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There has been a great impact on juvenile justice policy decisions in recent years due to increasing public focus on the effects of juvenile crime on society. Historically, the aim of juvenile justice policy makers has been to address juvenile crime through promotion of promotion of policies addressing the rehabilitative needs of the offender. However, over the last 20 years of the 20th century, there has been implementation of more punitive offense-based policies that aim at addressing juvenile crime. This paper will examine the historical justification and implementation of the Native American Policy in the 1800s. The second section shall address the issue of Serious Violent Juveniles (SVJs) and the proposals made about SVJs.


Interest groups and policy makers in the United States have formulated and implemented many policies. The aim of these policies is to provide juveniles and children that are considered disadvantaged various services. These services help in preparing the disadvantaged youth with the skills required to function in the society. Disadvantaged environments were defined by policy makers through different ways for instance tribal reservation environment in the 19th and 20thst century (Hesse, Lawrence, and Hesse, 2009).Juvenile policies are generally moved through the policy process through interest groups and governmental bureaucracies. During the mid 1800s, the reservation living system was abolished with through the effort of interest group Friends of the American Indians.

The system was abolished in order to create government schools to educate the Native American children. The interest groups believed that this approach was a humanitarian way of providing civilization, assimilation and living skills for the Native American children. The initial step was the congress appropriating money for a Civilization Fund Through treaty agreements with the different Native American tribes (Hesse, 2009).In 1887, the congress formally created a compulsory education agenda through the General Allotment Act. The Carlisle Industrial Training boarding school opened in 1879. The school has an n education format that entailed multi-tribal, academic and industrial education programs. This school was opened by Thomas Jefferson Morgan, the then Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

The school activities were controlled by the Commissioner through the 1890 rules for Indian schools. Thomas added an extra year of education in the 1892 revision of the school rules. Indian parents who resisted the removal of their children from the reservation were withheld of government supplies and rations under the Indian Appropriations Act of 1891 which also formalized compulsory attendance (Taylor and Fritsch, 2010).Moreover, the government put pressure on the Native American tribal police to force compliance by enforcing the truancy laws and the compulsory school attendance. Hence, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agents entered homes of Native Americans and removed children physically. Over the next 20 years the public gave more attention to poor educational quality, poor living conditions and assimilative teaching methods at schools.

It is also evident that by the 1920s, Hubert Work, the Secretary of the Interior commissioned a study on Indian education. The report from the study suggested closure of some of the off-reservation boarding schools. Therefore, by 1930s, most of the schools abolished the forced assimilation techniques though normal operation of many boarding schools continued. Conclusions made by several assessment programs indicate that the Native American policy ultimately failed and created harmful conditions for students. Consequently, former students have filed several class action lawsuits against the United States (Taylor, 2010).Policy makers over the last two decades have focused on the issue of serious violent juveniles (SVJs).

The policy makers mainly focus on how to treat SVJs who grow up in crime-ridden and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Juveniles who commit serious and violent crimes have most of the times grown up in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in which there is a high crime rate. One of the proposals made by the National Centre for Policy Analysis in 1995 was removal of SVJs and children who are at a greater risk for criminal offences from the disadvantaged and crime-ridden neighborhoods. One of the suggestions was to provide families in the underclass neighborhoods with public funds that could enable them to send their children to boarding schools.  It was believed that this could help reduce the number of children who were at a risk of committing violent crimes (Regoli, Hewitt and DeLisi, 2005).

Boarding schools were believed to provide a safe environment and a sound mechanism for socialization and hence, cultivate traits such as cooperation, politeness, kindness self-control and hard work in these children. Though some institutions successfully treated SVJs, several research studies revealed negative results regarding residential treatment facilities. The studies indicated that time spent in work programs, juvenile detention facilities and group homes were associated with negative adult criminal outcomes. Research also indicated that the most effective method of reducing recidivism was treatment rather that residential care (Regoli, et al, 2005).

