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Juvenile corrections: why would anyone want to work in this business?

Midway through a recent meeting I was having with a high-level juvenile correctional executive (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) in which we were discussing allegations of staff misconduct, he suddenly paused in mid-sentence and matter-of-factly said, "Why would anyone want to work in this business today?" And with that statement, I had the theme for my commentary for this edition of Corrections Today.


After all, why would anyone want to work in juvenile justice/corrections today? On the surface, anyway, there are certainly many different reasons why country singer Johnny Paycheck's old country standard of "take this job and shove it" might spew out Verb 1. spew out - eject or send out in large quantities, also metaphorical; "the volcano spews out molten rocks every day"; "The editors of the paper spew out hostile articles about the Presidential candidate"
eruct, spew
 of the mouth of a juvenile corrections probation or parole officer, or a juvenile corrections superintendent, warden or administrator. For purposes of illustration, let's go Let's Go may refer to: Television
  • Let's Go (Philippine TV series), a teen Philippine sitcom on ABS-CBN
  • Let's Go (New Zealand TV series), a New Zealand television music show
  • Let's Go
 over a few.

Low Pay. There are exceptions, of course, as there are to any of the examples I list here. But for the most part, people who work in juvenile corrections, at all levels, are underpaid un·der·paid  
Past tense and past participle of underpay.


not paid as much as the job deserves

underpaid adj
 and largely underappreciated relative to similar professions. This contributes to an industry with generally high staff turnover, as we see more and more young people move on to higher paying positions in law enforcement, adult corrections or other industries.

Increased Oversight and Scrutiny. Not all of this is bad. In fact, some of us have felt strongly for some time that the juvenile justice system has been severely hampered over the years by its seemingly overindulgent o·ver·in·dulge  
v. o·ver·in·dulged, o·ver·in·dulg·ing, o·ver·in·dulg·es
1. To indulge (a desire, craving, or habit) to excess: overindulging a fondness for chocolate.
 use of the cloak of confidentiality. What I am talking about here is the too common use of juvenile justice and its employees as the scapegoats for everything that is wrong in society. This leads to politicians pontificating to cover their own shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.

Shortcomings may also be:
  • Shortcomings (SATC episode), an episode of the television series Sex and the City
 and excessive media "investigations" to sell newspapers and advertising. No wonder the average tenure of a state juvenile correctional administrator is just two years.

Do More With Less. Everyone has had to tighten their belts in this post-9/11 economy and that is fine. And we in juvenile corrections have managed to find intelligent ways to carry out our mandates as well as or better than any other public sector business. However, in state after state, my colleagues inform me that juvenile justice/corrections has taken a disproportionate share of necessary budgetary reductions. Even within all of criminal justice, juvenile corrections usually falls beneath sheriffs, police, the judiciary, state attorneys, public defenders and adult corrections in the pecking order pecking order

Basic pattern of social organization within a flock of poultry in which each bird pecks another lower in the scale without fear of retaliation and submits to pecking by one of higher rank. For groups of mammals (e.g.
 for resources.

Unhappy "Customers." An upset parent calls because his or her child "is not receiving proper treatment" for an ailment ail·ment
A physical or mental disorder, especially a mild illness.
 that should have been treated before the child was incarcerated incarcerated /in·car·cer·at·ed/ (in-kahr´ser-at?ed) imprisoned; constricted; subjected to incarceration.

Confined or trapped, as a hernia.
. The sheriff is upset because a recent release from detention committed a new crime just two days after his discharge. The state attorney is unhappy because one of your "bleeding heart bleeding heart: see fumitory.
bleeding heart

Any of several species of Dicentra, a genus of herbaceous flowering plants of the fumitory family (Fumariaceae). The old garden favourite is the Japanese D.
" probation officers had the audacity au·dac·i·ty  
n. pl. au·dac·i·ties
1. Fearless daring; intrepidity.

2. Bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention.

 to suggest probation for a youth he feels should be locked up. The public defender shares her concern that all your agency ever does is recommend that youths be incarcerated. A judge expresses displeasure over the quality and timeliness of predisposition predisposition /pre·dis·po·si·tion/ (-dis-po-zish´un) a latent susceptibility to disease that may be activated under certain conditions.

 reports from a probation officer who is carrying 85 active cases. A victim calls and demands a restitution payment. And, by the way, the governor's office is on the phone. They want an answer to a press inquiry and they want it yesterday.

