At Risk Youth & Juvenile Deliquency in the Inner City

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At Risk Youth & Juvenile Deliquency in the Inner City
Who’s at risk, who’s to blame and what’s being done to help them?

Its 9 o'clock on a Saturday night and 15-year-old Andrew is lying on his bed staring at the blank stone wall next to him. Andrew looks around and sees that the four boys with whom he shares the tiny room are asleep. He thinks of all the things he could be doing instead of lying there. He could be hanging out with his friends, listening to his music, having a good time. But those days ended last summer when Andrew got into a fight and shot two teens. Andrew has two years ahead of him of spending his Saturday nights lying on his bed and listening through the door to the steps of the guards walking past outside (Juvenile Crime and Punishment). Juvenile crime has been a rapidly growing problem in the United States. Each year as the juvenile crime rate increases, so does the amount of youth serving drastic sentences in prison. Because the percentage of youth who commit crimes has dramatically increased over years, the judicial system must find alternative ways of punishing juveniles and find better ways to help youth who are at risk before they reach the point of incarceration. Who is most at risk and what is being done to help them before they are marked as juvenile delinquents? In order to find solutions we must first explore what it means to be an At Risk youth and the circumstances that put these youth at risk. The definition of youth varies across countries and continents alike which makes the term difficult to decipher because there is no universally accepted definition of youth. Defining youth in the United States in the easy part, it is simply a male or female in their teen years that is of high school or college age, but the complex part is defining what it is to be at risk because there are many way in defining at risk. The legal definition of at risk youth is an individual under the chronological age of eighteen who is absent from home for at least seventy two consecutive hours without the consent of his/her parents; is beyond the control of his/her parent such that the child’s behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person; or has a substance abuse problem for which there are no pending criminal charges related to substance abuse. Today’s youth face more serious and critical risks than any previous generation. With increasing industrialization and urbanization, as well as the weakening of the family unit and community social structures, many youth find themselves without social supports, adequate nurturing from parents, and the ability to function in school settings. There are many factors that contribute to the choice of unhealthy lifestyles for youth. The more factors present in a young person’s life, the more likely it is for them to become involved in problem behavior which could potentially lead to a life of crime. Although there is no excuse for this type of behavior, these actions derive from daily exposure to such factors, which inevitably causes them to be easily influenced and do what they see others doing. Research shows that at-risk youth struggle with complex issues and scenarios that are brought on by peers, mentors, family members, and difficult social environments. Most experts will agree that violence in schools, deteriorating family structure, substance abuse, alarming media images, and gang activity put teens at risk. Teenagers who have trouble coping with the stresses of life are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in criminal activity, are sexually promiscuous, and attempt suicide. Many of these at-risk teens run away and eventually find themselves locked up in detention centers or living on the streets (Teens at Risk, 12).

Individual risk factors are some of the main reasons that put youth at risk to a life of crime. Factors such as pregnancy and delivery complications can lead to crime because after suffering from a...
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