Juvenile Delinquency and Social Class Term Paper

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Juvenile Delinquency & Social Class

Juvenile Justice: Juvenile Delinquency & How Perceptions of Social Class Affect Treatment of Young so-called 'Criminals'

It is common to view issues pertaining to justice in purely retributive terms or positivist terms. In other words, conservatives tend to view the system of juvenile justice in terms of crimes that must be morally punished by society. In contrast, liberals often view crimes; particularly crimes committed by juveniles who are presumably less cognizant of societal norms and whom society still has a responsibility to educate, in positivist terms. In other words, if the causes of the crime are alleviated, such as poverty, then it is assumed the crimes that are the result of such poverty will disappear. This paradigm of individual and societal responsibility, eschewing both paradigm's accuracy and efficacy for the moment, indicates how the language used to express concepts of justice affect the way crime and accused criminals are perceived in judicial terms. The class, race, and milieu of the individual in question, and the individual accused of a crime affects the way the individual is classified within the system of juvenile justice and also thus the way the crime is punished or treated, depending on the paradigm used -- of delinquency or mental illness.

The perceptions of the juveniles themselves, in terms of their social class thus create a particular construction in the minds of the police, probation officers, and individuals who process these so-called 'delinquents' that is separate from the actual causes and actual affects of the crimes they commit. For instance, it might be assumed that individuals of a more impoverished 'social class' are more likely to commit specific crimes and to be involved in criminal activities because of the greater proximity of pushers, prostitutes, etc. However, it is just as possible that individuals from more affluent social groups who engage in such behavior are perceived as merely 'acting out' or mental illness and are not labeled as juvenile delinquents at all. For instance, Marya Hornbacher was confined to a 'lock down' facility for juveniles who were mentally ill when she was sixteen in Minnesota. The place was called Lowe House, and later, in a memoir of her experiences, she noted the absence of African-American patients and other individuals of color at Lowe House, in disproportionate numbers to their presence within the incarcerated juvenile justice system of penal punishment. "Several years later," working as a reporter on an article "about the racial imbalance in juvenile detention centers and residential treatment centers, I would return to Lowe house on assignment and find myself" in a system where there was…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Cicourel, Aaron. (1968) The social organization of juvenile justice New York: Wiley.

Hornbacher, Marya. (1998). Wasted. New York: HarperCollins.

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