Juvenile delinquency is an issue that impacts every person in our society. It seems like every day you hear more and more about how children are engaging in criminal activities, some of these criminal acts are so severe that it shakes whole communities to their core. We are constantly reminded on a daily basis just how severe the issue of juvenile violence has become. These increasing levels of juvenile violence have shown up in the form of shooting in communities and schools, drug related crimes, robbery, and even murder. This paper will focus on the history of juvenile delinquency in our nation, the different strategies and programs that are available to help prevent more juvenile crime, the pros and cons of these strategies and programs and how effective they are, and ways that we can improve on these strategies and programs.
Up until the late nineteenth century, most young criminal offenders in our nation were treated and punished the same as adult offenders. Children as young as seven years old faced criminal trials and real jail sentences. It wasn’t until 1909 that Judge Julian Mack proposed in a Harvard Law Review article that a juvenile offender should be treated differently as an adult offender and that the juvenile justice system “should treat a child as a wise and merciful father handles his own child”. (Mack. 1909) The criminal justice system reformed the way that juveniles were treated in criminal cases and decided that youths involved in criminal activities should first and foremost be viewed as children who are in need of help. “The early reformers envisioned a regime in which young offenders would receive treatment that would cure them of their antisocial ways- a system in which criminal responsibility and punishment had no place. Because of the juvenile court’s rehabilitative purpose, procedures were informal and dispositions were indeterminate.” (Scott & Steinberg. 2008)
This new rehabilitative model of juvenile justice seemed to be effective up until the 1960s. Many believed that the informal proceeding and the coddling of these young offenders had no effect on the decreasing of juvenile criminal activities. During the 1980s juvenile crime rose, many mocked the juvenile system for failing to rehabilitate young offenders and blamed the increase of juvenile violence on the soft approach taken with juvenile proceedings. They believed that the juvenile justice system had become too soft-hearted for these young offenders and they were no longer up to the task of dealing with young criminals who committed serious crimes against society. As juvenile crime rates rose during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly heinous crimes such as murder, politicians and citizens around the country began to demand that these offenders be punished more severely for their crimes. “The upshot of this reform movement is that the mantra "adult time for adult crime" has become a reality for many young offenders. Through a variety of initiatives, the boundary of childhood has shifted dramatically in a relatively short time, so that youths who are legal minors for every other purpose are adults when it comes to their criminal conduct.” (Scott & Steinberg. 2008)
For a lot of people in our society juvenile violence and criminal activity is a concern for the parents of the juvenile and for law enforcement officials and the court system. While it is the main concern for those involved in juvenile criminal activity, the increase of juvenile violence and criminal acts affect every person in every community. When a crime is committed in a community it has a direct effect on those closely involved with the act such as the offender, the victims, and the friends and family members of both. These crimes also have huge impacts on the communities in which these crimes were committed. “In addition to causing injury and death, youth violence affects communities by increasing the cost of health care, reducing productivity,...
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