Juvenile Hall

County Supervisors to Hear Sexual Assault Report on Incarcerated Youth

An increase last year in the number of sexual assaults of incarcerated youth at Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Hall (pictured) and other county facilities could result in a new grant to address the problem.

The number of sexual abuse cases involving kids behind bars nearly doubled last year when compared to 2011. The disturbing increase occurred in spite of declining populations at Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall and William F. James Ranch. A report on sexual assaults involving incarcerated youth will go before the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Also on the agenda are a number of health and public safety contracts up for renewal.

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Scared Straight Programs Are All Talk

Research has shown that “Scared Straight” programs do little to deter young people from engaging in crime.

“Scared Straight”, the popular 1978 documentary by Arnold Shapiro, has been brought to television as “Beyond Scared Straight.” I avoided watching the new reality television series because all the research shows the scare tactics of taking kids to jail for a day does not work. I was hoping that after one season the show would die and just go away. Unfortunately, it is back for a new season. 

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Scared Straight Tactics Don’t Work

Many juvenile offender services are not effective and some methods, like “shock incarceration treatment,” such as Scared Straight, actually worsen anti-social behavior. Unfortunately, with TV reality shows touting such interventions, communities continue to support these high-profile, ineffective programs. The thinking is: ‘We will just scare them into changing their ways.’ Only by looking at certain studies do we see that mixing youthful offenders with adult criminals, or with like-minded peers, only increases the chances that they will commit another crime. 

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Juvenile Hall Only Creates More Convicts

I have been working most of my adult life to reduce the number of kids locked up in jails. It has been an uphill battle in most communities, especially in the last decade when we have passed legislation allowing juveniles to be tried as adults. A new report is out by the reputable Annie E. Casey Foundation that supports my belief that juvenile hall is not rehabilitative and is ineffective in preventing future criminal behavior.

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