Juveniles consist of young children and youth offenders who have not yet attained the age of adulthood (in most cases eighteen years) while Juvenile delinquency is the engagement of children and youthful offenders in criminal activities. Crime is an aspect that has raised concern among individuals, groups and organizations especially due to its increased rate among both juveniles and adults. Various reasons facilitate the indulgence of individuals especially the juveniles into criminal activities for instance peer pressure, emulation of people and the desire to copy and be like them, poor upbringing for example where the parents or caregivers do not offer guidance towards good behavior, poverty due to unemployment and lack of education among others. Various strategies could be applied in the correction of the juvenile delinquents all with their positive and negative impacts on the offenders depending on their effectiveness (Sigel 4). This paper looks into the various aspects surrounding juvenile delinquency and the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system with much emphasis being given to the controversy that surrounds it, what has been discovered about it, the critics regarding it, the theories stipulated about it, and the policy implications as well as the way forward.
Description of Topic/Controversy
The concept of criminology specifically the treatment of serious juvenile offenders is faced with a lot of controversy as different aspects of crime keep on emerging with the rate of indulgence being on the increase day by day. Another issue of concern is the indulgence in crime by juveniles or young people who have not yet attained the age of adulthood. Controversy also comes in regard to how criminal offenders should be treated in terms of the punishment that should be administered to the offenders the critical part arises in whether there should be different treatment of the juvenile delinquents and the adult offenders or else they should be treated equally. The distinction between ordinary juvenile delinquents and serious juvenile offenders has also led to heated debates as there seems to be no clear line between them. For the sake of this research, I am going to define the serious juvenile offenders so that there can be an understanding when discussing the effective intervention that should be in place for them. The so-called serious juvenile offenders are the young offenders who are very violent and chronic in their criminal activities to an extent that their treatment as juveniles is questionable due to the seriousness of the offences they are involved in. Effective intervention systems and strategies are therefore an issue of concern in the treatment of the serious juvenile offenders and should be looked into. An effective juvenile justice system is a system that is able to handle the juveniles in an appropriate manner such that they are able to change their behavior for the better through learning from their mistakes (Riley 55).
There has been a lot of literature that has been written about the aspect of criminology with information covering criminal issues that surrounds both the juvenile delinquents and adult offenders and how they affect society and policy-making especially in relation to the justice system the most contentious one being that that handles the juvenile delinquents hence the numerous reviews and changes. According to Burfeind and Bartusch (51), various research methods are utilized in the study of crime and delinquency. Some of them include ethnography which involves the close interaction between the investigator or researcher and the group to be studied hence offering adequate information based on the interactions and social processes as they occur in a natural setting, the comparison between the criminal offenders and the non-offenders, survey research as well as ecological analysis which is very essential as it helps in the understanding of the geographical distribution of crime and the engagement of the juvenile delinquents in criminal activities. In a study carried out by Glueeks, it was found out that family life is a very crucial factor that differentiated juvenile delinquents from non-delinquents. In this study, longitudinal data from different sources were utilized in comparing a group of 500 delinquent juveniles and 500 non-delinquents where the two distinct groups were matched using the same elements or determinant factors and the above results were obtained. All in all survey research and analysis is the most common and widely used method of getting most details that relate to juvenile delinquency. It is a very effective means as it is able to provide adequate and appropriate information regarding the delinquents for instance their behavior, beliefs, and attitude which are very useful in taking any decision in relation to the crime for instance determining the most effective intervention strategy to be adopted in handling the delinquents. It is also useful in determining the frequency and distribution of delinquency and the factors that lead to indulgence in crime (Finley 202).
Genoves, Morales, and Sanchez-Meca (1) assert that juvenile delinquents that are involved with violent and serious offences are usually at high risk of developing into chronic offenders by engaging in many kinds of criminal activities, and hence they may necessitate harsh treatment like an institutional sentence. They are also deemed to pose a great challenge to the law enforcers even later when they become adults since there are high chances that they become even more threatening to the society as they perfect their skills in carrying out the criminal activities as they progress in their ventures. Another observation is that most of the serious juvenile offenders are usually criminally versatile and are susceptible to both violent and non-violent crimes for instance 55 to 65 males who are convicted for indulging in violent criminal activities are also convicted for other non-violent crimes. This, therefore, shows that the frequent offenders were versatile which led to their involvement in crime, and with time, they commit violent offences. The chances of committing violent offenses increased with the number of offenses committed.
According to Farrington (182), a lot of importance should be attached to the means of targeting chronic juvenile offenders for crime prevention and treatment considering the fact that many serious and violent juvenile delinquents are as well versatile and receive institutionalized sentences hence making the effectiveness of the intervention measures to be a very critical issue of concern.
