There has always been alarm and despair over escalating juvenile crime. In the 1950s there were reports about the mushrooming problems with youthful gangs in the big cities. In the 1960s we began to hear about a surge of juvenile crime in areas that had been regarded as virtually crime free. In the suburbs as well as the inner cities, youngsters were dropping out of school. using drugs and committing crimes. In the 1970s and 1980s, juvenile court dockets became increasingly jammed with criminal cases. According to the Department of Justice. the percentage increases in arrests from 1985 to 1994 have been greater for juveniles than for adults. During 1994 alone, 2.7 million juveniles were arrested. During the latter part of this century, juvenile courts that customarily provided social services in order to rehabilitate rather than punish lawbreakers were faced with an onslaught of children who were not simply wayward youths. but hardened repeat offenders. The 1980s witnessed an increasingly desperate outcry for courts to take more extreme measures to contain juvenile crime, which is assuming ever more serious forms.
It is almost a daily occurrence to turn on the nightly news and hear stories of ever increasing youths committing crimes. Even more alarming are the ages of these offenders. In Lake Station, Indiana. three first-grade students were plotting to kill a classmate. They even went so far as to draw a map of where the slaying was to take place. In California a six year old boy was charged with attempted murder of a 3 month old baby. In Southern California, three 17 year old girls were charged with false imprisonment, conspiracy, aggravated mayhem and torture when they held a 15-year-old runaway against her will and tortured her for hours. In Mount Morris Township, Michigan. a first-grader shot and mortally wounded another 6 year old one day after the two had quarreled in the schoolyard. When police arrest 14- and 15-year-olds who shrug off cold-blooded, unprovoked murder as a rite of passage. the rational public response is fear and anger. When 6 year olds shoot each other, the rational public response is shock. What makes a 6-year old point a gun at another and pull the trigger? How does a 6-year old know how to pull the trigger? They may understand from all the attention they receive afterwards, that what they did was naughty, but do they understand the gravity or seriousness of their actions? There is a presumption in the law that a child 6 years old is not criminally responsible and cannot form the intent to kill that is necessary for criminal prosecutions. Children at that age can be fighting with each other one minute and hugging each other the next.
What causes these juveniles to commit such crimes? Some theorize they are affected by problems such as poverty. family breakdowns. neglect. alcoholism and poor education. Upon identifying negative environmental factors, many regard delinquency as a normal adaptive way for the child to cope. A sensible theory is that the child ?s personality unfolds in response to the people and events around him. A typical response might be that the delinquent behavior represents a neglected child ?s attempt to compensate for attention that he did not receive in other ways. They may believe the child turned to drugs because of exposure to their parents drinking and pill taking and this alleviated their own anxiety or depression. According to the American Psychological Association, violence is a serious possibility in children who exhibit the following warning signs:
Loss of temper on a daily basis
Frequent physical fighting
Significant vandalism or property damage
Increase in use of drugs or alcohol
Increase in risk-taking behavior
Detailed plans to commit acts of violence
Announcing threats or plans for hurting others
Enjoying hurting animals
Carrying a weapon
The potential for violence exists in other children, the group says. Children who are in a gang or even who have a strong desire to be in a gang are at risk. If they start withdrawing from friends and usual activities, they are at risk. Even youngsters who suddenly start getting bad grades could be prone to violence. There is no formula for pinpointing exactly who will become violent. Numerous studies have been performed however, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has focused on certain factors that pinpoint violent behavior. These include:
Previous aggressive or violent behavior
Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
Having a parent who is violent
Heavy exposure to violence in TV and movies
Use of drugs and/or alcohol
Presence of firearms in home
Brain damage from head injury
Youths who grow up in extremely stressful circumstances such as living in poverty or living with a single, unemployed parent are also at risk the experts say.
