Crimes are usually assumed to have been committed by adults, unfortunately, in today’s society; crimes are committed by juveniles at a growing rate. Maybe juveniles are viewing too many violent television shows or movies, playing too many violent video games, or maybe juveniles are committing crimes out of boredom. Nevertheless, the pertinent issue is the fact that juveniles are participating in the commission of criminal activity at an adult level. Juveniles are no longer stealing candy bars from the local grocery store, but they are committing violent crimes against other people.
Even more astounding is the fact that these same juvenile offenders are walking away with only probation as their punishment. For the most part, juveniles commit offenses pertaining to property, public nuisances, and underage drug and alcohol related crimes. Violent crimes against other persons such as assault and battery and murder are now included in the list of crimes committed by juveniles (Torbet, 1996). In order to understand why specific crimes are committed, one must carefully examine the juvenile offender. Juvenile offenders are both male and female.
Some come from broken or single-parent homes lacking adequate supervision of the juvenile during the evening hours. Some juveniles are suffering from an undiagnosed psychological disorder whereby making it difficult for the juvenile to understand the consequences of his or her criminal actions. Finally, some juveniles have become associated with local gangs or gang members as a means of joining the group. Probation is a necessary factor within the juvenile justice system. There is however, the lingering question as to what crimes constitute a probationary sentence and what crimes mandate incarceration.
First time offenders have almost always been guaranteed probation as a means of scaring the juvenile into straightening out their life (Gaines & Miller, 2008). Juveniles having committed petty larceny, underage drinking violations, and simple assaults may also be good candidates for probation, but juveniles who have committed felonies should not be afforded probation.
Juvenile probation enacts specific mandates in order to retrain and discipline the offender for his or her wrongdoing against society. Community service and attending school are most common requirements of probation. Some courts even order the juvenile to pay restitution to the victims. Curfews are strictly enforced as are daily or weekly reporting to the assigned probation officer (Torbet, 1996). In certain cases, substance abuse counseling and attending groups such as narcotics anonymous or alcoholics anonymous are provisioned.
Counseling is generally enforced as a condition of probation and may include anger management classes and social skills building therapy (Gaines & Miller, 2008). If a juvenile fails to meet any provisions set forth by the probation officer, the juvenile’s probation could ultimately be revoked. It is difficult to combat or devise a universal solution to the juvenile delinquency problem in this country. Many programs have been created in order to aid the juvenile justice system by attempting to discourage repeat offenders. Some courts may find it necessary to require random urinalysis screenings of any or all juvenile offenders.
Juvenile probation officers may discover in the course of monitoring certain juveniles that family counseling may be necessary in order to provide the juvenile with structure and stability. In more severe cases, it could be suggested that the juvenile may need to be removed from the home and placed into foster care in order to protect the juvenile from imminent danger created by addicted parents or crime filled neighborhoods. The juvenile justice system is in dire need of reorganization, and the best starting point would definitely be in the juvenile probation department.