“Doin time”: Violent youth in a juvenile facility and in an adult prison

Zvi Eisikovits, Michael Baizerman

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Violent youth are a focal population in several states. In one midwestern state, these youth are given in indeterminate sentence to either a juvenile facility or an adult prison. A qualitative study was done of about forty violent youth to learn, in part, how they did time in each place. This is a report and discussion of that study. These data can be used in several ways including an evaluation of the practice of giving indeterminate sentences; an aid in understanding youth’s existential experience of punishment; and a partial answer to the debate about the utility of a developmental perspective in research program development and policy making. The central public issue is what to do with youth who are “too young to be criminals and too violent to be youth.” Our data suggest that youth in both facilities are youth first. How they do time can be understood as their attempt to make an indeterminate sentence determinate and short. In the adult institution, youth who were violent are transformed into violent youth as they survive and learn that violence is a way of life, a mundane event, and a way of being with others. They lose sight of getting-out. Youth in the juvenile facilities learned to be con-men as they took on and used the treatment language of the program to describe themselves to others in the facility. In this way, they did not have to present their existential self and made time determinate and short: they got better. Youth experienced and understood a sentence to either place as punishment. It is our choice about whether we want to punish and, if so, which kind of punishment we want.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Offender Counseling Services Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Law

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