Criticism of Research
Just as in any other field and issue, the aspect of juvenile delinquency has received considerable criticism as people have different perspectives towards the different issues that surround the field according to their understanding and preferences in the way the practices are carried out. Most research has shown that there has not been enough in the criminology field especially in regard to the justice systems and how different offences are handled and the consequences. There has also been no considerable decrease in the rates of crime by the juveniles despite the interventions that have been carried out and hence much is yet to be done. The juvenile delinquents should for example be handled in an appropriate manner by the employment of an effective correctional system and strategies aimed at reforming the young offenders and making them learn from their mistakes and hence avoid any future indulgence in criminal activities. A good approach in the supervision of the juveniles in transition from the law enforcement institutions back to society is also an issue of concern as they should be able to easily adapt and live well with the society (Lipsey, Wilson & Cothern 4).
The effectiveness of the juvenile justice system is also an issue of concern. The justice system seems to be ineffective especially for serious juvenile offenders as it is very lenient as compared to the offences, they indulge in. The center for early adolescence, for instance, recommends for more serious interventions in the justice system the separation of the first time and ordinary juvenile offenders from the repeat and serious juvenile offenders to allow for effective rehabilitation. Research has also shown that the programs applied to juvenile delinquents have little effect on average in changing the future behavior of the offenders. This is enough to conclude that the juvenile justice system is not effective especially for serious juvenile offenders and serious measures should be considered even if it means trying them in the adult justice system (Lipsey, Wilson & Cothern 5).
Theory, Research, and Policy Implications
According to Siegel and Welsh (242), various theories have been brought up in the study of criminology and juvenile delinquency in particular. The different delinquency theories and research are usually associated with particular contexts and issues which are deemed to be of special importance. Some of the examples include biosocial criminology which relates personal traits and the environmental context in which the traits are expressed. The theories that emphasize the situational context concerning delinquency on the other hand place their focus on the activities involved, the social dynamics that surround the incident, and also the immediate setting that surround the offending decisions. The social control theories of delinquency have their main focus on the central importance of family ties or relationships. The social learning theories that are applied in criminology give a lot of significance to the peer group influences and the impacts they have on the individual criminal offender. The social structure theories have been put forward in regard to delinquency centered on the bigger social frameworks neighborhoods, the schools, and even the societies. The different theories and research on juvenile delinquency are based on different contexts and it is therefore essential to consider this when it comes to the practical application of the theories and research in handling different issues associated with delinquency (Burfeind and Bartusch 273).
There have been changes in the field of criminology including the justice systems that are in place to cater to different offences. The juvenile justice system was in a tough situation even in the mid-21st century despite the efforts that had been put in place to improve the condition. All in all, there have been changes, for instance, the substitution of punishment with discipline by avoiding focusing on the young offenders’ deficits or weaknesses but instead establishing a system that builds on their strengths and emphasizes the benefits of good behavior through rehabilitation. The possible future trends in criminology include the advancement and sophistication in the criminal ventures due to technology for instance computer-based crimes, international terrorism and money laundering, engagement in transnational corporate crime, formation of more transnational organized crime groups with advanced criminal ventures. There is therefore the need to improve the present intervention strategies so as to be able to handle the emerging kinds of criminal activities lest the criminal justice systems will be even more ineffective with a lot of people indulging in crime especially the youths. Plans are underway to implement some of the programs that have been identified by various researchers in this field to ensure that juvenile delinquents are handled effectively. The programs mainly aim at preventing the youths from indulging in delinquent behaviors, preventing the first-time offenders from further engagement in criminal behavior and emphasizing family relations. This will also reduce the number of serious juvenile offenders (Anonymous 1).
Commentary and Conclusion
From the above research, it is evident that the importance of effective interventions for serious juvenile offenders can not in any way be underemphasized as the group forms a significant portion of the overall criminal offenders worldwide. For this reason, they pose a great challenge to society and also to the criminal justice bodies or agencies in relation to the seriousness of their offences and also the high frequency in which they carry out the criminal activities. The methods used in handling these offenders are questionable in terms of their effectiveness for instance incarceration and much has to be done.
Anonymous. “Reforming D.C’s Juvenile Justice System: The Critics Vs. What really Works”. New America Media, 2010. Web.
Burfeind, James and Bartusch, Jeglum Dawn. Juvenile Delinquency: An Integrated Approach. 2nd Ed. USA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010. Print.
Donahue, Elizabeth. “Reform Juvenile Justice Programs Today”. 2009. Web.
Farrington, David. Childhood Origins of Antisocial Behavior. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, vol. 12, 177-190.
Finley, L. L. (2007). Encyclopedia of Juvenile Violence. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group. Print.
Genove Garrido Vicente, Morales Anyela Luz and Sanchez-Meca Julio. What Works for Serious Juvenile Offenders? A Systematic Review. Psicothema 2006, vol. 18 (3) 611-619.
Lipsey W. Mark, Wilson B. David and Cothern Lynn. “Effective Intervention for Serious Juvenile Offenders.” Ncjrs, 2000. Web.
Riley, Nico. “Crime and Punishment: Sentencing Juvenile Offenders”. Associated content, 2007. Web.
Sigel J. Larry. Criminology. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
Siegel, J.Larry., & Welsh, C. Brandon. Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice and law. Wadsworth: Cengage learning, 2008. Print.