The society of today has already faced a rainbow of emotions and has experienced everything wonderful and miraculous that a person might see in his entire lifetime. At the same time, people have already been exposed to the downside. As depressing as this may sound, crime rates have been going up and down and juveniles have been partly responsible for that. Juvenile delinquents are persons below the legal age (below 18), who have been held guilty of commiting a crime but some states lowered the age of criminal responsibility of 14 years old (“Juvenile Delinquent”)
One of the most sensitive and complex areas of the criminal justice system would be the aspect concerning juvenile delinquents. It is difficult to provide the appropriate measures necessary to straighten their path due to their age. The transition from the age of tender years to maturity is critical and the events that transpired during these years can make or break a person. The government is aware of the problem that lies in this area and because of the veracity of its impact in the children, different states all throughout the country have their own views regrading this matter (“Legal Definition of Juvenile”).
Every community is constantly being reminded of the growing problems in connection with juvenile violence. If a shooting happens in some communities, the heart of the people goes out to a minor who may be involved in it as a victim or the perpetrator. The increase in the level of juvenile violence is now at the level of a national concern but debates regarding this problem focuses mostly in the punishment but not so much about the prevention and intervention. Families today should give more focus and attention to their children as early as possible.
The foundation of a strong family is a big factor in preventing children from engaging in crime and violence. The future of the country lies on responsible countrymen who has the capability to express themselves calmly and rationally because as responsible citizens, people should have the ability to settle and resolve conflicts. The government should enact plans and programs to give everybody awareness about juvenile crimes, its risks and its causes and effects to the individual as well as the community (Roberts). In United States, the juveniles receive different treatment as compared to adults but that situation has not always been the same.
Back in the early American times, children do not have much worth. In 1600’s, Massachusetts enacted the stubborn child law which states that a child who disobeys his parents will suffer the punishment of death. The law provided that parents can take their rebellious child age 16 years and older to court. This law was based on Deuteronomy 21:18-21. It is a great thing that laws such as this one are not in existence nowadays due to the changing times. Unfortunately, there still is a present struggle when it comes to who juvenile delinquents are.
The view of the society about the children and how they will be treated as adults changes from time to time. The only thing definite in all the fifty states is that a juvenile delinquent is a minor who committed an act which constitutes as a violation of the law (“What is Juvenile Delinquency? ”). The criminal justice system is trying to rehabilitate adolescents who have gone astray and became involved in violence. Juvenile crimes are serious offenses and its occurrence often signify a large portion of the criminal activity all over the states.
There is a usual presumption that adolescents are fragile during these teenage years and as such, they should be handled with care and sensitivity. Since this is the most crucial stage in the life of a person, an event such as this can make or break an individual. It is almost impossible to formulate efficient prevention plans without first having understood the main reasons behind the youth’s involvement in criminal activities so different approaches and methods are used to explain and understand the youth behavior.
In order to completely eliminate the criminal behavior so that it will not continue through adulthood, special handling is required. Some of the methods that may be used are community and residential treatment, nonresidential and institutionalized treatments. Community treatments works by placing the youngster on probation when the court became convinced that the child provides no danger to the society or to himself. He will be placed under the supervision of a juvenile court officer and he must constantly report and follow the probation rules.
Membership in these juvenile groups are important for socialization. These children need to fell engaged in normal community activities in order for them to feel significant and involved in the society. People living in one community work in a way that creates a symbiotic relationship where everybody plays a part and no one would feel rejected and insignificant. There are some cases wherein this treatment involves restitution wherein the offender pays or reimburses the victim for damages suffered, either through monetary payment or community service.
The rationale or philosophy behind this treatment is the protection and rehabilitation in the mildest form may lead the offender to contemplate and think about what he has done. It would make no sense to confine a child in a juvenile facility for a minor infraction because the condition there would not rehabilitate him but on the contrary, it can really destroy the child’s spirit (“Juvenile Crime”). There are data that shows that gender associations strongly play a part in the commission of crimes and delinquency.
Available police records can prove that the crime percentage for male juvenile offenders are double the number of those female offenders and the rate of conviction is higher than five times. There are several reasons why young male and females became engaged in violent behavior. For one, society dictates and puts restriction that steers the women to conform to the dictates of the society such as the fear of being sexually assaulted and other reasons which the rehabilitation programs aim to overcome and conquer. Residential treatment, on the other hand, happens at home.
The children are placed in a residential community wherein they will undergo counseling and therapy. Institutionalization is the harshest punishment of all. This program is reserved for the most delinquent and vilest child offender. The youngster shall be confined to a correctional facility and be denied his freedom for a specific period of time depending on the offense committed. As such, the juvenile institution will therefore be responsible for the child’s rehabilitation, education, health, counseling, recreational and other everyday activity. The main philosophy behind the juvenile courts is rehabilitation.
Strengthening the foundation of correction and prevention programs may dramatically reduce the occurrence of future crimes. It has been held that no specific treatment has been proven to be most effective because every situation is on a case to case basis and the measure of effectiveness would be the recidivism rate. A program can only be pronounced effective if the offender, after finishing the treatment, never commited another criminal offense again (“Juvenile Crime”). During the 18th century, people view childhood as a very difficult phase of transition.
This is a unique phase in the life of an individual and during this time, a child needs constant care and guidance. In the 19th century, people started asking the government to take more responsibility and involvement in the lives of the children and eventually, laws about child labor and education were enacted and the most significant change was the enactment of the Juvenile Court in 1899. These Juvenile Courts gave the definition of of what a juvenile is, furthermore, it also gave meaning to the misbehavior that would constitute an offense (“What is Juvenile Delinquency? ).
