Law Enforcement and The Youthful Offender
Juvenile delinquency is not a new invention; it is old as time. Socrates is alleged to have observe: ”The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents. Chatter before company. Gobble up dainties at the table, and tyrannize over their teachers.”
History also suggest that the separation of juvenile and adult offenders dates back almost 2500 years, as early as fifth century B.C. under Roman Law. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law, for example, made the theft of crops, when perpetrated at night a capital crime. An offender under the age of puberty, however, was usually fined and, on some occasions, flogged. Thus, as far back as 451 B.C., juvenile crimes existed. Although juvenile delinquency has a long history, youthful crime is now so alarming in extent and kind that we must modify our approach to juvenile offenders.
Just how serious is the problem.
In the last ten years, crime in the United States has increased four times faster than the national population! The problem is much more chilling when one refers to statistics relating to juvenile crime. More crimes are now committed by children under fifteen by our more precious asset, the youth of the United States than by over twenty five! Reports from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show a staggering upsurge in the number of juveniles arrested foe serious crimes.
So and what is juvenile delinquency? Juvenile delinquency means different things to different people. To some, a juvenile delinquent is a boy or girl arrested for a law violation. To others, a single appearance in juvenile court identifies the delinquent. To many, the term covers a variety of antisocial behaviors that offends them, whether or not the law is violated. Juvenile delinquency is a blanket term that obscures rather than clarifies our understanding of human behavior. It describes a large variety of youths in trouble or on the verge of trouble. The delinquent may be anything from a normal mischievous youngster to a youth that is involved in a law violation by accidents. Or he may be a vicious assaultive person who is habitual offender and is recipient of some gratification from his conduct. As a blanket term, delinquency is like the concept of illness. A person maybe ill and have polio or measles. The illness is different, the cause is different, and the treatment is different. The same is true of delinquency. Like illness, delinquency describes many problems that develop from varied causes and require different kinds of treatment. So legally speaking, then, a juvenile delinquent is a child (age defined by statue) who commits any act that would constitute a crime if done by an adult and who is adjudicated as such by an appropriate court.
The police concept classifies the delinquent as the statistical delinquent and personality-disordered delinquent. The statistical delinquent is a youngster who is involved in a delinquent act through impulsiveness or immaturity. As an example, he is involved in an automobile theft without, at that time, realizing the consequence of his actions. Such actions usually occur “on the spur of the moment” while the individual is involved with other youngsters. This youngster is not a recidivist and responds to agency services provided. However he is a “statistic” because this impulsive delinquent act is reported by the arresting agency and, in some cases, in a subsequent referral to the juvenile court.
On the other hand, the personality-disordered delinquent is the youth who is often involved in a series of antisocial acts that necessitates, in most instances, a referral to the juvenile court and, in most cases, custodial care or some type of official help.
So attempting to define a delinquent is extremely difficult. Juvenile delinquency is not a simple term. It is very elusive and means many different things to different individuals, and it means many different things to different groups. When using the term juvenile delinquency properly, one realizes that almost everything a youngster does that does not meet with the approval of individuals or groups may be referred to as a delinquent act. For purposes of research, evaluation, or statistical records, such popular usage is not acceptable.
There are ambiguities and variations in definitions of delinquency in the United States. Many of the states do not agree on the description of a juvenile delinquent. Statutory language is extremely broad and covers virtually any form of antisocial conduct by juveniles. In virtually all states, moral judgements of the community are an important ingredient in defining a delinquent. Many children may be tried for not only violations of sate statues or municipal ordinances but also for noncriminal behavior such as incorrigibility, truancy, and the use of obscene language. This are crimes which, if committed by an adult, would result neither in arrest nor court appearance. Age limitations here are a major problem because the states set various and arbitrary upper-age limits on behavior deemed to be delinquent.
Delinquency is often the result of a combination of factors, some of which may be founded in environment of the child and others within the child himself.
So before turning to the various theories of delinquency causation that are discussed before, it is important to point out the correlative factors of delinquency. Correlative factors relative not only to the physical contexts of delinquency, but to the social-psychological climates closely associated with delinquency.
The correlatives of delinquency are: age, sex, poverty, and social class membership, primary group and schools.
And now Id like to tell about this factors more closely. So the first is age factor. If the causal roots of delinquency are debatable, there can be no argument about the age factor. No matter what the category of time or delinquency statistics and they are both highly variable and both open to serious question one striking trend appears again and again: there is an ever higher proportion of offenders among those of young age. The statistics do seem to justify the following sets of conclusions: (1) the crime rate is highest during or shortly before adolescence. (2) The age of maximum criminally varies with the type of the crime (the age group of fifteen to nineteen years has the highest official rate for theft auto; the age group twenty to twenty-four has the highest official rate of robbery, forgery and rape; and the age group thirty-five to thirty-nine has the highest rate for gambling and violation of narcotic drug laws). (3) The age of first delinquency and the type of crime typically committed at various age varies from the area to area in cities, the age of first criminality is low in areas of high rather than low delinquency (boys aged ten to twelve commit robberies in some areas of large cities, while the boys of the same age commit only petty thefts in less delinquent areas). And (4) The age of maximum general criminality for most specific offences is higher for females than for males. This trend is growing in many states and the importance of early rehabilitative procedures before the individual is remanded to adult penal custody is gaining wide support. Individualized treatment can best be accomplished, it is being recognized, when individual is still young.
The second is sex factor. Boys are apprehended for offences approximately 3.5 times more frequently than are girls. The underlying reasons are not difficult to locate. It is because of role-behavior difference and status distinctions accorded to adolescence in the American culture, the society expects girls to act differently tan boys, and surrounds their behavior with restrictions that act as barriers to delinquent activity. Delinquency among boys is induced largely by opportunities presented by the environment, while among girls delinquency is due more often to emotional maladjustments and personal inadequacies.
The third factor is poverty. Now few of the variables associated with crime and delinquency have been more misunderstood than that of poverty. Contrary to early investigations, recent studies indicate almost “null” relationship between poverty and delinquency. This does not mean, however, that conditions of poverty no longer breed crime and delinquency. Low economic status is not a direct cause of delinquency. It is rather one of many variables that more or less automatically “go together,” (including broken families, suicide, certain types of psychosis, and alcoholism). But correlations and cause-and-effect relationships are not necessarily synonymous. We can safely assert, then, that although poverty and low economic standards are concomitant with delinquency, they are not indispensable characteristics. To be “poor but hones” is, in fact, the rule than the exception.
The forth factor is social-class membership: middle-class and lower-class delinquency. Despite the professed democratic idea of a “classless” society, a realistic appraisal of the contemporary social-economic map dictates an irrefutable fact: Americans are stratified into hierarchical system of power, prestige, and value-oriented groupings. Awareness of social stratification groupings is unnecessary so long as peoples life styles, values, ideals, motivations, and social intercourse are limited to sets of clique of like-minded, similarly oriented people. American lower-class and middle-class subcultures differ from one another at highly significant points. But the most crucial