CRIMINALIZATION IN BLACK YOUTH
Juvenile delinquency is regarded as a serious social problem in the United States and many other countries. It has caused increasing public concern, but it is by no means a new problem. Young people formed violent street gangs in American cities during the 1800's, and delinquency rates were reported rising during the early 1900's. Delinquency is found in all nations and is particularly widespread in highly industrialized nations that have large cities. The legal age at which a person is considered to be a juvenile varies from place to place. Most states in the United States define anyone less than 18 years of age as a juvenile. New York considers anyone under 17 a juvenile. In Canada, juveniles may be those under the age of 16. Most states allow youngsters who are young enough for juvenile-court handling to be tried by regular criminal courts under certain circumstances. http://www.worldbookonline.com Explaining crime and delinquency is a complex task. A multitude of factors exist that contribute to the understanding of what leads someone to engage in delinquent behavior. While biological and psychological factors hold their own merit when explaining crime and delinquency, perhaps social factors can best explain juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is a massive and growing problem in America. The social causes of juvenile delinquency encompass a wide array of theories that have been set forth by criminologists and sociologists. Some theorists view delinquency as a function of the individual while others view delinquency as a macro level function of society. Many of the theories that will be presented will be applicable to at least some instances of crime and delinquency in society. Crime is such a diverse topic, that the explanation of this social problem is just as diverse. It is important to note the distinction between crime and delinquency. Where as a crime is an act that breaks criminal code, which is created by society through written law delinquency and deviance can be acts that merely break 'cultural law' or norms. Delinquency is usually specific and descriptive of age. Tomovic cites Redl and Winelian, "The legal concept of delinquency simply states which type of behavior is forbidden by law, in which state, for which age group of children and so forth. The cultural meaning of the word might summarize all statements indicating that a piece of behavior is in contradiction with the value demands of the dominant culture within which a given child moves". http://www.skidmore.edu The legal term juvenile delinquent was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid the disgrace of being classified in legal records as criminals. Juvenile delinquency laws were designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, for juvenile offenders. Young delinquents usually are sent to juvenile courts, where the main aim is to rehabilitate (reform) offenders, rather than to punish them. But the term juvenile delinquency itself has come to imply disgrace. A youngster can be labeled a delinquent for breaking any one of a number of laws, ranging from robbery to running away from home. But an action for which a youth may be declared a delinquent in one community may not be against the law in another community. In some communities, the police ignore many children who are accused of minor delinquencies or refer them directly to their parents. But in other communities, the police may refer such children to a juvenile court, where they may officially be declared delinquents. http://www.worldbookonline.com A problem for black youth is that their acts are assessed by outsiders who have the power to identify, treat, and label their behavior as delinquent. Where the juvenile is identified, treated, and labeled as delinquent, there is further contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Although the juvenile justice system was an improvement over the earlier...
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