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Monday, June 28, 2010

Preventing Juvenile Delinquency

Crime is a matter that has plagued society since the beginning of documented time. Crime originates in vast proportions and alarmingly stems from childhood. Traumatic events and less than ideal life circumstances perpetuate severe damage in juveniles and provide explanation for delinquency. Crimes committed by juveniles pose a distressing threat to society as a whole. By evaluating the effects juvenile delinquency has on the community, victims, and families, along with analyzing methods of deterrence, the future of the juvenile justice system can be predicted and a vast overhaul of juvenile justice can ensue.


Juvenile delinquency has been a serious dilemma in society throughout the ages. Particularly during the American Revolution, the justice system was stalwartly influenced by England (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). The code in which to punish criminals was unsteady at best without any formal reason governing how to deter and punish crime. Men, women, juveniles, and the insane were commonly thrust together in prisons and jails (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). This haphazard approach led to much disarray within the justice system. Transition proceeded to elicit hope within the broken justice system during the early 1800s when rural life was dissipating and delinquency was on the rise (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008).

Slow-churning change weaved in and out of the justice system in a manic fashion to try and solve the delinquency problem that was spreading among communities. It was quickly realized that life at home bore many consequences for juveniles, as psychological analysis and psychiatry began to advance more quickly. Social reform began to explode in the nineteenth century and this perpetuated many facilities for delinquent and troubled youths (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). This brought a new understanding about the sensitive needs of juveniles and the importance of rehabilitation. The first juvenile court in the United States was launched in Cook County, Illinois in 1899 (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). Cases were handled as non-criminal and programs were put into practice to aid in deterring juveniles from following a criminal path. This encouraged other states to follow suit and the juvenile justice system was flourishing a century later.

The juvenile justice system started to work out the kinks around the 1960s after the Supreme Court began to hear some cases and ruled in ways that would significantly shape juvenile justice. The first case heard by the Supreme Court was Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966). This case involved the violation of rights of the defendant and subsequently influenced the activation of due process in juvenile court (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). From this point forward, it has been a dire focus to implement the proper rights to juvenile defendants to ensure justice. Through a glum view of the history of juvenile justice and the many failures that has led to pestilence, it is clear that innovative techniques must be implemented with powerful strategies to combat juvenile delinquency.


According to Mike Castle, the findings of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show that “police annually arrest approximately 2.2 million juveniles; 1 .7 million cases are referred to juvenile courts; an estimated 400,000 young people cycle through juvenile detention centers; and about 100,000 youth are detained in juvenile jails, prisons, boot camps, and other residential facilities each night” (Castle, 2010, p.1). Additionally, according to Congress, juveniles accounted for 13% of all drug abuse violations in 1999 (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office, 2002). These staggering facts show that the effects of juvenile delinquency are plentiful. Juveniles suffer from criminal behavior, as do their families, their victims and the victim’s families, as well as society and the justice system. Therefore, the betterment of the juvenile justice system is a concern for society as a whole, not excluding the individuals affected directly by a particular criminal act or juvenile delinquent.

Judges are a chief factor in the juvenile justice system and play an impacting role in the lives of each juvenile that is seen before the court. Because juvenile court typically does not use a jury, the judge has the final decision that decides the fait of the juvenile (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). Because of this fact, it is essential that the judge has special training in the workings of juvenile justice with a background in psychological concentration that can aid in the treatment of each unique juvenile case.

The families of the juvenile play an important role in the sentencing process. Family members can aid in the determination of probation and necessary requirements that are given as well as whether the juvenile is incarcerated in a juvenile facility. If the juvenile is released on probationary terms, the family must be responsible for the well being of the juvenile in addition to making certain the terms of probation are being met (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008).

Juveniles may be required to pay monetary damages to the victim of the crime (Bartollas, & Miller, 2008). This helps with retribution and deterrence and gives the juvenile offender a sense of responsibility for his or her actions. The victims have a keen role in the sentencing of the juvenile as well. Families of victims usually face consequences much like the victim, and the suffering from the crime bleeds to many others close to the victim (Garcia, & McDowell, 2010).