Communities, States and federal agencies are combating delinquency and violence through coordinates and multi-agency approaches and innovative services and programs in the Juvenile justice system. The above information is based on a publication by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Statistics by OJJDP also indicate that there was a national decrease in juvenile residential placement between the years 1997 and 2007. Statistics also indicated that the number of juveniles held in adult jails as a result of serious offenses had decreased by 25% between the years 1999 and 2004 (Hesse, 2009).One of the methods of removing SVJs from communities is transfer of juveniles from juvenile courts to adult criminal courts.

This method has been found to increase the chances of future recidivism in violent crimes by 34%. This is in comparison to juveniles sent to juvenile facilities and other treatment programs. In response to the study, several states are raising the ages for determining juveniles from 16 to 18. Moreover, studies that reflect the fact that intensive treatment can change violent and serious behavior have influenced many states to change the way SVJs are treated in both residential and community settings (Taylor, 2010).The common interventions for SVJs include counseling in form of groups, individual and family counseling. The other interventions include working with interpersonal skills, academic, behavior and employment issues.

A very popular proposed method that combined all the interventions mentioned above is the Multi-Systematic Therapy (MST). This kind of therapy is designed to create a therapeutic environment in which all aspects of an offender’s life play an active role. Research studies have revealed that MST is an effective treatment that greatly reduces cases on recidivism in SVJs. Majority of the states have implemented the findings and juvenile justice advisory group recommendations regarding the positive effects that MST has into a formal policy. This is due to the fact that a lot of juvenile justice bureaucracies in the state constitute treatment in their formal juvenile justice programs (Hesse, 2009).Several jurisdictions have made use of the MST proposal and implemented the policy.

MST plays a key role in the process of policy implementation with regard to the power of discretion in spending state and federal justice budget funding. Majority of the juvenile justice bureaucracies at the county and state level have implemented the OJJDP recommendations to include MST In their juvenile justice programs. For example the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission reached a conclusion that MST reduces both long-term criminal offending in SVJs and out-of-home placement of SVJs. There are several other states besides Texas that have implemented this policy and positively evaluated it that they have found various ways through which thy can fund the programs (Shoemaker and Wolfe, 2005).

The other point that is worth noting is that several states are in the process of developing Medicaid-compliant MST programs that truly reflect the acceptance of the juvenile justice program by the federal program as effective and worth funding. One of the states that are in this process is Texas, which is utilizing Medicaid as a source of funding for the proposed juvenile justice program, MST. In addition to this, there is an online document which discusses state standards regarding Medicaid funding for state MST programs. Majority of the states, even the conservative ones are implementing this policy due to the fact that it is effective and it is associated with long-term results (Regoli, et al, 2005).

The efforts of government juvenile justice bureaucracies, academic studies, government advisory groups and interest groups has led to placing of MST in the agenda, formulation into policy and policy recommendations, implementation in many jurisdictions and finally evaluation as a cost-effective and successful treatment of SJVs. Many jurisdictions have come to a conclusion that MST is more cost-effective and more successful compared to residential placement. It is hoped that many more jurisdictions will adopt the practice and confirm the effectiveness of this policy in different countries and states in addition to their jurisdiction issues (Shoemaker, 2005). century and socio-economically disadvantaged environments in the 21


Government policies whose aim is to improve social viability of disadvantaged youth have included several programs such as community programs and residential placement with resocialization attempts. Though, some residential plans may seem sound from the outlook, throughout history, most of them have proved to be harmful and unsuccessful. Majority of modern jurisdictions have also obtained similar results in their residential placement of SVJs. Multi-Systematic Therapy (MST) has proved to be the most effective program that can help deal with the issue of SVJs. Many states have recognized the cost-effectiveness and success of MST in addressing SVJs contrary to residential placement and transfer to adult courts. Hence, this policy is among the most recommended approaches to addressing SVJs and is likely to continue further implementation in various jurisdictions.


Hesse, M. L., Lawrence, R., & Hesse, M. (2009) Juvenile Justice: The Essentials


Regoli, R. M., Hewitt, J. D., & DeLisi, M. (2005) Delinquency in Society.

Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Shoemaker, D. J., & Wolfe, T. W. (2005) Juvenile Justice: a reference handbook


Taylor, R., & Fritsch, E. (2010) Juvenile Justice: Policies, Programs, and Practices

(3rd Ed). McGraw-Hill Companies. 

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