The rise in the number of juvenile delinquents is one of the major problems that the world is facing. Several programs and preventive measures were devised and are being formulated in order to lessen the adverse effects of their wrongdoing to their future. The judicial justice system provides special rules and regulations regarding the treatment and punishments for juvenile offenders. The government has also adopted programs that will aid the youth in coping with the wrong that they have done. The paper contains a discussion on juvenile delinquency, the programs imposed by the federal government, and the effects thereof to the youthful offender.
Treating Juvenile Delinquents
Crimes have caused menace not only to society but more so to the lives of the individuals who are directly concerned with the crime committed. Criminals and victims alike fall prey to the disturbing effects of a crime. However, effects become more adverse when the culprits are minors.
In any society in the world, the problem with juvenile delinquents is constantly on the rise. Children, exposed with violence and criminality in their communities, movies, televisions, and even in the games they play. They have developed tolerance for the commission thereof due to the widely publicized violation of laws. Although most parents advise their children that such acts are not to be tolerated, their overexposure to such matters make them think otherwise. There are also some parents who fail to properly educate their children on what is right and wrong and the effects of the commission of certain crimes.
With the economic breakdown that the world is facing, people have become more competitive and working double time to keep their jobs and sustain their families. However, in their quest for earning sufficient money for their families, parents often neglect their children or leave them at the care of other people. The lack of parental presence at home leads children to resort to means where they can find the love, comfort, and sense of belongingness. More often than not, children find these elements in the company of their peers and in the streets, where most crimes occur (Kulla, 2006).
A juvenile delinquent is a child below the age of 18 who has committed a crime. In the past, the children who have committed a criminal act were not punished. In the past, the law regarded them as incapable of possessing criminal intent, a necessary element for conviction. However, this interpretation has changed through the passing of time (Roberts, 2000).
In the United States, every state provides for the guidelines on how to treat juvenile delinquents. There is a special treatment of the law for these young outlaw; they are not treated as criminal adults. Certain programs and steps are imposed in order to discipline them and make them pay for the crime that they have committed. The programs and legal measures taken are dependent on the age of the delinquent as well as on the crime that he has committed. There are certain delinquents who are treated like criminal adults even if they are only 16 years old because of the gravity of the crime that they committed.
The Juvenile Justice System is what governs the punishment for juvenile delinquents. Treatments for youthful offenders may either be residential or non-residential community treatments, community treatment, or institutionalization.
Through community treatment, a child is placed on probation. The youthful offender, if believed to be non-harmful to others, may be placed under the supervision of a juvenile court officer. The rules and regulations that are followed vary from case to case. Aside from probation, the youthful offender may be asked to resort to restitution wherein the offender directly pays the victim for the damages suffered or renders community service in order to make up for the crime (Sametz, 2008).
In non-residential community treatment, the child is confined in a certain institution where he will be taught ways and means of reforming himself as a person, the way he sees society, to instill in him the proper values that should be adopted. This is imposed for youthful offenders who have committed more serious crimes and/or who are believed to be more harmful if immediately released to society (Sametz, 2008).
The worse punishment for a youthful offender is institutionalization wherein he is incarcerated with the adults. As much as possible, this is being shunned by the courts because of the adverse effects that the experience would bring to the child (Sametz, 2008).
No matter how considerate the law is to youthful offenders, the youth, families, and the community should join forces in preventing children from committing crimes and placing the law in their own hands. Prevention is still better than any cure that the justice system can provide.
In order to help curb juvenile delinquency, there are several programs that are being implemented in the country. Among these programs is the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC). The research center aims to provide high-quality research and statistics that will aid law enforcers and lawmakers in implementing and creating laws that would address the real needs of children. It also helps the community as well as child practitioners in better understanding crimes, the occurrence thereof, and the factors that ignite these crimes. The center conducts studies on crimes such as theft, robbery, sexual assault, and abduction; child abuse; and child to child victimization (CCRC, 2008).
Aside from conducting research on the occurrence of crimes and the factors thereof, the center also develops tools for researchers and child practitioners that will guide them in properly assessing the status of the victim. The center also creates intervention and prevention programs that will prevent child victimization in schools, families and communities. Workshops as well as training are also provided so that child practitioners can develop a better approach in conducting assessments and implementing treatments. The better educated the people who are engaged in the treatment of child victimization and juvenile delinquents, the more effective will their approach be (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP], 2008). Children, unlike adults are very sensitive. They will carry on their experiences as a child in their old age. It is essential that the proper approach be implemented to lessen the trauma and the other adverse effects of the commission of a certain crime. The development of a program that will address the needs of the child may also help in the rehabilitation of the child.
Another program of the government is the enforcement of the underage drinking law. This program is designed to develop coordinated and comprehensive initiatives that will ban the sale of alcohol to minors. The Congress has established in 1984 that 21 is the legal age to drink alcohol (“21 Is the Legal Drinking Age,” 2008). According to the Alcohol Policies Project (2001), the total cost of underage drinking in America reaches to nearly $53 billion per year; more than half of it goes to violent crime costs.
Through this program, the youth will be compelled to inhibit from the consumption of alcohol, one of the factors that trigger the commission of certain crimes. Through the strict enforcement of the ban against underage drinking in every state, the youth will not only be able to avoid the negative effects of alcohol in their body, but there is a great possibility that they will be able to avoid bad company. Peer pressures and alcohol consumption are usually the driving factors for juvenile delinquency. If the source is avoided then the effects thereof will also be non-evident.
The Federal Youth Court Program (FYCP) is also one of the juvenile prevention activities of the government. Youth courts provide an avenue for the youth to impose sentence to their peers who committed offences and exhibit delinquent behaviors. The primary function of this program is to determine a restorative and fair sentence for the youthful offender. Based on the National Youth Court Database, there are already 1,127 youth court programs in operation. Most of these programs require the youth to plead guilty to the crime before accommodating him in the program; others, however, do not impose such requirement. Instead, certain measures are adopted to determine the guilt of the youthful offender. After completing the youth court program, the charges are dismissed or the criminal records of the defendant are expunged (FYCP, n.d.). Through this program, the juvenile delinquent need not go through the rigorous trial process in actual courts. In addition, the federal record of the offender is not tarnished with the offenses he committed. He can move on with his life as if nothing happened. Bad federal records and crime conviction usually give bad impression to employers and even to the society at large. If the youth will live with a bad record early on in his life, there might be a smaller room for reform.
Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Programs have only one goal, and that is to rehabilitate the youth. The difference in these programs lies in the approach that is used and the proper implementation thereof. However, no matter how effective these government programs may seem, parents should constantly remember their responsibility to their children to mold them to become law abiding citizens. Proper training and education starts at home, and such can never be compensated by any government prevention program.
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