The State as Parens Patriae or the guardian of its constituents have the utmost responsibility of supervision in matters concerning the family in order to protect the children. The crime rates keep on increasing and as a result, children as young as seven and eight years old are involved in gang violence. Some children even bring guns to school in order to protect themselves from the bullies. The people who lived in the early America do not give importance to children because they see kids as worthless.
Now, several years later, the society is taking back some of the old laws by treating the children the same way as the law treats adults because there are certain acts committed by these children that are so heinous that it is necessary to give a punishment in proportion to the crime (“ What is Juvenile Delinquency? “). Juvenile Delinquency is a continuing issue all over the world and different institutions and government have their own set of philosophies with regard how the system should work. It is a common tradition of juvenile courts to give emphasis to treatment, rehabilitation and reformation for the juvenile offenders.
Nowadays, the society has given great consideration not only to condition of the offender and his punishment but equally important is the welfare of the community. Today, movements for protection of the community has been included in the list of court objectives in dealing with juvenile offenders most especially those that have been declared as violent. In New York , Virginia as well as many other states, the law has been amended in order to allow children of tender years who commit heinous crimes and other serious offenses to be tried as an adult and not as a juvenile.
The explanation for this is sometimes the crime committed by the child was so severe that it cannot be perceived as the work of a child so the court deemed it proper that the trial should be conducted in adult courts. The unsettling issue is whether or not the most vile child offenders can be rehabilitated. There exists a possibility that once these children will be put back in the street, there is a tendency for them to commit another crime and end up hurting other people again. The opposition however, presented evidence of successful rehabilitation contradicting that theory and the debate goes on.
Different approaches have been tried in order to examine all angles and deal with the issues of juvenile delinquency. As a result of the increasing youth violence rates, the public has been restless so the state has no choice but to act on this immediately and as a result, programs and plans enacted gave too much emphasis in the offense rather than the treatment. There are some states that increased the amount of crimes and made the age lower for the transfer from the juvenile to the adult court to be more possible. Courts have found a way to create a minimum sentence for certain offenses.
The main problem here is the difficulty in its application. The offense-based strategy makes an assumption that the children who commit an act of violence should be dealt with accordingly. These laws do not take into consideration the age, level of maturity, individual differences and competence of the person in making a judgment call and as a result, there maybe an over-identification of teenagers who acted violently and a great number of them are being immediately being subjected to the adult court’s jurisdiction which focuses on punishment and not rehabilitation (“Effectiveness of Treatment for Violent Juvenile Delinquents”. . The government needs to address the problem of growing violence in relation to the juvenile delinquency while considering several factors and ways of treatment at the same time. One treatment would be the biological intervention. The philosophy behind it is that others believe that some biological and neurological conditions may be the reason for violent actuations. These problems may be avoided and given an early treatment through the use of drugs and other medication. Another treatment possible is the cognitive-behavioral approach.
The aim or philosophy behind this approach would be that because of intervention, the aggressive and hostile behavior of angry teenagers may be toned down thereby lessening the possibility of violence. One other method which many claim to be efficient would be the Multisystemic Therapy (MST). This treatment centers on the child and the family and is aimed at solving the problems adolescents are facing. The rationale for this approach is that a child who is constantly being given attention by his parents are less likely to be violent.
This intervention is specifically designed to meet the needs of the family and their environment. This therapy monitors and increases the communication skills in order to help the children reach their goal in the community. Studies show that about half of 96 teenagers have been sentenced because of a violent offence and more than 30% of them are habitual offenders. These children were assigned to the MST program and within two years, their response was amazing.
Less than 20% of these children were incarcerated within the two year period as compared to the usual 68% and these children had half arrest incidents as compared to the youth belonging to other programs (Go). These policies have been carefully studied and evaluated and is being continuously conducted depending on the needs of the children. Constant intervention should be highly encouraged by the government in order to make improvements in the lives of teenagers. All of these approaches require continuous dedication and long-term commitment in order to get the maximum results (Roberts).
The Unites States News and World report found out that since 2004, the juvenile justice is in a state of disarray due to the unpredictable incidences of violence all over the country. As of 2005, reports showed that the occurrence of sexual violence in juvenile prison was much higher than in adult correctional facilities (Abrams). Media has played a big role in spreading awareness when it comes to juvenile crimes. Reports show that in the early 1990’s, more than one fifth of all individuals arrested for criminal offenses were under the age of 18.
Juveniles have the capability of commiting similar crimes as the adults. The only difference is that when it comes to minors, certain acts are declared to be delinquent because of the age of the offender. Thirty percent of the minors were arrested because of serious crimes and more than ten percent of those arrested were under the age of 15. Juvenile arrest has become an occurrence since the start of 1970’s and the female juvenile crime offenders has also increased in numbers through the passage of time.
Unofficial records show that a high percentage of these offenders have been engaged in minor infraction and common offenses such as vandalism, drinking below the allowable age limit, shoplifting and the use of marijuana. However, official records show that many of the juvenile crimes are committed by a group. Juvenile gangs may be classified as social or violent. The violent gangs are very sensitive about their territory and any disputes arising from this often result in assault involving unlicensed dangerous weapons. On the other hand, a social gang is more tamed compared to the other types of gangs (“Juvenile Crime”) .
Courtney from Study Moose
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