These warning signs and factors are examples of what experts believe to be stereotypical of most juvenile criminals. It is not sufficient to blame poverty, the 1960 ?s, drugs, uncaring parents, short-sighted social programs, misguided justice programs or any of the reasons so often stated for juvenile crimes. The simple truth is that there is no pat answer that works for everybody. Each juvenile and their situation is unique.
Environment can affect behavior, but it can be less crucial than the choice the individual makes as they respond to that environment. For example. a single mother of two works two jobs to make ends meet. She is not at home when her children get home from school but makes arrangements for them to go to a neighbors house each day after school. They have to call her at work to get her permission to go anywhere other than the neighbors. One son follows the rules and goes to the neighbors, does his homework and waits for his mother, the other son uses the situation as license to do whatever he pleases. Here is a situation where two boys grow up with the same mother, in the same house, in the same neighborhood and who have the same opportunities and temptations. but each chooses to react to his environment in different ways. Children make choices. although they do not choose the environment in which they are raised, they can choose how to deal with it. There are children who make a series of choices not to live within legal, moral. or social bounds; they have contempt for rules and ignore others? expectations.
Environment is not completely irrelevant either. There are external factors that can either inhibit or facilitate a person ?s inclination to break the law. If drugs were not available, a child would not become a drug addict. If parents ignore irresponsible behavior by their child, it is likely to persist. If guns were not easily accessible, a child would not use it to commit crimes. The Department of Justice reported that during a thirteen-year period (1983-1996). gun homicides by juveniles have nearly tripled. Handguns were used in two thirds of the youth homicides involving guns over a recent 15-year span. In 1996, an estimated three million crimes were committed in the nation’s schools and some 100,000 guns were carried to school every day. The number of juvenile murderers tripled between 1984 and 1994. Youthful murderers using guns increased four-fold over the same period. Juvenile gang killings have nearly quadrupled between 1980 and 1992. In 1994, eight in ten juvenile murderers used a firearm, up from five in ten in 1983. The number of juveniles murdered increased 82 percent between 1984 and 1994.
Murder is not the only type of juvenile crime. So what is juvenile crime? In its simplest definition. crime? is any specific act prohibited by law for which society has provided a formally sanctioned punishment. This also can include the failure of a person to perform an act specifically required by law. Crimes are classified by the seriousness of the offenses. A felony is the most serious offense, punishable by a sentence to a state institution. Felonies generally include violent crimes. sex offenses and many types of drug and property violations. A misdemeanor is a less serious offense for which the offender may be sentenced to probation, county detention, a fine, or some combination of the three. Misdemeanors generally include crimes such as assault and battery, petty theft and public drunkenness. An infraction is the least serious offense and generally is punishable by a fine. Many motor vehicle violations are considered infractions.
Juvenile crime, in law, is a term denoting various offenses committed by children or youths under the age of 18. Such acts are sometimes referred to as juvenile delinquency. Children’s offenses typically include delinquent acts, which would be considered crimes if committed by adults, and status offenses, which are less serious misbehavior such as truancy and parental disobedience. Both are within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court; more serious offenses committed by minors may be tried in criminal court and be subject to prison sentences. Under Anglo-American law, a crime is an illegal act committed by a person who has criminal intent. A long-standing presumption held that, although a person of almost any age can commit a criminal act, children under 14 years old were unlikely to have criminal intent. Many juvenile courts have now discarded this so-called infancy defense and have found that delinquent acts can be committed by children of any age.
Juvenile offenders are generally placed in one of four legal categories depending primarily on the seriousness of the offense committed. Two of these categories are for juveniles who commit adult-like crimes. These categories are ?criminal offenders? and ?juveniles remanded to superior court. The other categories. informal probationers? and ?status offenders? are for youths who have committed less serious offenses or offenses unique to juveniles, like curfew violations.
