- Politics and Social Issues
Flaws of Juvenile Delinquency Programs
*Warning: This hub may border on sensitive issues.*
Juvenile delinquency is the status of minors below the age of eighteen who have committed an offense of some sort. These offenses can range from running away or minor theft to serious crime or sexual assault. Despite how the media portrays juvenile delinquency as a very serious problem, with delinquents being anti-social, hardened criminals who needed to be kept under control, the rate of offenses committed by juveniles are dropping. Only a very few, extremely small number of cases have the offenders been the dangerous characters that the media makes them out to be. Most of the offenses each year committed are very small, at least according to the law, and are status offenses in which minors should not be incarcerated for.
However, there is a problem in our society in the way that juvenile delinquents are being treated and dealt with, especially for girls and youths of minority groups. On many occasions, there are good reasons for the juveniles to have turned to delinquency and even against the law. Unfortunately, these reasons are ignored, and so the delinquents who do need help in an unfair society are left at the mercy of unjust due.
One of the most popular ways of dealing with criminals these days seems to be sending them to prison. This is especially true for juvenile delinquents. Numerous minors below the age of eighteen who have committed a delinquent act have been sent off to juvenile correction facilities and are incarcerated. Girl delinquents are often times more harshly punished, and may end of up being locked away for a very long time, which can be damaging when taking into consideration the education that most youths need to make it out in the real world when their time of adulthood comes.
Often times, it is not for more serious offenses like assault. The kinds of offenses MOST delinquents commit, including running away, are status offenses. Committing these kinds of offenses, under the Juvenile Delinquency act made in 1974 should not mean that a juvenile should be incarcerated. Unfortunately, there is a loophole that many officials in the court exploit. Take, for example, running away. In this example, imagine you are a delinquent. There is a court order that says that you are not supposed to run away again. But you do it any way. Your parents are advised to call as soon as that happens. The result, in which, you end up breaking the law by holding the court in contempt. This is an offense that the law does allow incarceration, and thus you end up being locked away with the other delinquents.
As is known, it IS possible for the system of juvenile correction facilities to be corrupt. There are plenty of cases out there where the guards harass you, treatment is harsher, comparable even to an adult prison, and there runs the risk of sexual harassment and assault. The danger is especially there for girl delinquents for the obvious reasons. All it takes is a simple Google search to find out.
Reasons for Delinquency
In the case of running away, and sometimes in the cases of assault, some minors labeled as juvenile delinquents have good reasons for what they are doing. Sometimes, kids run away to escape from abusive parents or guardians. In this case, they end up having to live on the streets, and in order to survive on the streets, they either commit crimes, or, in the case of girls, have to put to use "talents."
Although some laws have passed with the purpose of protecting youth, they, in some cases, doom them. Because of these laws on juvenile delinquency, parents, even abusive ones, have the power to have their children incarcerated. Even in cases of self-defense, and it is the parents' and other people's fault for starting it, a minor can be labeled a delinquent, and then incarcerated, put into an environment that is potentially worse than their previous one. And although youths do point out the valid reasons for their delinquency such as running away from abusive families, they are ignored or not believed.
That is to say, not all juvenile delinquents don't deserve punishment. It is an unfortunate truth that there ARE minors out there who pretty much should be locked up and punished to the fullest extent of the law. One such case would be the assault of a teen by a group of her peers in Florida some years ago. However, like adult criminals, the potential juvenile delinquents at least deserve the chance to defend themselves.
Are such situations as described in "Reasons" and in "Schools" fair to juveniles?
Sometimes, but not always, some schools can be to blame for the problems of the juveniles. There have been cases, however not so much, in which teachers and staff ignore students who are being harassed, even if the students, themselves, bring the harassment up. Often times in such negligent schools when someone finally intervenes, it's usually a "Stop this. It's over" kind of response without properly listening to either side. Unfortunately, it is usually never over until finally someone tries to defend him or her self. The result is a trip to court, being labeled a delinquent, and sometimes incarceration for the person who was simply defending against a perpetrator whose actions would be deemed illegal in the eyes of the law instead of being labeled as "bullying" in some schools. In this regard, the rule of zero tolerance of violence in schools is severely being misused.
There are programs being made almost all the time in order to help juvenile delinquents get back on track with the rest of society. Unfortunately, not many of them live for very long and most are dropped because of their ineffectiveness. Even the programs that do work are close to dying due to lack of necessary funding, in which more funding should be granted because of their effectiveness.
Without looking into the situations of juvenile delinquents, what made them turn to delinquency in the first place, a proper solution will never be found. Solutions should be made after a careful look into gathered data and educated analysis. Careful background investigations should also be done to confirm the grim situations of delinquents for a more proper decision on an appropriate course of action.
Most juvenile delinquents, especially girls and those of a minority group, are being punished more severely than is just. At times, the reasons for their delinquencies are reasonably valid, but are ignored and the underlying problem that sparked the delinquency is left unsolved. Programs meant to protect juvenile delinquents can act like a double-edged sword and put them in more harm. It takes getting in all the facts, properly researching the reasons and problems behind the acts, and doing an educated analysis in order to truly find a solution to the problems of delinquency. Or maybe it would be best that the authorities actually listen to the delinquents instead of just sending them to any old program.
For a better look into juvenile delinquency, especially girls' juvenile delinquency, or women and crime in general, look for books edited or written by Dr. Chesney-Lind.