The negative effects of our local juvenile facilities are "in your face" if you visit the local prisons. Many of those prisoners began their career's in juvenile facilities.
I live in a prison state. By that I mean that other then the State Government job's the second biggest employment here is our many juvenile and prison institutions. If you talk to the average probation officer he/she will tell you, " it's a job".
As a retired supervisor of a Therapeutic Learning Center for abused children, I can tell you that over 50% of those children will grow up to learn about living through the courts. They will become numb to the institutions, learn when to sleep, when to play, when to watch TV, their young lives become mapped out for them by the Juvenile schedule. When they are released, they have a freedom that they are not accustomed to, and many will re-offend simply out of ignorance of how to live 24 hours a day, what to do with all that free time.
Don't get me wrong here, they are sent to classes on empathy, anger control, and drug education.
But here's a scenario all to familiar. Little Johnny decided to get drunk and got caught. He is sentenced to some time in the Juvenile Hall. His roommate Harry, has been in many times before and is street educated. He regales and relives his "fun" times to Johnny. Johnny has been taking all the classes the institution requires, and getting up and going to bed when told, but his free time with his much more sophisticated roommate, has him learning how to re-offend, and its much more exciting to listen to. He is released, bored, remembers the good times his roommate had, finds kids his age that do those things, because everyone needs friends, and after all he is a juvenile now, having spent his time "in". A new criminal has been born, and the state has a new case for an employer to "work with".
The center I was working with was non profit. We got our grants from the state to teach preventive programs to children as young as two. We lost our Center because four years ago this state decided that rehabilitation programs were more important than preventive programs. Another example of how to keep our people employed and our kids locked up.
Mean time getting back to Johnny, he is now in prison. A big man with a long history of petty crimes as a juvenile, that have given birth to a lack of fear to commit bigger crimes. He has forgotten that as he got older, there was one day not going to be a juvenile center, but a prison instead. But hey, three meals and a cot, he can tell that story to another roommate and pass on his education.
The answer to positive action begins at the State level. Give parents back their rights to be parents. Stop looking for quick fix solutions to long term issues. And begin funding for preventive programs in the schools beginning at the pre-school level. Perhaps then Johnny still would have gotten drunk, but his parents would have been able to be parents, and Johnny wouldn't have met Harry.