The Function of Juvenile Delinquency Programs

Introduction

Juvenile delinquency has been a social problem for a very long time. Young people are involved in crimes such as rape, robbery, assault, larceny, car theft, murder, burglary and arson. The rise in cases of Juvenile delinquency has been linked to a failed judiciary system which is unable to control the environment of the youth by reducing contact with factors that may lead to delinquency. These include drugs, access to guns, abusive homes, neighborhood violence and lack of youth programs.

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Juvenile crime takes up a large proportion of the total crime activity in a country. Adolescence need to be handled differently from adults because the criminal behavior at this stage may not be carried on into adulthood. Rehabilitation is the most appropriate method that can be used on juvenile delinquents as opposed to letting them serve time in prison (Howell, 2003).

Delinquency Prevention

Delinquency prevention refers to any measures that are taken to prevent the youth from getting involved in crime and other behavior that is considered anti-social. Prevention of delinquency among the youth is a very important undertaking because it reduces the possibility that young people will engage in such behavior. According to Hawkins & Weis (2005) the social development model is a good approach to delinquency prevention.

The model states that a person’s behavior is influenced by basic units of socialization such as the family, school, community and peers. Beneficial relationships are those whereby a person is involved in situations where he or she has to conform to certain ideals. Such a setting enhances the closeness to other people, commitment and acceptance of the usual order. The social bonds bring about meaningful associations which in turn prevent delinquency (Hawkins & Weis, 2005).

Howell (2003) brings forward a system of preventing juvenile delinquency using two approaches. The primary prevention programs are developed to modify the environment that young people are in so as to ensure that they do not get into delinquency. For example, a child who grows up in a dysfunctional family is likely to become delinquent and therefore he or she should be removed from such an environment. Secondary delinquency is concerned with young people who are already in the initial stages of delinquency.

According to the United Nations (2003), prevention of recurring criminal activity can be achieved through restorative justice. This is an alternative mode of criminal justice that is executed by non-governmental organizations and local remedial communities. Restorative justice involves a situation where all the people who participated in a particular crime come together and determine the most appropriate way that the aftermath of the offence can be dealt with. Reconciliation between the victim and the offender is achieved by ensuring the offender sees the seriousness of the offence. Such informal forums for enhancing peace can be even more effective than the formal justice system.

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Juvenile Diversion

Juvenile diversion is an alternative to the formal juvenile justice system. It is based on the assumption that exposing the youth to the justice system will eventually be more harmful than helpful. It is presumed that low-risk offenders should be put into community based corrective programs so as to reduce the chances that they will continue in delinquent behavior in future. It involves diverting young offenders from the juvenile justice system by stopping or suspending the formal proceedings. The offenders are referred to certain community organizations that can assist in changing their behavior (Heilbrun, Goldstein & Redding, 2005).

Juvenile diversion is advantageous because it reduces the load on the courts. The formal justice system will therefore have more time to deal with serious and urgent matters. In addition, juvenile diversion reduces the stigma that is involved with being involved with the formal justice system. Many people do not want to be associated with a person who has been in jail no matter how petty the reason. Diversion of delinquents is beneficial as it allows for the correction of some problems in the juvenile justice system. These problems include the denial of civil rights and mistreatment, stigmatization of the youth, reducing backlog in the courts and lack of responsibility in the community for the youth. (Heilbrun, Goldstein & Redding, 2005).

Although juvenile diversion has been widely accepted as a method of dealing with the problem of youths getting involved in crime, it has some set backs. The goals of the system are sometimes not attained.

Treatment of Delinquency

Biological Interventions

Since some neurological and biological conditions are associated with delinquency, it is possible to reduce or prevent violent behavior by changing these conditions. Specific drugs can be administered to prevent the youth from making regrettable choices like killing, stealing and raping other people (Tate & Mulvey, 1995).

Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches

The cognitive-behavior approach assumes that an angry and aggressive state is based on a person’s expectations and assessments. Aggression may be due cognitive disorders and inadequate problem solving processes. The above approach includes the training of social skills and it is designed to change the behavior of extremely violent youth. The youth are taught behaviors which are socially acceptable, anger management and morality.

It has been found that this method is quite effective and youths who under go this training exhibit more socially acceptable behavior and are less impulsive and more rational in social settings. Imparting problem solving skills is used to increase self control and responsibility. Youths are taught the importance of employing problem solving skills as opposed to using violence to deal with issues affecting them. The attitudes and beliefs are challenged to ensure that they leave the beliefs that are supportive of hostility. The beneficiaries of this scheme become better problem-solvers and are less aggressive (Tate & Mulvey, 1995).

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Multisystematic Therapy

This treatment is the most effective as it has both short-term and long-term effects. It can be used to treat severe cases. Multisytematic therapy methods are focused on the family and the child while paying attention to other areas of the youth’s life such as school, society and peers. The services are specially made to suite a specific situation and are usually done in the home or community so that there is more cooperation. A study done in 1992 shows that this method is the most effective because there were reduced arrests and a notable improvement of family communication (Tate & Mulvey, 1995).

Conclusion

The most effective way that a government can deal with juvenile delinquency is by taking preventive measures. Time and money should be invested to expand and support the cause of prevention because this will free the government from the responsibility of rectifying negative circumstances. It is the responsibility of all members of society to do their part in ensuring that young people do not engage in illegal activities. People who are already delinquent should be assisted and rehabilitated.

Reference List

Hawkins, D., & Weis J. (1985). The social development model: An integrated approach to delinquency prevention, The journal of primary prevention, 6(2).

Heilbrun, K., Goldstein, S., & Redding, R. (2005). Juvenile delinquency: prevention, assessment, and intervention. New York: Oxford University Press.

Howell, J. (2003). Preventing & reducing juvenile delinquency: a comprehensive framework. California: SAGE.

Tate, D. C., Mulvey, E. P. (1995). Violent juvenile delinquents: Treatment effectiveness and implications for future actions. American Psychologist, 50, 777-781.

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United Nations. (2003). Juvenile delinquency. Web.

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