Crime statistics from Chicago, Illinois testify to the increasing number of youth offenders. In 1989, the Chicago police reported that 64% of 274,000 their crimes were committed by individuals under the age of 25; 40% of these crimes were committed by teenagers under 18." (Malmgren, Abbott, & Hawkins, 1999)
The recent headlines show that more and more kids are being expelled from schools for carrying guns, knives and for getting into fistfights. These antisocial acts have become quite common. Not to mention, inner city minority kids used to be the only kids exposed to gang violence or open gang recruiting. But the best 'Gangsta Rapper' today is white. Eminem is targeting suburban America with his Slim Shady message. And the gangs and the gangsta lifestyle seem to be in vogue. In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings a few years ago where two juvenile delinquents terrorized a nation by killing thirteen innocent students and wounding nearly two dozen more before killing themselves, society has a renewed vigor in preventing juvenile delinquency.
Our society has been forced to pay attention, to study and to detail our society's youth. Drug and alcohol abuse, self-medication, all behavior and attention problems such as anxiety, withdrawal, conduct disorders, socialized aggression; and self-esteem have been tied to juvenile delinquency. Schools and communities are attempting to implement new 'zero tolerance' discipline policies. Since adolescents generally want to belong to a group, the students who may feel left out at school get acceptance by to joining street gangs. Leaders of such gangs accept these youth because they frequently want them to sell their drugs and engage in other illegal activities.
Juvenile delinquency continues to grow and has now become a world wide epidemic. From Mexico to Brazil, economic factors lead to youth's acting out. "Once again, education is at the heart of the economic debate in Latin America. Low investment in human capital has been identified as one of the main obstacles to growth for South American countries. As well, an increase in problems, such as juvenile delinquency, has been attributed to deficiencies in human and social capital." (Rubio, 1997)
Communist societies have not been spared from the problem. "China's top legislature approved the Law on Curbing Juvenile Delinquency on June 28, 1999. The Law went into effect on November 1st last year. Wan Chaofen, vice-chairwoman of the NPC Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs pointed out this morning at a new briefing that curbing juvenile delinquency is a matter of great importance. "It is crucial to the healthy growth of juveniles, to the happiness of many families, and to the stability of society," she said. However, the rate of juvenile delinquency worldwide is on the rise, and those teenagers violating laws or committing crimes tend to be younger and even organize criminal gangs. China is no exception." (Unavailable, Xinhua, Xinhua (China), 2000)
What is the reason for so many juvenile delinquents? Throughout the world, there is evidence that juveniles are recruited for violence by professional criminal organizations. Drug traffickers and illegal military organizations prove to be role models for the poor children of the world. "An extreme case is that of the so-called "camps" organized by the guerrillas in the low-income neighborhoods of Medellin during the 1984 peace talks with the Belisario Betancurt government. In these camps, many youths received both political and military instruction from the guerrillas. The results of this strange experiment cannot be dismissed in terms of delinquency: when talks with the government broke down, these juvenile schools of war turned illegal, and many youths who had been trained to use weapons left to form their own criminal gangs." (Rubio)
Education, however seems to be one of the root causes of juvenile delinquency. "Crime statistics indicate that levels of academic achievement, school attendance and graduation rates play an important role in the involvement of youth in the criminal justice system. Research indicates that the level of education attained can affect opportunities for future employment." (Edwards, 1996) A lack of academic success and self-esteem help create and influence juvenile delinquents. Even though the law guarantees Americans a free and appropriate education for all, many fail to obtain adequate special educational assistance in school so many end up in juvenile detention centers. "School is important to the emotional development and self-esteem of children...it is the school that dispenses the skills prized in contemporary society, provides the major arena in which the young can demonstrate competence, and functions as the major arena in which youth gain status. Youths' success or lack of success in school may affect their subsequent involvement in juvenile delinquency. Failure in school is a result of poor school attendance for many students. This is especially true for Learning Disability students." (Maag & Irvin, 1994)
Children with learning disabilities often feel school is not for them and end up dropping out. Their learning disabilities are often either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The U.S. Office of Education (1977) has defined learning disabilities as follows: a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, mental retardation, or emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage (U.S. Office of Education. p. 65083)" (Winters, 1997)
Correctional institution inmates are usually school dropouts and are maladaptive and have passive learning styles and attribute their lack of academic success to external factors. The social characteristics of many inmates are quite divergent. Many are illiterate and have never held a job. They are former juvenile delinquents who were drug and alcohol abusers who often have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse." (Rackmill, 1996) Other inmates are mentally retarded. Between 28 and 43% of incarcerated juveniles have special education needs. Many of them have learning disabilities. (Winters) In adult correctional facilities between 30 to 50% of the inmates need special education.
There also appears to be a relationship between dropping out of school and committing crime. Obviously, not all dropouts commit crimes, but when they lack the education to find gainful employment, they do so. 45% of jail inmates had been unemployed, and 12% had been employed only part-time. National Dropout Prevention Network (NDPN) reports that 25% of the nation's dropouts are unemployed. The NDPN also found that dropouts earn $250,000 less over their lifetime than graduates do. Further, they cost the nation $240 billion in crime, welfare, and health costs. Across the United States, 82% of prison inmates are dropouts. In a study by the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority, it was discovered that 72% of Illinois prison inmates were dropouts, and that 30% read below the 6th-grade level. Moreover, more learning disabled students are found among the adjudicated youth population than in the average school-age population. Additionally, the age of inmates in our prisons has decreased over the past decades. Today, the average male inmate is in his twenties. Although men in their twenties represent 24% of the general population, they account for more than 50% of the inmate population. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 1988, 60% of prisoners are under 30 years of age.
Naturally, along with the drop out rate illiteracy is growing in the United States, and in prisons it is 25%. This illiteracy among offenders is costing state and federal governments millions of dollars to house, feed, and clothe almost one million inmates. The average cost for incarcerating a youth in the United States is $29,600; in New York City the annual cost is $55,300. In Illinois out of a Department of Corrections budget of $533 million, $450 million was spent in 1991 to provide basic personal needs of prisoners. Insurance companies, in order to pay for personal and corporate losses resulting from crime, spend additional millions of dollars each year. Over the next five years, 90% of adults presently incarcerated can expect to be released from prison. Due to illiteracy and the lack of a GED or high school diploma, many of these adults and youth will not be employable. In addition, around 60% of incarcerated youth who return to school end up dropping out later.
Education is the consensual method for attaining wealth. Knowledge of at least basic skills in reading and math are required for acquiring a good job or training for a profession. This gives priority to educating juvenile inmates so they can become self-sufficient taxpayers when they leave the criminal justice system. Although all juvenile offenders may not become successful as a result of receiving an education and many may return to criminal activity after their release from prison, education offers at least the potential for a positive outcome. "Thus, it is in the public interest to educate inmates; it is cost effective because it public and decreases the…