For the past three years, I have worked as a Tracker for Linn County Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a Tracker, I provide services to youths who have been convicted of crimes, adjudicated, and subsequently ordered to complete probation. Juveniles in my charge are asked to comply with services which may include: electronic monitoring, therapies, drug screening, and community service; it is my responsibility to have continual contact with them to ensure these expectations are met.
Tracking and other similar community-based services are being increasingly used as an alternative to detention facilities. These services, which allow juveniles to stay in their homes, show a higher rate of success than strict incarceration. Although community-based services are built to foster a collaborative relationship between juveniles and service providers, attaining the actualization of teamwork becomes problematic when juveniles feel that they have done nothing wrong, are victims of circumstance, or do not fully understand why they have committed a crime.
The system has been put in place to provide rehabilitation, but it is far from being a straightforward process. Many influences outside of the youths’ control such as education, socioeconomic status, and race all play a role in whether or not a youth re-offends—all of these factors possessing the propensity to lead them to extended periods of incarceration in the juvenile system or to involvement with the criminal justice system as an adult.
By reconsidering the role that I play in the lives of the kids I work with, I began to acknowledge the burden that comes with tasking young men and women with continued complicity. My stance as a consequence keeps our relationships in a state of flux ranging from stable to tenuous—a constant motion mirroring the discord that develops between the system’s intentions and outcomes. Bt employing ideas of anonymity, voyeurism, and introspection, “Corrections” is an examination of youth experience in the system and how the concepts of privacy and control may affect their future.
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