Juvenile Crime and Government Policy
Published 23 Feb 2017
It is ideal and expected for people under 18 years old to have different values and judgment as adults. Aimed at pushing to the fullest the opportunities of the juvenile becoming a well-rounded, responsible and productive member of a community, the government and the criminal justice system regarded their misdemeanor into something that can be saved. An immediate and efficient involvement of those concerned can differentiate the variation of a normal and ideal adolescent life with that of a crime-infested juvenile life. However difficult, juvenile crime can be salvaged if it is dealt with accordingly and avoiding treating the problem later when the adolescent has turned into an adult, who is harder to deal with and a stage where the problems are much complicated.
For the past decades, the society has been faced with concerns about juvenile crime such as the increase in its statistics, whether the offender, who is even medically categorized as child, will be legally treated in an adult court and the government policy on such issue.
The book Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice reported that although juvenile delinquency has dated as far back as the early 1900s; the judicial state, government and the public in general have seen its rise in the 1980s up to the early 1990s. The increase was treated with the formulation and eventual implementation of tougher laws and even to the point of transferring the minor offender to an adult court and somehow erasing the thin line which separated an adult to juvenile crime.
In its review as presented in the same book, the United States’ National Research Council’s Panel on Juvenile Crime presented recommendations for addressing the many aspects of America’s youth crime problem. The panel stated that “adolescent offenders are caught in the crossfire between nurturance of youth and punishment of criminals, between rehabilitation and “get tough” pronouncements.” The commitment of juvenile crimes are based on various contributing factors such as prenatal care, differences in temperament, family influences to the role pf peer relationships, the impact of the school polices toward delinquency and the broader influences of the neighborhood and community (McCord, et al.).
The statistic concern was supported by the Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report of the Office of the US Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). According to their report, despite the overall decline of crime arrest of juvenile violence from 1970s to 1994, the ratio of female crime arrests have risen, specifically the crime of assault. This marked a significant change in the personality traits of minors who became part of juvenile justice system and its programming requirements. The time and place of juvenile violent crime, particularly those that were seriously committed after school hours, were also described in the same report. Meanwhile, racial discrimination in the juvenile system is decreasing. For instance, the juvenile violent crime committed by black Americans in the latter part of the 1980s was six times the rate of those committed by white Americans.
This has dropped to four times the white rate in 2003. At the same time, the drug abuse-related crimes decreased from five times to less than twice the rate for white Americans.
Bock and Goode said that the development and behavior of a delinquent juvenile was influenced by his or her own individualism, the social and community conditions as well as their interactions with each others. A fetal to adolescent development, which was characterized by antisocial and delinquent behavior and the result of a complex interplay of individual biological and genetic factors and environmental factors, may continue throughout life. The development of a juvenile offender is an influence of his or her biological and environmental inputs (qtd. in McCord 66).
Robins also stated the issue on risk factors which help identified which adolescent is in most need of preventive interventions until reaching adulthood. Circumstances dictated that adult criminals were involved in delinquent behavior as children and adolescents. But this is not the same case with juvenile crimes as delinquent children and adolescents not necessarily grow up to be adult criminals. Robins further said that the most serious, chronically delinquent children and adolescents experience a number of risk factors at various levels but most children and adolescents with risk factors do not become serious, chronic delinquents. Although any individual factor contributes only a small part to the increase in risk, it is widely recognized that the more risk factors a child or adolescent experiences, the higher their risk for delinquent behavior (qtd. in McCord 66)
The juvenile justice system was established in the United States about 100 years ago to avoid youthful offenders suffer from the destructive punishments of criminal courts and encouraging over-all rehabilitation of the young offender. The variation of this system was that it focused on the adolescent as a person who needs to be assisted, not on the act that he or she committed. Court proceedings were observed with the judge acting in the best interests of the child and non-essential procedural safeguards available to adults, such as the right to legal counsel, the right to know the nature of the case charged against the concerned adolescent, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront one’s accuser, were considered.
Confidentiality characterized the treatment of juvenile cases as the public is not privy to the legal proceedings as well as the records. This was the practice so as not to hinder with the minor’s ability to be changed and be again an accepted member of the society. “Juveniles are not charged with crimes, but rather with delinquencies; they are not found guilty, but rather are adjudicated delinquent; they are not sent to prison, but to training school or reformatory” (McCord 154).
With the above references, a debate or issue whether young delinquent will be treated the same way as an adult offender, has yet to be worked out. The tremendous increase in the number of juvenile offense can not be addressed with mere treatment, counseling, community service, and probation can never be the appropriate solution to violent crime. That is why the implementation of legal remedies against juvenile delinquents using the adult criminal justice system was aimed to seek the strongest sanctions available against violent and repeat criminals, regardless of age.
Shepherd cited surveys stating that more than sixty percent said that government should concentrate on either prevention or rehabilitation to reduce juvenile crime rather than enforcement of strict punishment. The survey presented that “those who decry most strongly the growing wave of serious and violent juvenile crime say they are only responding to the public’s demand for tougher penalties and more “adult-like” procedures, while the advocates for retaining the traditional individualized rehabilitative model for juvenile justice urge that voters still support the juvenile and family court as it emerged from the progressive era early in the century.”
The surveys also revealed a non-vindicative public as they still believe in the effectiveness of the traditional juvenile justice system with its emphasis on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, and they reject the retributive thrust of a punishment-centered system. Although respondents suggested more the use of transfer to adult court for serious juvenile offenders, isolation from adults while awaiting trial was still emphasized and the need for rehabilitation in any institutional placement was encouraged.
Early and effective youth corrections policies by the government was also manifested in the survey as the respondents believed that “secure institutional programs, like training schools, should be reserved for only the most serious juvenile offenders, and that the treatment modality of choice for most youth should be community based programs that focus on rehabilitation”
The study depicted the need for the authorities to promote an advance policies to correct the juvenile offenders. It suggested that the government should allot institutional projects such as a simple educational schools especially for the most serious juvenile offenders, and that the means of the policies should focus on rehabilitation treatment. The people prefer that their tax contributions be put into programs alleviating the interest of the youth. The government’s plans should dwell more on the side of correcting the minor, indemnifying the victim(s) of the crime and allowing the suspect to render community service. The study further suggested that “the institution may put the young offenders to get job training, to be placed in community based programs focusing on education, and to receive counseling in the local community. Training schools and residential services are at the bottom of the public’s list of priority programs.”
A positive outlook of the survey manifested that the issue can be resolved. In spite of the sensationalism of some media reports on the crimes committed by the minors, people are aware of the things that needed to be done and those that are unnecessary for the promotion of the minors’ welfare. The good thing about it is that they are ready and willing to invest in those programs that will lessen even the opportunities of the commitment of crime (Shepherd, 1996).
Summing up, juvenile crime is a society problem which can be treated. An early and firm commitment by the government and the justice system to take steps toward the prevention of juvenile crime is reachable. Strong and consistent enforcement of child support obligations and effective laws are essential. Having a full-blown and hard to manage adult offender can be preventable if we focus first on rehabilitating a young offender.
- Bock, G.R., and J.A. Goode. Genetics of Criminal and Antisocial Behavior. Toronto: Wiley & Sons, 1996.
- McCord, Joan, et al. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Office of Justice Programs. U.S. Department of Justice. “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report.” July, 2006. OJJDP. OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book.
- Robins, L.N. Sturdy childhood predictors of adult antisocial behavior: Replications from longitudinal studies. Psychological Medicine 8: 1978, 611-622.
- Shepherd, Robert, Jr., E. “What Does the Public Really Want?” Criminal Justice Magazine. Spring 1996, Volume 11, Number 1.