Criminal Justice Essay

Jail versus Community Programs for Juvenile Offenders

In the United States, 336 out of every 100,000 youth are confined for several offences (Petteruti, Walsh & Velazquez, 2009). While there is no sufficient evidence to prove which option provides better outcomes between imprisonment and involvement in community programs, it should be noted that most states in America embrace both systems in correcting juvenile offenders. The aim of this essay is to compare the effects of both system and ultimately give an opinion of which one between the two is more effective in correcting juvenile offenders.           

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State governments in America spend an average of $5.7 billion yearly on imprisoning non-violent youth. These costs account for about $241 per day per youth (Petteruti, Walsh & Velazquez, 2009). Such costs are unnecessary high especially when viewed in light of the country’s prevailing budgetary constraints. Moreover, imprisoning the youth is highly likely to affect the economic health of communities as well as the offenders’ long-term economic productivity.

On the other hand, community programs are not only more cost-effective but also increase public safety. Besides, community programs are more cost-effective than jails. For each dollar spent in these programs, a gain of $13 is registered in terms of public safety Petteruti, Walsh & Velazquez, 2009). Similarly, unlike jails, community programs have been seen to reduce the rates of recidivism and increase the probability of positive life outcomes for juvenile offenders (Martinson, 1974; Levitt, 1997).

Some juvenile offenders are nonviolent and as such, should not be subjected to the harsh prison conditions where they may be forced to become violent in order to survive. For such offenders, community programs would have a more life-changing effect by reducing the probability of committing other crimes. Therefore, community programs ought to be embraced.


Levitt, S. D. (1997). Juvenile crime and punishment. London: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Martinson, R. (1974). What works?-Questions and answers about prison reform. The public Interest, 35, 22-28.

Petteruti, A., Walsh, N., & Velazquez, T. (2009). The costs of confinement: Why good juvenile justice policies make good fiscal sense. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.

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