. Both models call for participation of the victim, offender and the community.
The Afrocentric approach, however, is unique in three ways (Banks, Hogue, Timberlake, and Liddle, 1996). First, the explanation for the wrongdoing is viewed not as a violation of state law but as a disruption of the spiritual harmony of the community. Secondly, the Eurocentric standard for rehabilitation may not apply: the primary goal here is the liberation of the community through emancipatory knowledge of all community members. Finally, Afrocentric perspectives emphasize the spiritual rather than the human as the source of knowledge.
The use of a culturally specific restorative justice model could enhance treatment for offenders with mental/emotional needs as well as other minority youth and would bring the victims and the community in the process. This approach could provide sufficient and relevant treatment for offenders (most of whom are African American). However, additional research is needed under the Afrocentric methodological approach to measure whether Afrocentric values are present in the Restorative Justice process and the effectiveness of the process should be examined. The addition of the Afrocentric perspective to the existing research can only improve society's understanding of Restorative Justice.
by Morris Jenkins and Marion Boss (Department of Criminal Justice, University of Toledo, Ohio, USA)
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