Teenagers commit the largest portion of all violent crime in America. Juvenile courts in the United States processed an estimated 1,555,200 delinquency cases in 1994. More murders and robberies are committed by 18-year-old males than by any other age group. More than one-third of all murders are committed by offenders under the age of 21. The number of 13- to 15-year-olds arrested for murder jumped from 390 in 1982 to 740 a decade later. Juvenile arrest rates for heroin and cocaine rose more than 700 percent between 1980 and 1990. There are currently about 70 death row inmates (all male) sentenced as juveniles, about 2% of the total death row. 12 men have been executed for crimes committed as juveniles since 1976 and since 1985 there are documented executions of juvenile offenders in eight states worldwide.
With such alarming statistics. what then can be done to deter juvenile crime. If the experts are right, there will be a devastating rise in juvenile crime, plus on ongoing problem with the current offenders as they move into adulthood. There is no way to tell how juvenile crime will shrink or expand in the coming decade. However, victims of juvenile offenders are demanding changes in the juvenile justice system and challenging the long-standing belief that juveniles who kill, rob or rape should be treated in different ways than adult criminals. They want them prosecuted and sentenced as adults and put into maximum security prisons or executed and this has provoked a campaign against juvenile courts.
Juvenile courts were created to give juveniles a combination of punishment, treatment and counseling to straighten out their lives. The juvenile justice system has evolved over the years to combat these crimes based on the premise that juveniles are different from adults as well as the idea that juveniles who commit criminal acts should be treated differently from adults. Separate courts, detention facilities, rules, procedures and laws were created for juveniles with the intent to protect their welfare and rehabilitate them, while protecting public safety. In modern-day reality however, too many are arrested, held and released time after time in a revolving-door process that ends only if a heinous crime is committed.
Recently there have been attempts at other solutions to curb juvenile crime. For instance, in Jacksonville, Florida. prosecutors have tried more than 1,100 juveniles as adults but then arranged to have them incarcerated in local jails that offer a variety of education and treatment programs. Youth crime in the area dropped, bucking the general trend. There is no way to tell if this system would work for all courts and all areas. As long as there are juveniles, there will more than likely be juvenile crime.
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Juvenile delinquency usually refers to the violation of a law by a juvenile. It includes such crimes as murder, robbery, automobile theft, carjacking and burglary as well as some offences, such as truancy, staying out after a curfew, drinking alcoholic beverages or certain sexual acts, that are illegal only when committed by juveniles. Many people use the term juvenile delinquency to include anything youngsters do that goes against the standards of society, regardless of whether this action is legal or illegal.
The legal age at which a person is considered to be a juvenile varies from place to place. Most states in the United States define anyone under 18 years of age as a juvenile. New York considers anyone under 17 a juvenile. In Canada, juveniles may be those under the age of 16. So, the definition of a juvenile varies from state to state, but the term most commonly refers to someone under 18 years of age.
Juvenile delinquency is regarded as a serious social problem in the United States and many other countries. It has caused increasing public concern, but it is by no means a new problem. Young people formed violent street gangs in American cities during the 1800s, and delinquency rates were reported rising during the early 1900’s. Delinquency is found in all nations and is particularly widespread in highly industrialized nations that have large cities.Experts say that the juvenile problem is the result of the policy of silence which disguised many problems including this one.
The legal term a juvenile delinquent was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid the disgrace of being classified in legal records as criminals, juvenile delinquency laws were designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, for juvenile offenders. Young delinquents usually are sent to juvenile courts, where the main aim is to rehabilitate (reform) offenders, rather than to punish them. But the term juvenile delinquency itself has come to imply disgrace.
The term juvenile delinquency is merely an administrative term, not a clinical diagnosis. It has to be recognized that relatively minor delinquent activities (e.g. petty theft, vandalism) are surprisingly common in the teens. However, there is a small but hard core of adolescents who habitually break the law. Delinquency is perhaps the most noteworthy of all activities as an adolescent manifestation, reaching a peak at 15 years for boys and 14 years for girls. But in their twenties most of the former offenders gradually become broadly law-abiding members of the community.
