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J Adolesc Health. 2016 Oct;59(4):482-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.08.003.

International Youth Justice Systems: Promoting Youth Development and Alternative Approaches: A Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Abstract

Youth incarceration is an international public health concern among developed and developing countries. Worldwide, youth are held in incarceration, detention, and other secure settings that are inappropriate for their age and developmental stages, jeopardizing their prosocial development, and reintegration into society. Youth incarceration lacks evidence and cost-effectiveness. The well-being of youth is a key indicator of the welfare of families, communities, and society at large; therefore, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) supports a paradigm shift in the role of the justice system as it relates to treatment of youth. SAHM recommends justice systems focus greater attention and resources on identifying and reducing the antecedents of high-risk and criminal behaviors, recognizing the rights and freedom of young persons, and prioritizing the well-being of youth over punitive measures that may harm and disrupt healthy adolescent development. SAHM supports the following positions: (1) incarceration is a last option for selected offenders who have committed the most serious violent crimes and are unable to remain safely in the community; (2) youth justice policies, programs, and practices affecting youth be evidence based and trauma informed; (3) youth justice policies, programs, and practices must incorporate research and ongoing program evaluation; (4) youth justice policies shall protect the privacy and dignity of children younger than 18 years; and (5) health care professionals and media will promote positive portrayals of youth in healthy relationships within their communities and reduce representations and images of youth that are negative, violent, deviant, and threatening.

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