Are these exaggerations? No, not at all. Do they tell the whole story? Absolutely not. As someone who has been a proud public servant in his chosen profession during the past 29 years, there are many more reasons I have learned to appreciate why someone would want to work in this business. Read on.

Meaningful Mission. We have the wonderful opportunity to help change people's lives in positive ways. As we have embraced restorative re·stor·a·tive
1. Of or relating to restoration.

2. Tending or having the power to restore.

A medicine or other agent that helps to restore health, strength, or consciousness.
 principles and practices, we continue to improve public safety. We assist victims of juvenile crime, help communities strengthen families and neighborhoods, and give young people opportunities to reduce deficits and develop the skills necessary to make it in the real world.

Incredible People. I feel so privileged to have met and to know so many outstanding people from all walks of life who either chose or backed into a career in juvenile justice/corrections. Committed, conscientious, caring and courageous are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind--and that is just covering the C's in the alphabet. The people in this business are what keeps me going.

Stimulating Work. The variety of work and challenges is truly amazing a·maze  
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.

2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.

. I often tell friends who are less familiar with this business that there is no part of public life that we do not touch or get involved in, whether it is in actual services or by participating in policy-making pol·i·cy·mak·ing or pol·i·cy-mak·ing  
High-level development of policy, especially official government policy.

Of, relating to, or involving the making of high-level policy:
. As a juvenile correctional administrator, for example, I have been involved in decisions affecting education programs, environmental issues, transportation, construction, health care, private industry, labor, employment, food services--you name it, we either do it or have some influence and involvement.

Interesting Places. Our work takes us to every nook and cranny Noun 1. nook and cranny - something remote; "he explored every nook and cranny of science"
nooks and crannies

detail, item, point - an isolated fact that is considered separately from the whole; "several of the details are similar"; "a point of information"
 of our communities--poor and affluent, rural and urban, diverse and homogeneous. We run small six-bed group homes and large 1,000-bed facilities. We see courtrooms and boardrooms and visit the YMCA YMCA
 in full Young Men's Christian Association

Nonsectarian, nonpolitical Christian lay movement that aims to develop high standards of Christian character among its members.
 and jail. Some of us even take or get the opportunity to conduct site visits in other states and countries.

Fascinating Future. We know so much more today about "what works" than we knew 30, 20 and even 10 years ago. Evidence- and research-based approaches to reducing juvenile crime and improving recidivism recidivism: see criminology.  rates are gaining in acceptance and implementation. We are getting better at targeting our prevention resources for high-risk children before they have serious involvement in the system. We are improving our screening and assessment tools to better understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the families and young people we see. We are doing a better job of training our work force to meet the challenges of juvenile crime in the new millennium.

This edition of Corrections Today celebrates and further illustrates several of the reasons so many of us chose to work in this business. From Cheryl Stephani's piece on making system changes in Washington State and Alex Escarcega's article about federal programs for Native Americans to Steve Gibson's writing about how a small juvenile justice system in Montana operates; and from Elijah Lewis and Simon Gonsoulin's discussion regarding a class-action lawsuit in Louisiana to Anne Seymour's perspective on victims of juvenile crime--I hope that these articles and others in this magazine will remind you of the reasons we do what we do. I also hope you will share this column, these articles and your reasons for working in this business with young people you meet or work with who may be contemplating a career. A fascinating future for juvenile justice and corrections will also be a bright one if we continue to attract young talent. I, for one, look forward to my next 29 years of public service.

By Francisco "Frank" J. Alarcon

Deputy Secretary

Florida Department Florida is a department (departamento) of Uruguay. Population and Demographics
As of the census of 2004, there were 68,181 people and 21,938 households in the department. The average household size was 3.1. For every 100 females, there were 100.4 males.
 of Juvenile Justice
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Author:Alarcon, Francisco "Frank" J.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Previous Article:Kids are kids, not adults.
Next Article:Teacher gives students hope for the future.

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