Extent of delinquency. Crime statistics, though they are often incomplete and may be misleading, do give an indication of the extent of the delinquency problem. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that during the mid-1980s, about two-fifths of all U.S. arrests for burglary and arson were of people under age 18. Juveniles also accounted for about one-third of all arrests for larceny. In any year, about 4 per cent of all children between the ages of 10 and 18 appear in a juvenile court. The percentage of youngsters in this age group who are sent to court at least once is much higher. A third or more of those boys living in slum areas of large cities may appear in a juvenile court at least once.But sociologists have concluded that youthful misbehavior is much more common than is indicated by arrest recordsand juvenile court statistics.
Girls are becoming increasingly involved in juvenile delinquency. Today, about one of every five youngsters appearing in juvenile court is a girl. In the early 1900’s, this ratio was about 1 girl to every 50 or 60 boys.
What causes delinquency? Many studies have been made in an effort to determine the causes of delinquency. Most of these have focused on family relationships or on neighborhood or community conditions. The results of these investigations have shown that it is doubtful that any child becomes a delinquent for any single reason.
Family relationships, especially those between parents and individual children, have been the focus of several delinquency studies. An early study comparing delinquent and nondelinquent brothers showed that over 90 per cent of the delinquents had unhappy home lives and felt discontented with their life circumstances. Only 13 per cent of their brothers felt this way. Whatever the nature of the delinquents’ unhappiness, delinquency appeared to them to be a solution. It brought attention to youths neglected by their parents, or approval by delinquent friends, or it solved problems of an unhappy home life in other ways. More recent studies have revealed that many delinquents had parents with whom they did not get along or who were inconsistent in their patterns of discipline and punishment.
Neighborhood conditions have been stressed in studies by sociologists. Many of these inquiries concentrate on differing rates of delinquency, rather than on the way individuals become delinquents.
A series of studies have shown that delinquency rates are above average in the poorest sections of cities. Such areas have many broken homes and a high rate of alcoholism. They also have poor schools, high unemployment, few recreational facilities, and high crime rates. Many young people see delinquency as their only escape from boredom, poverty, and other problems. So, children from the poorest part of society lack opportunities to develop in socially acceptable ways and turn to delinquency as a substitute. But the pain of being poor and living in slum conditions is felt more strongly in a rich society than in a poor one.
The use of drugs. Surveys of U.S. teen-agers indicate that the great majority have at least experimented with such drugs as alcohol, barbiturates, cocaine, LSD, or marijuana. Some have experimented with heroin, morphine, or other narcotic drugs. Many of these drugs are physically harmful if taken regularly. A single overdose of some drugs, such as heroin or a barbiturate, can result in a coma or death.Alcohol is the most widely used drug among teenagers though alcoholic beverages cannot legally be sold to people under 18 in any state.About 15 per cent of U.S. high school students may have a serious drinking problem.
Adolescents experiment with drugs for various reasons, including peer group pressure, the desire to appear grown-up, the example of parents, and curiosity.Some teenagers may be led into it by boredom or by an unconscious desire to escape mental or emotional pressure. Teenagers who feel genuinely useful are perhaps least likely to develop the problem of drug abuse.
Being labeled. Experts say juveniles who are caught and labeled delinquent by the authorities are likely to continue to break the law because that label makes it harder for them to be law-abiding.A youngster can be labeled a delinquent for breaking any one of anumber of laws, ranging from robbery to running away from home. But an action for which a youth may be declared a delinquent in one community may not be against the law in another community. In some communities, the police ignore many children who are accused of minor delinquencies or refer them directly to their parents. But in other communities, the police may refer such children to a juvenile court, where they may officially be declared delinquents.
Learnt bahaviour. Delinquency is learned behaviour, acquired by associating with people who have little respect for the law.
