This society is much more different than that of yesterday. Today, the country is encountering the biggest economic crisis, the war against Iraq seems to be endless, and the crime rates are increasing to a highly alarming level. As depressing as this current situation appears, the even more devastating part is that the juveniles have been partly responsible for the crime and violence all over the country. Juvenile delinquents are young people. To be more specific, they are individuals below the legal age or under eighteen who have been convicted of a crime.
In some states, the legal age for criminal liability has been lowered down to 14 years old (Hill & Hill, 2005). Criminal Justice System is a very complicated and diverse field, and the aspect concerning juvenile delinquency has always been on top of controversies and heated debates. These young people are in the early stages of their lives and as such, it is difficult to devise and implement the exact measure that will be necessary and effective for them to learn their lesson.
Everybody knows that breaking the law and committing serious crime and violence are unthinkable; however, a more unbearable and heartbreaking thought would be finding out that the law offenders and crime doers are children who, at their very young age, are supposed to be blissfully unaware of the devastating aspect of being a grown-up. They should be in school studying, playing and enjoying their innocence (McCurley & Snyder, 2004).
Examining all the different angles of juvenile delinquency can be a very complex process, and as such, different measures and approaches are necessary. The observation made by many was that the plans and programs enacted focus too much in the offense, and they may have lost their perspective on the treatment. Some states lowered the age of accountability from juveniles to adults. The courts, on the other hand, created minimum sentences depending on the offense. The problem created in these situations lie in the application.
These are offense-based strategies. They create an assumption that the youth who committed a crime should be dealt with no matter what. These laws completely disregard the age, level of maturity, individual differences, and the competence of the person in making judgments. For instance, in Virginia, New York, and other states, laws relating to juveniles have been adjusted to include young children who committed serious crimes to be tried as adults and not as juveniles (University of Pittsburgh, n. d. ).
When asked about this new reform, these states simply stated that there are times when the child committed crimes in ways that are heinous and unthinkable, and as such, the acts cannot be perceived as the works of a child. Therefore, the court deemed it proper that they be tried and punished as adults (MoneyInstructor. com, 2009). Rehabilitation and not punishment should be the main aim of juvenile delinquency laws. The presumption is that adolescents are very fragile during their growing years. Thus, they should be treated with extreme care and sensitivity.
In order to make an effective prevention plan, one must first understand the person’s main reason in being involved in these criminal activities in order for different methods and approaches in disciplining them to be enforced. The government has not given up hope in reaching out to these youngsters, so they made available community and residential treatments as well as non-residential and institutionalized treatments. A person will be placed by the court on probation when it becomes convinced that the child poses no harm or danger to himself and to the society.
Probation is a supervised program commanded by the court of competent jurisdiction in instances wherein the offender is a youth which has been convicted of a criminal act. In this case, the person’s freedom is limited, and his or her activities are restricted and are under the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice. It is mandated by the court that the youth should follow all the conditions and sanctions in connection with the offense (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2005).
Some of the conditions under which a youth is released for probation are being home on a specific time of the day upon the request of the probation officer, attending school, and obeying its rules and regulations constantly. The court may also order the youth to avoid going to a particular type of place and to avoid mingling with a group of people. As of 1999, statistics show that four out of ten juvenile delinquency cases or approximately more than one half were placed under probation (Elrod & Ryder, 2005).
Community-based correction and treatment pertains to the different kinds of overseeing, control, and support for the youth offenders. These plans and programs were organized because the government firmly believes that one of the efficient and effective ways to influence the young people to change their bad attitudes and behaviors and become a better person is to assist and give them responsibilities that belong to a normal person within a particular community (Elrod & Ryder, 2005). It is important for the juvenile to be affiliated with a group.
This will give him or her a chance to socialize and be acquainted with other people with whom he or she can relate to. This environment is especially set up and programmed for the children to feel as normal as possible and for them to be engaged in community-related activities. Making these youngsters feel that they are significant and accepted in the society will help speed up their rehabilitation. The government strongly supports the community treatment for juveniles because of the symbiotic relationship created.
In this atmosphere, everybody has a role to play; therefore, no one would feel less important and insignificant (Streib & Sametz, 2006). Restitution has also been made a part of the community treatment. In restitution, the offender gives either monetary payment or community service in proportion to the damages that the victim suffered. This is a way of reimbursing the victim for everything that he or she experienced because of the crime. The rationale behind this type of treatment is that rehabilitation in the lightest and mildest form may lead the offender to think about what he did.
Putting a child in a penal establishment even for just a minor infraction would not rehabilitate him or her; it would ruin the child’s life and his or her perspective for the worst, thereby destroying his or her life (Streib & Sametz, 2006). Community-based programs for correction and rehabilitation aim to achieve several objectives. These include but are not limited to sanctioning the youth offenders, assisting them in identifying themselves in relation to the community that they belong to, and helping them realize that being in this program is much better than being placed inside a penal establishment.
There are times when they should realize the truth of their current situation because some of these young offenders resist being helped and would rather be put in an institution. Helping them see the possibilities and changes that may occur by reason of their cooperation in the community will help them gain a variety of new perspectives, and in some instances, this is an effective strategy (Elrod & Ryder, 2005). Every treatment given is on a case-to-case basis depending on the situation.
Thus, there is no treatment proven to be most effective for all juveniles. The community-based treatment generates different results. The test to measure whether or not a program worked is the recidivism rate. If the offender, after finishing the rehabilitation plan, never committed another crime again, that is only the time when the program can be declared as effective (Streib & Sametz, 2006). There are also several pieces of evidence that prove that this program is less inexpensive than institutional-based programs.
Other programs for youth offenders have been evaluated, and according to the findings, they do not produce great improvement as shown by subsequent acts of the offenders. The government was not surprised to a certain extent because the disparity between the community-based approach and other types of programs can be readily ascertained. Due to these results, some states are making a huge effort to shift their plan of action to community-based systems (Streib & Sametz, 2006). There are many factors that come into play regarding the causes and effects of juvenile delinquency.
The parents, the church, and the community greatly influence the upbringing of these children. In most cases, the root of the problem for these youth is lack of self-acceptance, guidance, and attention. The future of the country lies in the hands of these children, and if they mess up their present, they will have no future ahead of them. The juvenile justice system is continuing and struggling to attain its purpose in giving the youth a second chance at life because of that promising hope of a brighter tomorrow for the entire country.
Courtney from Study Moose
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