It is difficult for a young juvenile offender to see the broader picture of their criminal behavior. Yet, society as a whole suffers greatly from the crimes of juveniles. The social and financial repercussions of juvenile crimes are immense. As stated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “allowing one youth to leave school for a life of crime and of drug abuse costs society $1,700,000 to $2,300,000 annually” (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office, 2002, p.4). Because influence is a strong factor in the lives of juveniles, siblings of delinquents and other youths associated with a juvenile delinquent may be negatively persuaded to enact similar crimes. When the juvenile exuding criminal behavior becomes an adult, it is highly likely he or she will continue crime if not properly rehabilitated. This will cause more financial burden to society and will perpetuate more generations of juvenile delinquents stemming from the kin of that particular criminal (Taylor, et al., 2010). One study elicited alarming results between the collaboration of young juvenile delinquency and adulthood divorce (Forgatch, et al., 2009). In regards to this particular study, Marion Forgatch, et al. concluded that, “in the theoretical model, ineffective parenting
practices and deviant peer association serve as the primary mechanisms for growth in adolescent delinquent behavior and early arrests (Forgatch, et al., p. 1). Therefore, it is quite momentous to develop prevention strategies while a juvenile delinquent is still young and the criminal activity is just beginning as to eradicate the unnecessary but inevitable corollaries that will be a result.

Prevention Methods

Juvenile justice is a sensitive area because of the nature of the offenders. Juveniles are not fully developed intellectually, socially, or physically and this poses a difficulty for the juvenile justice system. Typically, the United States has been known for utilizing punishment as the general instrument for justice for over forty years. However, studies have shown that punishment alone promotes failure in preventing juvenile crime and even shows a destructive pattern of backfiring (Taylor, et al., 2010). Consequently, it is indispensable to acknowledge the special circumstances that help attract juveniles to criminal tendencies. Preventing these patterns of destructive behavior is surely a difficult challenge.

Family strengthening is one of the most significant stratagems to defeat juvenile delinquency. Studies have shown that adequate parenting and powerful family dynamics reduce the possibility of criminal behavior among juveniles (Koffman, et al., 2009). The benefits of a structured family life are plentiful. The juvenile will experience love, support, discipline and unique connection with family members that share the same environment and conditions of life. Aside from these obvious advantages, family and parent training programs help protect and improve family relationships in which juvenile delinquents are involved and positive results help to eradicate impulsive, aggressive, and chronically disruptive behavior that leads to social deficiency and subsequent delinquency (Piquero, et al., 2009). In one particular meta-analytic review of an experimental study involving such a family intervention program showed a reduction in these preexisting conditions in juvenile behavior and a 75% diminution of delinquency among the juvenile participants (Piquero, et al., 2009). Such studies and results show promise for programs designed to strengthen families as these interventions touch on the underlying issues of most juvenile dilemmas. The problem lies within the ability to reach out to each family and to construct a program that fits the needs of the targeted family. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to heal families with abuse and trauma, which are common factors in juvenile delinquency. While it is much more uplifting to rely on the abilities of parents and the responsibilities that adults exercise in determining family values, this is a failing concept in some circumstances.

In the event that family intervention cannot be completed due to a lack of cooperation or unavailable means, after-school programs and community efforts should be put into practice to incorporate positive interaction among juveniles at risk for delinquency. Crime analysis surveys report that most crime carried out by juvenile delinquents peaks between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Gottfredson, et al., 2004). Implementing structured after-school programs with supplemented programs such as drug rehab, counseling, anger management programs, mentoring, peer discussion groups, conflict management and life skills classes will provide more success and better prevention possibilities among at-risk youths. Triumphs that can be expected among participating juveniles are empowerment, leadership, coping skills and hope for the future (Koffman, et al., 2009). However, such programs cannot replace family influence, and the patterns of behavior that will sporadically occur among youths and juveniles experiencing puberty will need to be carefully dealt with by significant support from after-school interventions. Furthermore, in crime ridden communities, a dependency on such programs may develop, prompting families and parents to rely on the raising of children to be done by governmental, private, and community agencies. Nevertheless, these programs offer hope when there is little, and success has motivated continued application and funding for suitable intervention techniques. Copious funding for such programs, although scarce and difficult to generate in suitable quantities, is mandatory to deliver success within communities with low-income families and economic struggles.

Financial challenges sadly have a strong baring on juvenile behavior. Besides the detrimental conditions that can result from poverty, stress and anger breed in families that cannot make ends meet, perpetuating violence and criminal activity. Assistance programs serve in helping families obtain housing and other necessities of life such as food and medical aid, yet even with such programs, juvenile delinquency still flourishes. Shame and guilt from poverty exists equally when assistance programs are being utilized, as one study established (Garcia, & McDowell, 2010). To stop the cycle of such feelings that inevitably lead to delinquency, innovative programs should be established by Congress to financially aid families while requiring parents and caregivers to obtain training programs and employment counseling. Furthermore, poverty stricken communities will benefit from construction makeovers and designated improvements. Juvenile delinquency will cease considerably as a result of geographical enhancements.

