are our children
It may be hard to understand how a child could end up in the juvenile justice system. Many young children in America live in abuse, neglect, domestic and community violence, and poverty. Without effective intervention and help, our children suffer and struggle. Some of those struggles may be mistakes that put them in the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system
States recognize that children who commit crimes are less blameworthy and have a greater capacity for change than adults. Because of this, states have a separate system for children that has rehabilitation as its primary goal. Juvenile court judges have more legal options to meet the treatment needs of the youth. Educational and therapeutic programming may be provided in the justice system, in the child’s community; or the child may be placed out of the home in a residential program.
Why are the children at facilities?
Offenses committed by the children that we serve range from chronic truancy and runaway to property theft/damage, probation violation, drug sales or use, assault, and occasionally even homicide. Many of the children suffer from neglect or abuse, exhibit emotional and behavioral disorders, or come to the juvenile justice system with little or no family support. In some cases, the Court may commit a child to detention when the child’s behavior is considered too difficult or unsafe to control at home. We work at the St. Louis City and the St. Louis County detention centers, as well as some facilities within Missouri’s Division of Youth Services (DYS).
How long are the youth confined to these facilities?
The average length of stay at St. Louis City and St. Louis County Detention is 3 to 5 weeks. However, some children may remain in detention for months or only a few days. Generally, children stay in detention pending a detention hearing or formal court hearing on the charges and disposition. Some are then sent to diversion programs, to support their reentry and to help them make better choices outside the system. Children who are sentenced to longer term rehabilitation may be assigned to other treatment facilities or DYS.
How old are children in the juvenile justice system?
Typically, the children are 11 to 17 years old. Children as young as 8 have been detained. At 17, youth committing crimes are typically classified and tried as adults. In addition, some children charged with very serious crimes may be certified as adults at even younger ages than 17. The average age of the children detained in the centers we serve is 14-15 years old.
I really like the program because it gives me a chance to control my anger and find a relationship with God. St. Louis County Detention Center Resident