Law Enforcement and the Youthful Offender

In almost every aspect of their work with juveniles, the police must have contact with at least one other agency

Law Enforcement and the Youthful Offender



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differences, in terms of delinquency, relate to the vastly different childrearing techniques and social values instilled in children by the two classes. At the risk of generalizing, it can be asserted that where the middle class typically stresses parent/children relationship geared to love and dependence through late adolescence, the lower class tend to give their children physical and psychological freedom well before the adolescence years. It is far from surprising, then, that delinquency finds far more fertile ground in the lower class sectors of the typical city and particularly in those that are situated in slum areas. Bearing in mind what we have already observed about the adolescent rejection of parental values and need for peer-group identification, we can readily see the intense grip that the gang delinquent or “legitimate” holds on the lower class adolescents loyalties. More frequently - almost typically, in fact the middle class delinquent is a diametric counterpart of the lower class delinquent. Where the lower class delinquent is smoothly socialized and well-liked by hi peers, the former middle-class delinquent is often seriously maladjusted ant at odds with his fellow adolescents.

So as one can see, the juvenile justice system has many segments. Police, courts, correctional institutes, and aftercare services (the correctional process that deals with the juvenile after institutionalization has taken place is referred to as aftercare services). The interrelationship between various segments of the system is, apparently, the most significant problem in the juvenile justice system. In other words, the system is no more systematic than the relationship between police and court, court and probation, probation and correctional institutes, correctional institutes and aftercare services. In the absence of functional relationship between segments, the juvenile justice system is vulnerable to fragmentation and ineffectiveness.

As previously noted, delinquency is a phenomena as old as history and as complex as nuclear physics. Its causes are multiply, and the emphasis shifts with the changes in society. Nor are all delinquents cast from the same mold they are individual human beings with all their differences. Because there are so many possible causes of delinquency, a wide variety of factors tend to be held responsible separately or in combination. The individual himself, his family, his neighbors, his school, his church, his place of residence, his government an endless list which is, thus, the reason for ambiguities in theories. The result: everyone is responsible for delinquency and, of course, when everyone is responsible for something, no one really is. Traditionally, all efforts in prevention have been aimed toward containing and repressing incipient delinquents through law enforcement agencies. In recent years, there have been strong efforts to improve rehabilitative processes for already identified delinquents so that the amount of recidivism might be reduced. So the way to solve the delinquency problem is to prevent boys and girls from becoming delinquents in the first place. Society is not solving that problem because the emphasis is not placed on that all-important job: prevention. Moreover, it appears that society is blocked by a psychological wall of fallacies which keep everyone busy with impractical plans that are doomed to fail right from the start. The correctional program in the United States seems to be content with treating individual delinquents after they have already committed delinquent acts, while such programs overlook most entirely the factors that contribute to delinquency. Society must find a way to correct the faulty home and environment before child becomes a police case. It is both unfair and impractical to rely upon a few private a agencies to do this large-scale, complex public job.

The primary responsibility of law enforcement is the control and prevention of crime and delinquency through the enforcement of laws that are necessary for the good order of society. Since many criminal are committed by minors under the age of eighteen years, a large proportion of police works involves the detection, investigation, apprehension, and referral of these juveniles. In addition, law enforcement agencies are concerned with minors who come to their attention for noncriminal reasons. The initial handing of neglected children, for example, is often a police matter; and police officers also have the responsibility of dealing with runaway, incorrigible, and wayward youngsters.

In almost every aspect of their work with juveniles, the police must have contact with at least one other agency in the community. It must be recognized that the police services are only a part of the total community effort to promote the welfare of children and young people. For police services to be made more effective, then, they must be planned in relationship to the overall community program as well as to the services offered by individual agencies. Although police officers, and particularly special juvenile officers, should be familiar with the contribution and operation of all agencies in the community (an up-to-date directory of agencies can be of great value), it is clear that the major part of their work with children will involve contact with only a limited number of agencies. This contact should normally be close and continuous and, therefore, the relationship should be based on a clear understanding and amicable acceptance of the role of each of the participants. But in conclusion I want to say that there is often a lack of communication between the police and other young serving agencies in the community resulting in mutual criticism and feelings of hostility. Police sometimes say such agencies fail to advise them of action taken concerning juveniles brought to their attention. Agency personnel, on the other hand, often attribute the hostility and bad behavior of the juveniles turned over to them by the police to the unsympathetic “treatment” given them by the police. Social agencies personnel, including probation officers and even some judges, see only effective treatment. On the other side, some police see such agency personnel as unrealistically soft and permissive even to the extent of being “played for suckers” by cunning, worldly wise “young punks.” Feelings such as these on both sides are certainly not conducive to effective communication to say nothing of real cooperation.




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