Youth violence can be referred to as the harmful behaviors that often start from early child hood and continued to young adulthood. The young people can be an offender, victim or a witness of the violence. Violence among the youths includes various behaviors. Violence acts such as slapping, hitting or bullying can result to more emotional harm than the physical harm. Other violence acts such as rape, assaults or robbery can have serious consequences and some times may result to death.
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In the year 2000 the department of health and human services in the United State released a report on the youth violence that reflected numerous myths about juvenile violence (Heitmeyer & Hagan, 2005). These misconceptions included; the belief that young supper predators posed new form s of threats to the United State, efforts to prevent or treat youth violence does not work and that youth violence can be curbed through prosecuting the juvenile offender as the adults. On the other hand by the end of 1990s youth violence had largely subsided. During this time there was no evidence that youth offenders were callous or vicious than the previous generations but the availability of more lethal and cheaper fire arms has resulted to more homicides (Heitmeyer & Hagan, 2005).
Research has shown that well run interventions and prevention programs can assist in to reduce criminal recidivism and violent behaviors among the youths. Studies have also shown that youth violence and crimes cannot be reduced by transferring juveniles to adult courts but rather these acts of prosecuting the juvenile as adult's results to sexual and physical victimization in the institutions of adults and as a consequence they are more likely to commit additional offences upon the release to the community. The acts of prosecuting juveniles as adults were as result enactment of drastic reforms in the juvenile law in response to youth violence. The basic elements of the juvenile justice system were altered in a way that was fully appreciated by the lawmakers. The juvenile justice system was essentially changed and remarked in the image of adult justice (Corrado & Hart, 2002).
Initially when juvenile courts emerged state laws directed judges in the juvenile courts to dispense individualized justice. Judges were expected to respond to each delinquent juvenile according to their potential problem area and individual situation and not simply choosing a sentence basing on the severity of the offence committed by the youth. The mission of the courts were to identify the factors that may have contributed to the juvenile going astray and work in order to reverse those factors by combining services and sanctions. The entire process of the juvenile court was supposed to be non- stigmatizing, confidential and rehabilitative (Shaddox, 2008). However the lawmakers have changed the juvenile justice system in the United States to target criminality rather than the social problems (Corrado & Hart, 2002). Due to these changes judges are imposing more severe sentences for severe law violations independently of developmental and social concerns. The prosecutors of the juveniles adopted retribution as the policy goal. In addition secure confinement as incapacitation was endorsed by the legislators rather than treatment. As a consequence the juvenile justice system has become more automatic, less confidential and increasingly punitive (Shaddox, 2008).
Approaches to address violent issues and reduction of delinquency basing on one sratergy do not work. Too m any practices in correction of juvenile provide ineffective treatment and do not deter future violent behavior (Shaddox, 2008). Therefore social workers and other organizations must play a significant role of ensuring that the services that exist in the communities to serve youth who previously had contacted with juvenile justice are reoriented. Mental health, juvenile justice, education, recreation services and child welfare may all have a significant role to play in molding the lives of the youths and their families (Shaddox, 2008).
- Shaddox C (2008): Juvenile Justice and the Theater of the Absurd. Retrieved on 5th November 2008.
- Heitmeyer W & Hagan J (2005): International Handbook of Violence Research. ISBN 1402039808, Springer.
- Corrado R & Hart R (2002): Multi-problem Violent Youth: A Foundation for Comparative Research on Needs, Interventions, and Outcomes. ISBN 158603071X, IOS Press.