A Review of Recreation Requirements in U.S. Juvenile Justice Facilities

Published date01 June 2020
Date01 June 2020
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17uudv3w4A3WS3/input 864415CJPXXX10.1177/0887403419864415Criminal Justice Policy ReviewLeón et al.
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2020, Vol. 31(5) 763 –782
A Review of Recreation
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
Requirements in U.S.
DOI: 10.1177/0887403419864415
Juvenile Justice Facilities
Maria León1 , Corliss Outley1, Miner Marchbanks1,
and Brandy Kelly Pryor2
In the United States, the mission of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention includes the development and implementation of prevention and
intervention programs. While many of these initiatives include recreation, there
remains no standard for recreation programs. The purpose of this study was to
review the written authorities for each state to identify the minimum requirements
for recreation programming in juvenile justice facilities. Among other discoveries, we
found that across all states, there is not a shared definition of recreation, only 70% of
states have daily mandatory minimums requirements, only 44% of states require youth
be given time outside, and only 56% of states include justifications for denying youth
access to recreation. Implications for professionals and researchers are discussed,
as well as suggestions for further inquiry and the integration of recreation into the
treatment process.
juvenile justice, recreation, leisure, policy, treatment, youth
The mission statement of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
includes the goal to “prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency” (Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP], 2019). It is the responsibility of juvenile
justice institutions to prepare young people who have entered the system to return to
1Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
2University of Louisville, KY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Maria León, Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, 600 John
Kimbrough Blvd MS-2261, College Station, TX 77843-2261, USA.
Email: maria_leon@tamu.edu

Criminal Justice Policy Review 31(5)
their communities as “better functioning individuals” capable of leading fulfilling lei-
sure lives in which they are challenged and experience connection without infringing
on the rights of others (Robertson, 2001). Quality recreation programs strengthen pro-
tective factors in youth to mitigate risk factors, ultimately improving youth outcomes
and reducing juvenile delinquency. The role of recreation within juvenile justice insti-
tutions has been largely unknown up to this point. This study attempts to answer begin
to explore the connection by reviewing the legislative and administrative regulations
related to recreation practices in juvenile justice facilities in the United States. In this
article, we will provide a brief history of youth deviancy in the United States and
advocate for recreation programs in juvenile justice settings. Then, the methods will
be explained, results reported, followed by a discussion of the implications of this
study for research, policy, and practice before a conclusion is provided.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, industrialization gave rise to juvenile crime in the
cities where children were required to work in sweatshops and factories. The commu-
nities most affected were immigrant enclaves, like those in Chicago where the only
opportunity for children to play was in the streets after the workday (Fradin & Fradin,
2006). The activities of immigrant youth were deemed delinquent, and in response
Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr established the Hull House to provide opportuni-
ties to immigrant youth to continue their education, and learn life and leisure skills that
aligned upper-middle class American values (Addams & Brown, 1999; Linn & Scott,
2000). In New York during the 1920s and 1930s, youth gangs grew with the surge of
low paying jobs that drew runaways and orphans, followed by the rise in high school
enrollment as youth left the workforce during the Great Depression (Savage, 2008). In
the 1940s, adult fear of a youth rebellion grew because of the media’s perceived pro-
motion of sexual immorality and deviancy (Cohen, 1997, Chapter 8; Savage, 2008).
Middle class crime rose in the 1950s and 1960s with suburbanization and the rela-
tionship between adults and children grew more contentious with pervasive media
influence (Cohen, 1997, Chapter 8). Youth subcultures grew in the 1960s and were
politically active through early engagement in the Civil Rights Movement (Savage,
2008). Drug use increased as part of the music and festivals across the nation in the
1970s (Savage, 2008). In the 1980s, youth subcultures continued to emerge and take
new forms beyond the confines of geography through the Internet (Savage, 2008). The
War on Drugs was declared and resulted in the enforcement of strict drug laws that
disproportionately impacted communities of color (Bobo & Thompson, 2010; Savage,
2008). This focus on crime led to the influx in the creation of programs for “at-risk”
kids (Weinstein, Fuller, Mulrooney, & Koch, 2014). It is important to be clear that
although federal and state drug crime legislation has since been amended, these com-
munities are still dealing with the consequences that include among other factors,
increased incarceration and higher rates of fatherlessness (Bobo & Thompson, 2010).
Fifty percent of the young people in the juvenile justice system have at least one parent
who has been incarcerated (Evans-Chase, 2014).
Data continue to show that juvenile crime peaks in the afterschool hours (OJJDP,
2018; Weinstein et al., 2014). At present, there is no consensus for calculating the
economic cost of crime; however, estimates range between $2.1 and $3.7 million

León et al.
dollars. Furthermore, a 2010 study found that the public was willing to pay for the
rehabilitation for juvenile offenders if a reduction in crime rates was guaranteed
(Piquero & Steinberg, 2010). The police chief of Los Angeles described playgrounds
as “more essential to the police department than any other agency dealing with our
citizens” in 1926, and in 1955 the Los Angeles Times reported that “wholesome recre-
ation” could be provided for 100 children at a municipal playground for the cost of
incarcerating a young person for 1 year (Caldwell & Witt, 2011).
Recreation is an activity that an individual chooses to participate in on their own
because they find it personally enjoyable and is restorative to the mind, soul, and body
(Kelly & Freysinger, 2000). There is increasing knowledge recognizing the positive
impact recreation has on human development in addition to improving an individual’s
overall quality of life (Patterson, 2007). With regard to the present population of indi-
viduals with justice system involvement, previous research of neurological develop-
ment found that adults in prison had limited play opportunities as children (Frost,
1998). Putnam (2015) found that students who participated in extracurricular activities
are 400 times more likely to attend college. It is evident that participation in recreation
programs is a preventive measure to catalyze youth for the future.
The foundational belief of Positive Youth Development (PYD) is that young people
are assets in the making, and PYD focuses on strengthening the protective factors to
mitigate the negative impact of risk factors (Catalano, Lisa Berglund, Jean, Lonczak,
& Hawkins, 2004). This approach does not focus on a single problem behavior and
accounts for multiple contexts young people occupy (Catalano et al., 2004; Lerner &
Castellino, 2002).
An evaluation of PYD programs across the United States conducted by Catalano
et al. (2004) identified 15 foci ranging from fostering resilience, social, emotional,
cognitive, behavioral, and moral competencies to self-determination. The specific
activity in an out of school time program is not as critical as the structure of the pro-
gram that is based on the principles of PYD.
Outcomes produced through PYD programs align with the mission of the Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that “(empowers) youth to live produc-
tive, law-abiding lives” (OJJDP, 2019). Social justice youth development is a branch
of PYD that considers the impact of social, political, and economic contextual factors
specifically on urban and minority youth (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002). Through
social justice youth development, young people recognize their own assets and abili-
ties to challenge the external social and economic forces to create change (Ginwright
& Cammarota, 2002). It is important to recognize that recreation programs are an
effective means to leverage the abilities and experiences of youth in the justice system
to foster an appreciation and awareness of one’s own abilities and contributions to the
greater community. Accomplishing this reinforces the foundational mission of juve-
nile justice agencies that seek to simultaneously promote public safety and equitable,
just treatment of youth (OJJDP, 2019).
Youth in juvenile justice facilities are provided with a team of professionals to
monitor their progress. We postulate that including the recreation providers as a mem-
ber of this team will better prepare youth while they are in placement and improve the

Criminal Justice Policy Review 31(5)
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