Juvenile Delinquents: Can They Still be Our Future?
Children that commit crimes should have an opportunity to be rehabilitated while they are still young instead of becoming institutionalized at a vulnerable age. There is still a chance that these young criminals can still be a useful part of the community. They can be reeducated in the way that society operates, in cognitive development, social skills, job training and marketability. They can even become productive citizens instead of a complete drain on the economy and society as a whole. Juvenile delinquency is a prevailing problem in America. Arlen Egley and James C. Howell estimated that, “In 2009, there were 28,100 gangs and 731,000 gang members throughout 3,500 jurisdictions in the United States” (1).The numbers show rising and falling trends, but they have remained fairly steady over the last ten years. This study was done specifically for youth gangs and found that the primary reasons that these people are getting into trouble include sexual offense, substance abuse, and inter-gang conflict. Incarcerating these juveniles in an attempt to keep them off of the street is not enough. Egley continues to say, “Over recent survey years, a majority of respondents report a noticeable effect on the local gang problem when gang-involved individuals return to the community after a period of confinement” (3). The gang activity continues while they are behind bars, and escalates when these juveniles get released. The problem runs much deeper than traditional “rehabilitation” is equipped to handle. Multiple studies have shown that stiff punishment acts as a deterrent to criminal behavior. Morgan Reynolds states that, “The reality is that the threat of bad consequences, including retribution posed by the legal system, protects life and property against predation” (3). Basically, criminals often know about the consequences they could face before they actually commit a crime. There is usually a period of time that the potential criminal has to weigh the “pros and cons” before they act in a criminal matter. Figure III illustrates the direct relationship between the severity of punishment and the amount of serious crimes.
Reynolds claims that, “There is an inverse correlation between expected punishment and the crime rate” (8). This graph shows that as the expected severity of punishment declines, the actual crime rate increases. It also shows that as the punishment became more severe, the crime rate dropped. These potential criminals face a risk to reward evaluation just as any normal, functioning member of society does. In fact, it is often why lawbreakers choose a crime like burglary in comparison to selling drugs for money. In an interview that Reynolds performed with an inmate who was incarcerated for burglary, the felon remarked, “If I get caught on burglary, I know I’m guaranteed four years [imprisonment]. I get caught with drugs, I do 30 [years]” (3). The penalties for selling drugs are much harsher, and the criminals often consider this. This is just one incident that proves that criminals are generally very rational people. They will not break the law in front of a police officer or in a place that they know they are being videotaped. Reynolds also brings up another very valuable point, “Victim restitution and incarceration both lowered reoffending while probation did not” (10). Restitution made either to the victim, or to society as a whole can serve well as recompense, or repayment. This will help both the ease of the victim, and it can serve as a catalyst by which recovery from criminality can be made possible. In this way, remuneration really has a two-fold effect. On one hand, the delinquent attempts to make due directly to the victim. On the other, it can also serve to build up some moral fiber in the person that committed the crime. Accomplishing goals can help to build self-esteem and overall self-worth. This is one way that the offender can gain the skills...
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