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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Juvenile Delinquency Affects the Society

Juvenile Delinquency refers to the anti-social and criminal behavior involving individuals below the age of 18.  It is a broad concept that includes all acts which if committed by an adult would be considered a crime such as theft, larceny, burglary, homicide and rape (Joseph S. Roucek, 1970, p.5).  If these acts are committed by an adult, the individual offender is considered to have committed a crime.  However, since the offender is a minor who is below the age of 18 then he can be considered as juvenile delinquent.

Juvenile Delinquency has consistently been a problem in the Untied States.  In 2008 alone, the law enforcement agencies in the United States have made an estimated 2.11 million arrests of minors.  These juvenile offenders who were arrested have either been placed in confinement or under court supervision.

Just like any other crime, juvenile delinquency has an impact on its victims.  It does not matter whether the crime is murder or homicide or theft or vandalism.  It is always the victim who suffers the loss because of the action of the juvenile.

The damage that the victim may incur may be in the form of lost wages because of his inability to work due to the nature of the injury he suffered.  The victim may be forced to take a leave of weeks or even months just to recuperate from the injuries because of the crime.  The victim also bears the sole responsibility of paying for the hospital and the medicine expenses.  If he is insured, the insurance shall take care of the expenses.  However, if the insurance only partially covers for the bills, he is forced to foot the excess.

Worth mentioning is the psychological trauma that the crime brings to the victim and his family.  If the nature of the crime committed is violent, the victim and his family may have to carry the psychological scar with him for the rest of his life.  They may be forced to transfer to a new neighborhood or even to a new country just to forget the trauma that they had suffered.

In the past, the government policy was centered on addressing the crime from the point of view of the juvenile offender.  It was juvenile-offender-centered.  The debate was always centered on whether to rehabilitate or punish the juvenile offender such that the victims of juvenile offenders were forgotten.  In view of the important being given to the concept of restorative justice as means to address crime, family group conferencing, peacemaking circles and victim offender mediation are starting to become more common in different communities.  Under the family group conferencing programs, the juvenile offenders together with their families and the crime victims together with their family meet together to discuss the effect of the crime on the victim and his family and to agree on ways by which the juvenile offender may cause reparations for the damage he has done.  It is a community effort to address the problem of crime which also enables the victim and the rest of the community to move forward.

According to Umbreit & Greenwood (1999), the Victim Offender Mediation is considered the most established and most accepted form of restorative justice.  The program allows the victim and the offender to personally talk to each other and discuss about the impact of the crime.  In the mediation, the victim and the offender are able to discuss about their feelings and the plans to repair the damage done to the victim.  It is a purely voluntary process which requires the active participation of both the victim and the offender.

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There are many studies highlighting the impact of the family on juvenile delinquency.  These studies find a link between the situations in today’s family and the child’s delinquent behavior and even future criminality.  Based on these studies, children from divorced families or from single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior.  These studies highlight that broken or dysfunctional families have an effect on the child’s delinquent behavior.

However, these studies often neglect the fact that these families also suffer when their child engage in delinquent behavior.  Families may feel angry at the juvenile offender for having done such action and for brining shame to their family.  Families may feel ashamed by the child’s delinquent behavior.  The feelings of anger and shame may serve as obstacles in the treatment and rehabilitation of the juvenile offender.  Thus, while it may be very important for the families to be involved in the treatment and rehabilitation of the juvenile offender, they may either refuse or decline to participate.

On the part of the parents of the victims, they may also suffer significant stress and trauma on account of their failure to prevent the victimization.  They may start blaming themselves for what had happened. Parents who may have witnessed their children suffer the ordeal of being victimized may also experience severe post-traumatic stress.

Juveniles could be involved in crimes for a number of reasons.  They could be involved in crime because of parental neglect and their behavior may reflect their frustration in their life.  They could be involved because of peer pressure.  Whatever their reason/s is or are, their actions affect the government, community and the society where they live.

It should be stressed that the government is spending an average of $240.00 per day per juvenile on the 93,000 who are being held in juvenile justice facilities across the United States (“The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense”, p.1).  The state government is also spending around $5.7 billion each year for imprisonment of youth even if they could be managed safely in the community (“The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense”, p.1).

The amount being spent to maintain juvenile offenders could be used to finance other priority programs of the government.  The amount being spent for juvenile facilities could be used to support the government’s social welfare programs that can help a number of disadvantaged but deserving youth. It could also be used to help the sick, the poor and the needy.  However, because of the importance of addressing the needs of the juvenile offenders, precious money is being used to save them.

Juvenile delinquency also affects the community in the sense that juvenile crimes cause an outrage in the community.  In fact, because of the crimes being committed many adults have developed an irrational fear of being victimized by crime.  Many adults who are especially vulnerable to crimes have stopped going out alone at night for fear of victimization. This may appear to be very irrational and baseless but the government cannot and should not blame the public for entertaining such thoughts.  Unless the crime wave is stopped they will continue to harbor thoughts about being victimized by crime.

Moreover, the society feels that it is the obligation of the government to ensure that public safety is maintained.  It is the public’s view that they have the right to expect to be safe inside their homes and their community.  Thus, when juvenile delinquency and crimes happen, the public trust in favor of the government is affected.  There is a perception that the government has failed in its duty of ensuring that public safety is maintained.  It is now the duty of the government to make sure that public trust is restored and that public safety is maintained within its jurisdiction.

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