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This is particularly important when making decisions about court processes and sentencing practices in the juvenile court. The ability of youth to recognize that sanctions will drastically increase in the adult system is ample reason to justify the use of punishment in the juvenile system.
Under a model that focuses on punishment, sentencing will need to be harsh enough to deter the youth from continued behavior but not so harsh that it increases the likelihood of future acts. If juvenile detention centers and community-based programs emphasize human assets and place stigma on those who commit crimes a decrease in recidivism may occur (Levitt, 1998). Sentencing considerations will now shift to an offense-based system, one in which the nature of the act rather than the youth himself become the basis for determination of appropriate consequences (Ash, 2006).
Intervention in crimes will need to be consistent in arrest, the court process, corrections, probation, and community oriented programs if a focus on punishment is really going to deter youth from committing additional acts of violence. Law enforcement personnel will need to enforce laws consistently and equally rather than relying on personal discretion when making arrests. At times law enforcement officials will attempt to give youth additional chances before referring them to the court system but this will only increase the likelihood that their behaviors will escalate as they view their actions free of consequences. This is also true for probation officers who will need to effectively implement regulations regarding what constitutes a violation and under what circumstances this violation should result in incarceration.
Community oriented intervention programs will need to reevaluate their approach to dealing with youth who commit crimes. The current focus of community interventions has been to look at youth offenses through the lens of a social problem that can be rectified through community based interventions (Chamberlin, 2001). This model loses sight of the need for punishment and causes problems for youth who eventually transition into a punitive adult system (Chamberlin, 2001). Current community based approaches only widen the disparity between the juvenile and adult systems. Additionally, these programs do very little to dissuade youth from reoffending or from offending in the first place (Chamberlin, 2001). In order to truly be effective, these programs would need to not only target re-offenders but all youth who have committed crimes. Historically, these programs have been situated in low-income areas with the belief that these youth do not have access to other resources, but it does not effectively provide services to those who do not live in these disadvantaged communities.
There are several arguments against the use of punishment when dealing with juvenile offenders starting with the increased costs associated with incarceration in correctional facilities, as well as the lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of punitive strategies in preventing future crimes (Ash, 2006). There is also evidence to suggest that harsher punishments may in fact increase the likelihood of recidivism and the severity of crimes (Ash, 2006). There have also been several arguments about the immaturity of adolescents in relation to their ability to make sound decisions about committing crimes (Ash, 2006). The belief is that due to the reduced decision making capabilities of youth their culpability is severely reduced and sentences should reflect their true abilities. However, it is also true that if youth are determined to have the same decision making capabilities as adults then they should be subject to the same punishments as their adult counterparts. When looking at it from this perspective one must contemplate that if the punishment must fit the maturation and developmental stage of the youth then it may need to be coupled with therapeutic or alternative intervention strategies to ensure a change in behavior and a reduction in recidivism.
Opponents to punishment of juvenile offenders state that juveniles should be found guilty less frequently and receive less severe punishments than adults for the same crimes due to their developmental immaturity (Fontaine, 2008). This concept of developmental immaturity claims that adolescent decision making has not reached the capacity of adults, adolescents are more susceptible to the influence of others, and the character of an adolescent has yet to be fully formed (Fontaine, 2008). Due to these differences between adolescents and adults, they should not be held to the same standards of behavior and therefore consequences should be lessened. These beliefs have called for a shift in focus from punishment of juveniles to their rehabilitation.
Despite this opposition, it is clear that if enforced consistently across all aspects of the justice system, punishment is the most effective way of deterring juveniles from engaging in continued criminal activity. This is especially evidenced by the ability of youth to curtail their behaviors if they are reaching the age of maturity in a harsh adult system vs. The increase in behaviors of those in a lenient system. Regardless of the system in which juveniles are tried, less emphasis on discretion of the correctional personnel and more on the consistency of sanctions is the best approach to treatment of juveniles who engage in criminal acts.
