There are various factors that may influence a minor to commit a criminal offense. His or her environment, parental care, educational experiences and much more can greatly impact a juvenile offender’s mental health. Statistics indicate that a significant number of juvenile offenders also have mental health needs. This should be a primary factor in how courts determine fair sentencing and provide the minor with appropriate services.
Many of the kids entering the juvenile justice system have clear mental health concerns. They may also face disadvantages due to lack of resources, fewer educational opportunities and poverty. According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, many juvenile offenders commit acts because of under-addressed mental health needs. Incarcerated minors often suffer a worsening in their mental health state as they serve their time.
Addressing a serious concern
Juvenile offenders who have ongoing mental health concerns may have difficulty securing the help they need. One juvenile offender convicted at age 14 of aggravated robbery with a weapon says that over the course of her time in three different juvenile facilities, she developed anxiety, depression and PTSD. She says that in these facilities, emotions are high, and this can lead to more stress and anxiety. Juvenile offenders may need emotional support, therapy and other types of assistance during incarceration and after.
Experts say that mental health support for juvenile offenders is crucial. However, lack of funding means that many may receive minimal care from a medical professional. It is often cheaper to medicate a juvenile offender than it is to provide mental health services. According to reports, as many as 75% of juvenile offenders have mental health disorders, which means they may be at a higher risk for suicidal tendencies. Approximately 59% of incarcerated kids did not receive adequate treatment for mood or anxiety disorders.
The rights of juvenile offenders
If you are the parent of a Washington juvenile offender, you understand how important it is for your child to get adequate mental health support. It is within your rights to fight for what your child needs while serving a sentence. Whether you wish to secure the help necessary to fight back against criminal charges or you want to ensure your child has mental health support during incarceration, you will benefit from an understanding of the legal options available to you. As a parent, you are the most important advocate for your child.