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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay on Theories of Juvenile Crime

Siegel and Welsh noted that more than 2 million youths are arrested each year crimes ranging from loitering and murder (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p.10).  In addition, more than 700,000 youths belong to more than 20,000 gangs in the United States (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p.10).  While most of these crimes committed are minor crimes juvenile crimes have become a national concern since they impact not only on the victims but even on the perpetrators of the crime.  It must be stressed that when a crime is committed by a minor it presents an issue that the state should be able to address as the parens patriae of the people.

The rise of the juvenile crimes in the past years has impelled sociologists to come up with different explanation for juvenile crime.  Sociologists and criminologists have come up with several theories about on why are the reasons why the juveniles commit crime.  

The first theory is the Rational Behavior Theory.  The Rational Behavior Theory is based on the Classical School which emphasizes on individual liberty and freedom as the cause of committing a crime.  The Classical School explains that crime arises from a person’s free will and is based on the individual’s choices (Robert Keel, 2005, p.1).  In essence, the Rational Behavior Theory explains that man is by nature a moral creature with a free will.  This free will gives him the capability to choose between right and wrong.  When a minor performs an act, the assumption is that the same is a rational and conscious decision arising from a careful calculation of its possible consequences.  It is to be presumed that the juvenile has carefully weighed the consequences of his action so that he will achieve his end-goal which is to maximize the benefit and to minimize the adverse effects. 

Applying this theory to crime, when a person engages in deviant behavior and commits a crime it is to be presumed that he voluntarily and willfully committed it after a careful calculation of both the benefits and risks of its commission.  Crime is therefore a product of rational and conscious choice deliberately performed by an individual and not the result of the external forces surrounding him.  Based on this theory, a juvenile commits the crime because the benefit that may be derived from the commission of the crime far outweighs the undesirable consequences.

This is the reason why lawmakers have enacted new laws increasing the penalties for the commission of crime.  For instance, there are some crimes such as drug-related offenses where the penalty involves longer prison sentences.  In some states, the three strikes rule allows the state to impose harsher sentences against an offender who repeatedly commits violation of crime. 

Another theory that explains juvenile crime is the Biological Theory.  The Biological Theory recognizes crime may not be the result of a conscious and rational decision on the part of the juvenile.  Rather, crime may be the result of biological forces which are beyond the control of the juvenile.  These biological forces which a person inherits from his parents through the genes impelled the juvenile to commit the crime (Marsh & Melville, 2006, p.15).   

For instance, an individual may have certain biological traits or neurological dysfunctions that are transmitted genetically from one’s parents to the children that drives them to commit crime.  These biological characteristics which the child inherits from his parents are factors which are beyond his control and of which he is powerless to fight against. It is also possible that psychological factors such as a person’s low IQ or intelligence which he inherited from his parents may cause him to turn away from school and commit crime.  It may also be possible that a parent who may have a neurological dysfunction in the brain which restricts a person’s capacity to control violent behavior may transmit the same to his offspring.  In view of the determinist theories of crime, there are laws that give the judges opportunity to reduce the penalty for crime committed.

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