Juvenile Delinquency Juvenile Delinquency 4 The current statistics of juvenile delinquency are astounding. I will look at the most recent statistics and a few of the programs implemented to reduce or prevent delinquency. Before delving to deep into juvenile delinquency it is important to consider the definitions of “juvenile” and “delinquent”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two definitions of “juvenile”: 1. Showing incomplete development, and 2.
A young person; one below the legally established age of adulthood (1997). Merriam-Webster defines “delinquent” as: offending by neglect or violation of duty or law (1997). As a complete definition of juvenile delinquent it is safe to repeat “a person below the established age of adulthood that offends by neglect or violation of duty or law (1997)”. The history of juvenile delinquency had harsh beginnings. Children were viewed as non-persons until the 1700’s(Rice 1995).
They did not receive special treatment or recognition. Discipline then is what we now call abuse. It was believed that life was hard, and you had to be hard to survive. The people of that time in history did not have the conveniences that we take for granted. For example, the medical practices of that day were primitive in comparison to present-day medicine. Marriages were more for convenience, rather than for childbearing or romance. The infant and child mortality rate was also very high.
It did not make sense to the parents in those days to create an emotional bond with children when there was a strong chance that the children would not survive until adulthood (1995). At the end of the 18th century, “The Enlightenment” appeared as a new cultural transition. People began to see children as flowers, who needed nurturing in order to Juvenile Delinquency 5 bloom. It was the invention of childhood, love and nurturing instead of beatings to stay in line (1995). Children had finally begun to emerge as a distinct group.
It started with the upper class, who were allowed to attend colleges and universities. Throughout all time there has been delinquency. It may not have had the delinquency label, but it still existed. In ancient Britain, children at the age of seven were tried, convicted, and punished as adults. There was no special treatment for them; a hanging was a hanging. Juvenile crime is mentioned as far back as ancient Sumeria and Hammurabi, where laws concerning juvenile offenders first appear in written form (1995). Industrialization set into motion the processes needed for modern juvenile delinquency.
The country had gone from agriculture to machine based labor intensive production. Subsistence farming quickly turned into profit making (1995). People who were displaced from their farm work because of machinery were migrating to the city to find work. This led to urbanization in such places as Chicago, which in turn caused the cities to burst at the seams (1995). There was also a huge increase in the amount of movable goods that were produced and these moveable goods were easy to steal. The stealing of these goods made property crime rise tremendously in these urban centers.
The wealth of the upper class increased, and stealing became a way of living (1995). These large urban centers also created another problem. The work place was now separated from the home and during the hard times both parents took jobs. There was also very little for the youths to do, especially when school was not in session. It was then that youths were becoming Juvenile Delinquency 6 increasingly unsupervised.
These youths were largely unemployed and without supervision, and with movable goods easily available, stealing became a way of life. The huge influx of people to these urban areas overwhelmed society (1995). The factories could not keep up, and unemployment became a factor, which led to widespread poverty. Poorhouses were created to keep youthful offenders away from trouble. The idea behind them was to take the children of the “dangerous (1995) ” classes out of their “dangerous environment (1995).” Kids who were thought to be salvageable needed to be saved. The majority of these children were rounded up for the crime of being poor, not because they committed a crime. These houses, sometimes referred to as reform schools, were very harsh. This was contradictory to the ideas that they needed nurturing and love.
In New York, houses of refuge were created to do the same. The houses eventually became overfilled, and children were sent out West as indentured servants. As many as 50,000 children were shipped out (1995). Some of the children were never allowed to have contact with their parents again. Industrialization and urbanization played a tremendous role in the modern era of juvenile delinquency.
A lot of these factors are true today. Many more farms are going bankrupt. Unemployment is still a factor with the youth of today. We are a culture that values material wealth over and above all (1995). Youth who have no money to live the way they want will often turn to crime as a way to satisfy themselves.
As our nation changes, the way in which juveniles are treated will also have to change. The current trends in juvenile delinquency have an impact on how we view the problem. Juvenile Delinquency 7 The number of juvenile arrests has been declining. In 1971, 21% of all arrests were juveniles. A lot of this change has to do with the declining teenage population. There are 6 million fewer teenagers today than 20 years ago (1995).
Property crime in the United States has been fairly stable; there has been a 3% increase between 1982 and 1991. Violent crime has seen a tremendous increase. Since 1965, juvenile arrests have doubled for rape (11:100,00 in 1965 to 22: 100,00 in 1991). Crime is generally a young person’s game. Property crime peaks at age 16, violent crime peaks at age 18.
All crime drops off dramatically at about age 30. There are some disturbing trends such as: More than 500 kids under age 12 were arrested for rape in 1991. These statistics should be viewed with caution. For example, some of these figures were estimated, the official numbers may be less disturbing, or even underestimated (1995). With an increased emphasis on juveniles, more enforcement and less discretion equal higher figures.
There is also a problem with data being “fudged (1995)” in order to justify an increase in resources. Falcon Baker writes that ” .. crime statistics are at best only educated guesses, and all too often are tainted by political expediency, sloppy record keeping, and outright deception” (1991). Contrary to the “negative publicity, relatively few children come before the juvenile court” (Downs, Moore, McFadden, Costin, 1991). Of the 29.9 million youths aged 10 through 17 in the United States in 1995, only 2.7 million, or less that 10 percent, were arrested for delinquent acts, including status offenses.
Violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) accounted for 5 percent of all juvenile Juvenile Delinquency 8 arrests. The ages of youths at the time of arrest for all crimes were as follows: 23 percent were 17 years of age; 68 percent were 13 through 16 years of age, and 9 percent were less than 13 years of age. The racial composition was 69 percent white, 28 percent black, 1 percent Native American and 2 percent Asian (1991). In doing research on juvenile crime one will find the body of evidence overwhelming. It is at times contradictory and often confusing, but there are some statistics that jump out at you as you sift your way through reports and books.
Often the most compelling statistics are not the ones that appear in newspapers, or on television, radio and speeches that seem to take place almost continuously. According to a report issued last year titled Violent Crime Increases, and prepared for the National Report on Juvenile offending and Victimization shows that between 1965 and 1992 law enforcement agencies reported a 423% increase in the four crimes that make up the FBI’s Violent Crime Index (assault, robbery, rape and homicide) (Abruzzese 1997). The report also includes that in the period from 1983 to 1992 it increased only 54%. A few additional points are that in 1992 law enforcement agencies in over 92% of all jurisdictions reported that 45% of violent crimes, as measured by the index, were “cleared” (1997). However, more than half (55%) were not “cleared” (1997), so half of all violent crimes were not solved. Also 19% (or 128,000) of the violent crimes committed between 1983 and 1992 is attributable to juvenile offenders (1997). Juvenile Delinquency 9 In a report titled “Person Offenses in Juvenile Court” from the October 1994 OJJDP some interesting statistics were given.
From 1985 to 1994, person offenses including assault, robbery, rape and homicide, increases by 93% with juvenile courts handling an estimated 336,100 person offense cases. Person offenses also accounted for a larger proportion of cases, 22% in 1995 compared with 16% in 1985. And, finally, of the 336,100 person offenses handled by the juvenile courts in 1994, over half were dismissed, 3 percent were processed as adults, 24 percent incarcerated and the remainder were on probation or some other alternative program. When reading over these statistics and trying to fathom the numbers of juvenile delinquents and their crimes, it raise …