Biological or psychological causes. Child aggression may be a result of imitating the rough and violent parent behavior towards children. If the child has a hostile cruel parent or parent-substitute, the child may grow into a subordinate, servile, intimidated or even masochistic person, as well as into an angry and aggressive person very much resembling his/her tormentor.The incomplete (single parent) family is the cause of a poorly developed feeling of a lasting parent-child relationship, the consequence of which is insufficient socialization of the child.The absence of one parent engenders a great emotional deficiency in the family structure. The child is thus devoid of the objectof identification, which is the most important factor in the formation of child’s character and one of the reasons for the development of delinquent behaviour among children and youth.
Prevention of delinquency . Many efforts have been made to develop programs of delinquency prevention. There is little evidence, however, that any of these programs is truly effective. Some programsprovide counseling services to youths who appear to be on the verge of becoming delinquents. Other programs draw youngsters into clubs and recreational centers in an effort to keep them away from situations in which delinquency is likely to occur. In recent years, many efforts have centered on improving the educational and work skills of youngsters.
For those juveniles who have already become delinquents, there are programs designed to prevent them from committing future delinquent acts. Probation services are offered through juvenile courts in an effort to provide guidance for delinquent children. The more progressive institutions for juveniles attempt to provide treatment programs for offenders – work experiences, counseling, education, and group therapy. However, many other institutions provide little more than protective custody for juvenile delinquents.
As you read the text a) look for the answers to these questions:
1. What is juvenile delinquency? 2. What is a juvenile delinquent? 3. Do the crimes committed by adults differ from crimes committed by juveniles? 4. Are there any crimes committed only by juveniles? 5. Why are minor offenders not recorded as criminals though they also commit crimes? 6. Are there universal laws of punishing juveniles? Why? 7. If a person commits crimes being a minor, does it mean he/she will be anhardened offender being an adult? Elaborate on your answer. 8. How can you explain that the level of delinquency is higher among the low-income groups in societies where most people are well-to-do than in poor societies? 9. What makes girls commit more crimes nowadays than they did in past? 10. What are the causes of juvenile delinquency? Add some more causes if you can. 11. How do family relationships encourage the turning of a juvenile into a delinquent? 12. If poor neighbourhood influences teens greatly and becomes one of juvenile delinquency causes, what does gilded youth lack and why does it commit crimes? 13. Why is drugs abuse considered one ofjuvenile delinquency causes? Aren’t public drinking and usage of drug crimes themselves? Dwell on your point of view. 14. If a former criminal lives in your neighbourhood, will your child become a delinquent or remain a law-abiding person? 15. What does it mean to be labeled? 16. Give the example how biological or psychological reasons cause juvenile delinquency? 17. What preventive measures would you suggest to take to reduce the level of juvenile delinquency in your country? 18. What punishment is administered to juveniles? 19. What courts try juvenile cases? 20. Who is responsible for the high rate of juvenile delinquency?
b) Complete the sentences using information from the text.
Juvenile delinquency is…. 2. Juvenile delinquents are…. 3. There are more juvenile delinquents in… than in…. 4. The legal term ‘juvenile delinquent’ was established…. 5. The usual age of committing crimes by juveniles…. 6. Among the crimes committed by juveniles are…. 7. The causes of juvenile delinquency are…. Tenuous and not warm family relationships … .8. If a child lives in a poor neighbourhood… .9. Most teenagers pass through the experimentation stage with drugs… .10. Drug and alcohol abuse… .11. Being labeled a delinquent…. 12. Among biological and psychological reasons are…. 13. Among the preventive measures are…. 14. Juvenile delinquency is a problem …. 15. The usual way of punishing juvenile delinquents is…. 16. Juvenile cases are heard… .
c) Summarize the text in 3 paragraphs specifying the following: 1)definitions of juvenile delinquency and juvenile delinquent; 2) different causes of juvenile delinquency; 3) measures to be taken to reduce the level of juvenile delinquency.
Read the revelations of juvenile delinquents. a) Determine what causes made them commit crimes. The list of causes is given below.
Causes of juvenile delinquency: