Juvenile Corrections Versus Adult Corrections Systems

Although the corrections system is a viable concept for keeping crime out of the streets, there are differences and similarities when it comes to juvenile and adult corrections systems.  One must consider the age of an adult person is 18 in United States, and often, this is where the line gets drawn between being convicted of a crime as a juvenile and as an adult.  As long as a juvenile is being tried in a juvenile court and is convicted of a crime there, they will not enter the adult corrections facilities until they turn the legal age of adulthood (exceptions apply).

One of the similarities is that both corrections systems use incarceration to punish offenders; however rehabilitation is often the key concept of juvenile corrections, and not the adult corrections.  It may seem that there are more ‘incentive’ programs offered for adolescent criminals.  For example, American Youth Prevention Forum (1998) states that

“services found to be effective in juvenile justice include: smaller, 15-25 bed, programs that reduce violent incidents; low staff/student ratios that lead to higher academic achievement; five hours of academic instruction per day (usually required by law); cognitive restructuring programs that, among other things, help young people understand thinking errors which get them into trouble; and gradual returns to the community from secure facilities through day treatment which reduces recidivism, results in higher levels of academic achievement and provides more connections to employers.”

This kind of care is not fully available in adult correction system, although there are exceptions, and most likely some of the services would not work well with adult prisoners.  The adult corrections system focuses stringently on punishment and offers only a handful of rehabilitation initiatives when compared to its juvenile counterpart.

Other differences include the use of facilities (buildings) to store detainees and prisoners.  For example, I found out that there are a lot more types of facilities for adults than for juveniles.  Private jails and prisons (contracted from the government), regional jails, minimum security, low security, medium security, maximum security, and super-maximum security facilities mainly serve the adult population.  Places like secure mental health facilities, boot camp incarceration, and juvenile detention facilities are more conducive to juvenile corrections; although, some of the mentioned facilities may be used interchangeably for both juveniles and adults (i.e. secure mental health facilities) (FindLaw, 2007; Federal Bureau of Prisons).

According to a FindLaw (2007) article Jails and Prisons: Types and Kinds “juvenile detention facilities are often run much like a regular prison or jail, with strict schedules, codes of expected behavior, and punishment for misbehavior” and further for “the purpose of placing juvenile offenders in separate facilities from adult criminals is to insulate juveniles from “bad influences,” to protect them, and to attempt to curb criminal tendencies before adulthood is reached.”

Both correction systems have their similarities and differences.  The reason for these measures is to prevent, curtail, and/or eradicate crime.  The juvenile corrections system is set in place with a grander purpose than adult corrections system. That is done in order to help rehabilitate rather than confine the troubled adolescents.  Neither correctional system should be undermined, especially the juvenile system of corrections for its more lenient approach.  Adult correctional systems are not as cruel as depicted on TV and they offer ample help for prisoners, and in some cases, they offer rehabilitation and educational opportunities for the inhabitants.


American Youth Prevention Forum. 1998. The Juvenile Justice System: The Best Way to Deal With Juvenile Crime, Delinquency And Prevention. Retrieved on June 25, 2007, from the AYPF Web site: http://www.aypf.org/forumbriefs/1998/fb020698.htm
Federal Bureau of Prisons. No Date. Prison Types & General Information. Retrieved on June 25, 2007, from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site: http://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/index.jsp
FindLaw. 2007. Jails and Prisons: Types and Kinds. Retrieved on June 25, 2007, from FindLaw Web site: http://bankruptcy.findlaw.com/articles/1452(1).html

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

2 comments… add one
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