Innovative ideas for preventing juvenile delinquency shall include a consideration of healthy peer interaction. Featured in this concept is a necessary understanding of the high impact of peer influence on juveniles. One particular study with 70 participants, all between the ages of eleven and seventeen years old, showed that peer pressure and persuasion of other similarly aged juveniles had a role in the decisions, actions, and beliefs that the participants engaged in (Cohen, & Piquero, 2009). One of the most powerful intervention programs designed and adopted by various court systems in the United States are those mentoring programs and interventions devised to scare juveniles out of crime. While most of these programs involve adult offenders who install fear and truth into youthful offenders, it is clear that peer influence should be utilized in this concept as well. Unlike adults whom can easily remember their youth and relate to juveniles, it is extremely difficult for juveniles to relate to adults. Therefore, juvenile offenders sentenced, punished, or otherwise handled in court for a crime should be required to participate in a new mentoring program for peers with similar criminal tendencies or other anthropological similarities. A program such as this will most likely show colossal achievements in the prevention of juvenile delinquency.


Juvenile delinquency has been, and will continue to be a continuous threat to future generations. It is highly important to develop creative techniques to prevent juvenile delinquency. Juvenility is a sensitive time in the life of a person; a time in which comprehensive change is possible and a lack of positive change is detrimental. Predictably, new measures of handling juveniles and guaranteeing juvenile rights will be fine-tuned in the court systems over the next century. Technology will continue to be a precedent for court systems and juvenile cases. Perhaps within the next decade, the United States can expect better systems to monitor, detain, and rehabilitate juveniles through comprehensive programs that are designed and tested with scientific evidence. Nationally, jurisdictions will collaborate to bring forth a more cohesive juvenile justice system that can be easily measured, observed, and improved. While more juvenile delinquents can be expected in the next century, more detention facilities for juveniles will be developed. Although this will seem to be a negative progression, more facilities will give the opportunity for creative programs to develop to be structurally appropriate for the differing circumstances of juvenile offenders. Likewise, more juvenile specific facilities will mean less juveniles being thrust into adult prisons. Additionally, it can be expected that psychology will have a more prominent role in the implementation of justice to enable understanding and treatment for all juvenile types.

For juveniles today, the traditions and patterns that transition a child through adolescence and adulthood are obscured with many negative factors. Broken families, violence, abuse, and poverty promise to destroy the stability a juvenile relies on and damages the juvenile in a way that enables disparaging choices to shape the future of that juvenile. With a conundrum of negative effects, and dilapidating situations within juvenile lives, delinquency may be a problem that can never quite be resolved. Yet, if the juvenile justice system works congruently with communities to produce techniques for justice, along with constant attention to the changing realisms of juvenile life, a successful remedy for delinquency may surely be imminent in the future of juvenile justice.

Bartollas, C., & Millers, S. (2008). Juvenile justice in America (fifth edition). Upper
Saddle River, NY: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Castle, M. (2010). The Safety of our youth. Ripon Forum, 44(2), Retrieved from

Cohen, M., & Piquero, A. (2009). New evidence on the monetary value of saving a high
risk youth. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 25(1), Retrieved from

Forgatch, M., Patterson, G., Degarmo, D., & Beldavs, Z. (2009). Testing the Oregon
delinquency model with 9-year follow-up of the Oregon divorce study. Development and Psychopathology, 21(2), Retrieved from

Garcia, M., & McDowell, T. (2010). Mapping social capital: a critical contextual
approach for working with low-status families. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 36(1), Retrieved from

Gottfredson, D., Gerstenblith, S., Soulè, D., Womer, S., & Lu, S. (2004). Do after school
programs reduce delinquency?. Prevention Science, 5(4), Retrieved from

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office, Initials. (2008). Juvenile justice and
delinquency prevention. Retrieved from

Koffman, S., Ray, A., Berg, S., Covington, L., & Albarran, N. (2009). Impact of a
comprehensive whole child intervention and prevention program among youths at risk of gang involvement and other forms of delinquency. Children and Schools, 31(4), Retrieved from

Piquero, A., Farrington, D., Welsh, B., Tremblay, R., & Jennings, W. (2009). Effects of
early family/parent training programs on antisocial behavior and delinquency. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 5(2), Retrieved from

Taylor, B., Stein, N., & Burden, F. (2010). The Effects of gender violence/harassment
prevention programming in middle schools: a randomized experimental evaluation. Violence and Victims, 25(2), Retrieved from


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