Juvenile Delinquency


Juvenile Delinquency Essay, Research Paper

Juvenile Delinquency: A Brief History

I. The harsh beginnings.

Children were viewed as non-persons until the 1700’s. They did not receive special treatment or recognition. Discipline then is what we now call abuse. There were some major assumptions about life before the 1700’s.

The first assumption is that life was hard, and you had to be hard to survive. The people of that time in history did not have the conveniences that we take for granted. For example, the medical practices of that day were primitive in comparison to present-day medicine. Marriages were more for convenience, rather than for child-bearing or romance.

The second assuption was that infant and child mortality were high. It did not make sense to the parents in those days to create an emotional bond with children. there was a strong chance that the children would not survive until adulthood.

II. The beginning of Childhood.

At the end of the 18th century, “The Enlightenment” appeared as a new cultural transition. This period of history is sometimes known as the beginning of reason and humanism. People began to see children as flowers, who needed nurturing in order to bloom. It was the invention of childhood, love and nurturing instead of beatings to stay in line. Children had finally begun to emerge as a distinct group. It started with the upper-class, who were allowed to attend colleges and universities.

III. Something new?

Throughout all time there has been delinquency. It may not have had the delinquency label, but it still existed. In ancient Britain, children at the age of seven were tried, convicted, and punished as adults. There was no special treatment for them, a hanging was a hanging. Juvenile crime is mentioned as far back as ancient Sumeria and Hammurabi, where laws concerning juvenile offenders first appear in written form.

The Modernization of Juvenile Delinquency

I. Industrialization.

Industrialization set into motion the processes needed for modern juvenile delinquency. The country had gone from agriculture to machine-based labor-intensive production. Subsistence farming quickly turned into profit making. People who were displaced from their farm work because of machinery were migrating to the city to find work. This led to urbanization in such places as Chicago, which in turn caused the cities to burst at the seams.

II. Urbanization.

There was a huge increase in the amount of movable goods that were produced. These movable goods were easy to steal. The stealing of these goods made property crime rise tremendously in these urban centers. The wealth of the upper-class increased, and stealing became a way of living.

These large urban centers also created another problem. The work place was now seperated from the home. During the hard times both parents took jobs. There was also very little for the youths to do, especially when school was not in session. It was then that youths were becoming increasingly unsupervised. These youths were largely unemployed. Without supervision, and with movable goods easily available, stealing became a way of life.

The huge influx of people to these urban areas overwhelmed society. The factories could not keep up, and unemployment became a factor. Poverty became widespread.

III. Salvage Attempts.

Poorhouses were created to keep youthful offenders away from trouble. The idea behind them was to take the children of the “dangerous” classes out of their “dangerous environment.” Kids were thought to be salvageable needed to be saved. The majority of these children were rounded up for the crime of being poor, not because they committed a crime. These houses, sometimes refered as reform schools, were very harsh. This was contradictory to the ides the they needed nurturing and love. In New York, houses of refuge were created to do the same. The houses eventually became overfilled, and children were sent out West as indentured servants. As many as 50,00 children were shipped out. Some of them never were allowed to have contact with their parents again.

Indusrtialization and urbanization played a tremendous role in the modern era of Juvenile Delinquency. A lot of these factors are true today. Many more farms are going bankrupt. Unemployment is still a factor with the youth of today. We are a culture that values material wealth over and above all. Youth who have no money to live the way they want will often turn to crime as a way to satisfy themselves. As our nation changes, the way in which juveniles are treated will also have to change. The current trends in Juvenile Delinquency have an impact on how we view the problem.

Trends in Juvenile Delinquency

Author’s Note: The figures used are subject to change depending on new data being released by the U.S. Government.

The number of juvenile arrests have been declining. In 1971, 27% of all arrests were juveniles. In 1991, 19% of all arrests were juveniles. A lot of this change has to do with the declining teenage population. There are 6 million fewer teenagers today than 20 years ago.

Property crime in the U.S. has been fairly stable, there has been a 3% increase between 1982 and 1991. Violent crime has seen a tremendous increase. Since 1965, juvenile arrests have doubled for rape (11:100,000 in 1965 to 22:100,000 in 1991). Crime is generally a young person’s game.

Property crime peaks at age 16, violent crime peaks at age 18. All crime drops off dramatically at about age 30. There are some disturbing trends. More than 500 kids under 12 were arrested for rape in 1991.

These statistics should be viewed with caution. For example, some of these figures were estimated, the official numbers may be less disturbing, or even underestimated. With an increased emphasis on juveniles, more enforcement and less discretion equals higher figures. There is also a problem with data being “fudged” in order to justify an increase in resources.

Today there is an increasing trend in looking for alternative treatment programs. Instead of jails and youth detention facilities, boot camps, foster homes, and other methods are being researched.

Alternative Treatment Methods for Juvenile Delinquents

The Juvenile Justice System has many treatment options to choose from. Besides the usual jails and correctional centers, there are specialized Youth Centers, Group Homes, and Foster Care Programs.

I. Youth Centers for Serious Offenders.

The Paint Creek Youth Center in Ohio was assessed by Peter Greenwood and Susan Turner (1993). The main goal of this center is to provide high-quality tailored programming. There was a three-day orientation program and an aftercare program to assist in the transition back to society. The youths received classes and formal counseling instead of being locked up in a cell. They were part of a community.

While at the center, they earned privileges as they progressed. Among the privileges were being allowed a paying job, family visits at the center, and weekends at home. The uniqueness of this program was the emphasis on tailored treatment. Instead of being lumped into groups, the youths were counseled individually. This allowed the counselors and youths to benefit from the program.

Greenwood and Turner concluded that the aftercare program had a modest effect on post-release arrests and behavior. More cognitive/behavioral effort was needed in the aftercare. They also determined that this alternative shows promise, and that more attention should be paid to the youths’ prosocial behavior when they return to the community.

II. Group Home Treatment Programs.

Haghighi and Lopez (1993) evaluated the success/failure of group home treatment programs for juveniles. The two factors used in the analysis were evaluations from program staff and the reappearance of the juvenile in the juvenile justice system after release.

Haghighi and Lopez found that 62.5% of the juveniles were rated as successful. The rest either failed, were sent to another facility, or committed another delinquent act after release. Juveniles with prior treatment, such as probation, were more successful than those with no treatment or with time spent in a juvenile detention center.

In conclusion, Haghighi and lopez found that the group home program should be used in the early stages of delinquent behavior. They also claimed that there should not be a departure from this type of treatment which reduces the cost of juvenile justice, and that the group home program should be a priority instaed of an option. Author’s note: The 62.5% rate is very good compared with jails.

III. Foster Family Homes.

Galaway, et al. (1995) wrote an article that claimed family homes for emotionally or psychiatrically impaired youth may have hidden benefits for delinquents. Family care providers were said to be able to manage delinquents in a home setting and that their behavior will improve. the study was composed of 220 U.S., 18 Canadian, and 28 U.K. programs.

Less than half of these programs served delinquents. It was reported that 41% of delinquent youth completed the programs, 12% were administratively discharged, 14% showed no progress, and the rest were discharged due to breakdown of the youth or foster family. The average length of stay was 7.5 months. They determined that foster family care may be a viable alternative for delinquents and could be used more often. It is sometimes the case that youth are placed in the wrong setting (jail) because their is no other alternative.

The juvenile justice system today has many treatment options to choose from. The new and intensive programs, which are tailored to the individual offender, have some promising prospects. There is also hope that specialized programs started at facilities to incarcerate juvenile offenders will improve recidivism.

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