There still appears to be no crystal ball to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency, however, the treatment of this population continues to be a vital issue on the national social policy agenda (Schaeffer & Borduin, 2005). This in part can be attributed to the rising social and economic impact that can be observed from this population. While public policy continues to be aimed at increasing transfers from juvenile courts to adult courts and harsher sanctions for youth who commit serious violent acts, public opinion continues to support the need to enhance treatment and rehabilitation programs for juvenile delinquents that would eventually lead to community reintegration.
There appears to be no single approach to treating juvenile delinquents and all intervention strategies that have shown effectiveness have included a multi-faceted approach. Among other suggestions are the implementing of better screening tools to identify potential at risk juveniles sooner and developing preventative strategies to stop the progression of violent behavior as well as progressive intervention strategies that address offending behaviors at different developmental pathways.
Ash, P. (2006). Adolescents in adult court: Does the punishment fit the criminal? Journal of American Academic Psychiatry Law, 34(2), 145-149.
Chamberlin, C. (2001). Not kids anymore: A need for punishment and deterrence in the juvenile justice system. Boston College Law Review, 42(2), 391-419.
Fontaine, R.G. (2008). Social information processing, subtypes of violence, and a progressive construction of culpability and punishment in juvenile justice. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 31, 136-141.
Kulpchick, A. (2003). Prosecuting adolescents in criminal courts: Criminal or juvenile justice. Social Problems, 50(3), 439-460.
Levitt, S.D. (1998). Juvenile crime and punishment. Journal of Political Economy, 106(6), 1156-1185.
Remschmidt, H., & Walter, R. (2010). What becomes of delinquent children? Results of the Marburg Child Delinquency Study. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 107(27), doi:10.3238/arztebl.2010.0477.
Schaeffer, C.M., & Borduin, C.M. (2005). Long-term follow-up…[continue]
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For those adults and children that admit guilt both systems offer procedures that safeguard and protect their rights ( LaMance, 2011). There are also differences between the two systems these include; the underlying rationales of the juvenile system are that the youth are different in terms of development from adults and hence their behavior is malleable hence rehabilitation, treatment in addition to community protection are considered the primary and viable
(Causal Theories of Juvenile Delinquency: Social Perspectives) Charles Cooley in his publication Human Nature and the Social Order analyzed the personal perception of juvenile delinquents by means of the studies of children and their imaginary friends. Cooley develops his theory around the imaginary concept of looking glass self, which is considered to be a type of imaginary sociability. People introspectively imagine through the eyes of others in their social circles
(Sampson, R. 1987) in one of the exhaustive juvenile crime studies that exist today, Professor Laub from the university of Maryland followed the lives of juvenile delinquent and non-delinquent boys at age 14, 25 and 32 respectively. All the boys were from the similar poor backgrounds and the results of the study helped identify a clear and conclusive pattern. Professor Laub found that low levels of parental supervision, harsh
Studies indicate that "... A higher than average incidence of delinquency occurs among youngsters of the poorest social standing and with the lowest performance at school..." (Jarvelin et al., 1994, p. 230) Similarly, studies also note that neighborhood influences on development was determinant on factors such as "...collective socialization, peer-group influence, and institutional capacity." (Sampson, Morenoff & Gannon-Rowley, 2002. p 443) Generally studies like the above present a negative picture of
Juvenile Delincency in Urban Areas Juvenile delinquency is a contemporary term for an old problem. One of the oldest relevant studies of the phenomenon was 'social disorganization' theory, which was developed by the Chicago school of sociology in the 1920's. This theory posits that there exist areas in a city in which traditional institutions have little or no control. This was studied in Chicago using a system of 'Concentric Zones' which
Findings revealed the importance of early intervention and other schooling factors in reducing delinquency. They also emphasized the benefits of early intervention as one effective measure in preventing delinquency (Mann & Reynolds). The study established the connection between a large-scale preschool program and reductions in the incidence, frequency and severity of juvenile crime (Mann & Reynolds, 2006). The connection is between early social functioning and severe behavioral problems. Social functioning
Juvenile Delinquency 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