Juvenile corrections officers are charged with the responsibility of maintaining security and order within correctional facilities, including drug treatment and detention centers. Therefore, the duties of corrections officers include searching correctional facilities to ensure that there are no illegal possessions in the hands of inmates. Most importantly, corrections officers supervise inmates during meals, recreation periods, and other day-to-day activities. On the other hand, these officers may be involved in restraining disruptive in-mates in case of violence erupting and accompanying in-mates in various community-based projects, medical centers, or courts.
Therefore, it is obvious that the duties of juvenile corrections officers are clearly set out and straightforward. However, considering contemporary problems facing juvenile courts and correctional facilities, it is apparent that there is a need for corrections officers to acquire effective management and leadership skills in order to provide effective intervention services. Many studies indicate that juvenile courts and correctional facilities have failed to protect the rights of children in addition to exposing them to negative criminal outcomes of post-correction (Florsheim, 2004). Over the years, the delinquent youth have been identified, adjudicated, and incarcerated within correctional facilities for treatment and rehabilitation. While in correctional facilities, the delinquent youth undergo multiple courses of treatment, which may include moving from one correctional program to another within a given period. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of various correctional programs is unknown; besides, it is documented that the longer the youth stay in correctional centers, the higher the chances that they will develop negative criminal outcomes as adults (Florsheim, 2004).
As a result, the problems confronting the incarcerated youth may reflect failures within the current juvenile correctional system. For instance, since juvenile corrections officers have minimal or no management and leadership skills in designing and implementing effective correctional programs, it is possible that the services offered within correctional centers are ineffective in various aspects. Therefore, to address these issues, it is imperative for juvenile corrections officers to be trained to offer effective services to the delinquent youth in order to minimize the number of youth, who become dangerous criminals after spending their entire childhood in correctional facilities. Accordingly, it is recognized that the delinquent youth showing disruptive behaviors pose significant management problems on juvenile corrections officers, and in some cases, they may strain the resources available in correctional facilities (Florsheim, 2004). Therefore, it is important to consider alternative means of addressing the current problems facing correctional facilities, such as encouraging juvenile corrections officers to embrace the “maturity continuum” model in their day-to-day activities.
The Maturity Continuum
It has been theorized that the best way to understand ourselves involves recognizing our place within the maturity continuum, which consists of three parts, including dependence, interdependence, and independence. According to Covey (2003), the dependence stage extends from the early period in life, whereby individuals are completely dependent on other people for their existence, to later stages in an individual’s life, in which people depend on others for guidance, instructions, or challenging work. Covey (2003) identifies three habits within the dependence stage, including “be proactive”, “begin with the end in mind”, and “put first things first” as the major factors, which enable individuals to move through the continuum to interdependence stage. At the interdependence stage, individuals begin to work with others after developing a team-oriented attitude. Likewise, the interdependence stage consists of three other habits, including “think win-win”, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”, and “synergize”, which are very important for propelling interdependent people through the maturity continuum to the final stage of maturation. Finally, the independence stage reflects maturity, when those individuals become self-reliant and responsible for their actions after developing an “I can do it” attitude (Covey, 2003). Accordingly, Covey (2003) denotes the only habit of the independence stage as “sharpen the saw”, which literally implies the act of renewal and continuous improvement in order to attain maximum personal capability.
As a result, the maturity continuum theory is very important for juvenile corrections officers in many aspects. For instance, there is a need for these officers to understand their position within the continuum in order to work in the direction of other stages of maturity. Though limited literature documents the effectiveness of the maturity continuum model in management and leadership, the theoretical basis underlying the model forms a concrete framework, upon which the current and future leaders should base their skills and efforts in regard to managing and leading others. Furthermore, considering that juvenile corrections officers encounter youth from diverse backgrounds, it is important for them to develop a universal framework, which can guide their day-to-day activities in order to counter the current challenges facing correctional centers. Most importantly, understanding the maturity continuum model can go a long way in terms of enabling corrections officers to address problems facing the delinquent youth under their supervision. Here, it is important for them to encourage the youth to employ the same model in their efforts towards personal development in general and behavioral changes in particular (Guarino-Ghezzi & Loughran, 2004).
Applying the Maturity Continuum Theory
As stated earlier, the duties of juvenile correctional officers include overseeing and supervising the transition of the delinquent youth into responsible members of the community by guiding them through various courses of treatment and rehabilitation. As a result, excellent management and leadership skills come into play in the process of delivering various correctional services for the incarcerated youth. However, the failure to employ effective models in the design and implementation of programs may result in negative outcomes after the youth have left correctional facilities. Therefore, applying the recommended “maturity continuum” model in the work of juvenile corrections officers, it is important to understand each of the seven habits of highly effective people separately.
First, it is apparent from the foregoing discussions that juvenile corrections officers assume parenthood for the delinquent youth within correctional facilities. Therefore, it is important for them to be proactive in terms of making decisions that improve their personal lives and the lives of the youth, who have been entrusted to their care. This may include minimizing the influence of external forces on one’s decision-making process. Moreover, officers must strive for developing personal mission statements, which should be centered on professional and ethical principles. It is also important for officers to extend personal mission statements into long-term goals aiming at striking a balance between key roles that reflect mission statements and other less important roles in their lives (Guarino-Ghezzi & Loughran, 2004). This is in line with the spirit of putting first things first. On the other hand, the idea of thinking win-win should form the basis, upon which officers should seek to build mutual benefits for themselves and the delinquent youth, including instances, whereby one is forced to accept facts the way they are, and rewarding win-win behaviors in both officers and in-mates. Further, the most important aspect of the maturity continuum theory entails the habit of seeking to understand other people before trying to be understood.
There are many cases when the delinquent youth are sent into solitary confinement for being disruptive. Such acts have been implicated in the rising number of incarcerated youth, who will end up with mental problems after spending lengthy periods in solitary cells. Moreover, such acts reflect the lack of understanding on the part of officers, because they consider themselves to be superior in interpersonal relations between officers and in-mates. However, Covey (2003) indicates that effective leaders and managers should seek to listen to both feeling and meaning through putting themselves in the perspective of other people. Through this approach, effective leaders build interpersonal relations on the basis of understanding and being understood. As a result, it is important for juvenile corrections officers to understand the reasons behind disruptive behaviors before initiating any kind of treatment. Equally, synergy builds mutual trust and understanding through encouraging open communication between the parties in order to eliminate inherent personal differences. Here, it is worthwhile noting that for juvenile corrections officers to understand feelings of the delinquent youth, open communication must come into play. Finally, the maturity continuum model recommends that people should take some time to build capacity in terms of personal renewal and continual improvement. This is another important step to maturity, because it will give officers an opportunity to brainstorm and move from the process of production into building capacity for future challenges (Guarino-Ghezzi & Loughran, 2004).
Ultimately, the current problems confronting juvenile correctional facilities are not new for the state and federal governments, but the lack of effective management and leadership has aggravated challenges in many ways. However, as it has been discussed above, there is hope for juvenile justice, if only juvenile correctional officers are willing to change their outmoded models of delivering correctional programs and services to the delinquent youth into more effective approaches, such as the maturity continuum model. As it has been indicated, the maturity continuum model offers a lot of alternatives for addressing the issues of maturity for both juvenile corrections officers and the incarcerated youth. However, caution must be observed when applying the model to various correctional facilities, considering that the model recommends major changes in the current management and leadership styles, they may either take a long time to be implemented or fail because of changes resistance among officers and in-mates. Otherwise, the model can go a long way in terms of addressing challenges confronting many correctional facilities in the country.