Juvenile delinquency has been an issue of major concern not only to Americans but also to other societies. A number of studies have been carried out to examine the reasons that drive young people to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviors. This paper aims to discuss the historical, contemporary, and emerging theories of juvenile delinquency. The paper will then address the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of trying juveniles as adults in the criminal justice system. Issues such as the difference between juveniles’ and adults’ development which affect their reasoning capacity and culpability will be addressed. It is hoped that the paper will provide readers with useful information as to the best ways of dealing with juvenile delinquents.
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Following the Supreme Court’s revolutionary verdict in Roper v. Simmons, the American juvenile justice system turned into a vital crossroad. Until that time, an ill-advised public attitude and a growing inclination for the court system to give juveniles legal bureaucratic protection had guided the juvenile court system to unite with the adult criminal courts. The outcome was an increase in juvenile relocation to the adult criminal courts, and consecutively, an inability to meet the initial rehabilitative objectives of the juvenile justice system, that is, to shield the public from harm and to restore juvenile offenders. In the case of Roper v. Simmons, a boy aged 17 heinously killed a woman and was given a death sentence by a Missouri trial court. The Missouri Supreme Court revoked the initial death sentence, arguing that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments did not permit the capital punishment of juveniles (Pagnanelli, 2007, p.178).
The United States Supreme Court, in a revolutionary ruling, consented with the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing that handing down capital punishment on juveniles was brutal and abnormal and, thus, violated the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court elucidated that the death penalty is set aside for society’s nastiest offenders and that juvenile offenders do not qualify to be categorized as worst offenders. This is because juveniles’ development process is not yet complete and therefore do not carry the responsibility of guilt; are more exposed and susceptible to harmful and external pressures such as peer pressure; and they have personalities that are not formed as well as those of the adults. Making a revolutionary ruling, the court held that a bright-line rule excluding capital punishment is essential because “the differences between juvenile and adult offenders are too marked and well understood to risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty,” (Pagnanelli, 2007, p.182). The ruling in Roper v. Simmons took on a revolutionary perception of juvenile development, and the principle underlying its verdict could result in tremendous insinuations for transfer plans. The logic governing Roper, that aggressive juvenile offenders have a reduced capability for their deeds that merits a bright-line tenet when dealing with cruel punishment, and supplementary proof highlighting the inability of transfer policies to restore and shield the public, should provoke American policymakers to reconsider and rectify transfer policies.
Trends and theories of juvenile delinquency
Historical and contemporary theories of juvenile delinquency
Various theories have been propounded by scholars that serve to explain as to why children and youth engage in criminal and delinquent activities. These theories are biological, psychological, and sociological in nature. The biological theories of juvenile delinquency rotate around the notion that people are inclined to engage in criminal behaviors. Cesare Lombroso is thought to have made the biggest contribution to the biological theory of crime and delinquency through his positivism theory (Singer, 1996, p.32). According to Lombroso, persons who engage in criminal and delinquent behaviors had an inheritance of particular biochemical and genetic elements that predisposed them to crime and delinquency. Additionally, he asserted that criminals are inclined to possess particular physical characteristics that are thought of as a disposition to commit crimes, for instance, slanting foreheads or big earlobes (Singer, 1996). Besides Lombroso, criminologist Sheldon also argued that different body forms caused persons to act differently. For instance, he supposed that mesomorphs were more inclined to engage in criminal activities because they were strong and athletic, the endomorphs who are fat and generally weak (Champion, 2004). The XYY theory is another biological theory of crime and delinquency. This theory utilizes the notion that genetic anomalies found in the chromosomes can cause aggressive and immoral behavior (Singer, 1996). It has been proven that if persons possess such anomalies, criminal activity and aggressiveness are most likely to be present.
Psychological theories of delinquency and crime concentrate on peoples’ conditioning processes. Two main kinds of psychological theories of delinquency exist and they include psychoanalytic theory and the social learning theory. The psychoanalytic theory is founded on Freud’s psychoanalytic elements: id, ego, and superego. The id is considered as the force behind instant satisfaction of needs and can elucidate certain delinquency behaviors, for instance, shoplifting and burglary. In addition, the psychoanalytical theory asserts that traumatic events that occur in early childhood can stop the ego and superego from growing appropriately (Krisberg and Austin, 1993, p.67). The social learning theory is founded on the different ways in which individuals agree to and obey the set of laws, regulations, and customs of society. This process is influenced by the environment in which individuals grow up. When individuals grow up in an environment in which their role models provide a conducive environment for growth, they are most likely to accept and conform to the laws and regulations of society. On the other hand, if individuals grow up in a negative environment that is rife with violence, they are most likely to rebel against the set laws and rules. Such individuals may learn that violence is an acceptable and effective means of achieving the set goals (Krisberg and Austin, 1993, p.72).
In addition to the biological and psychological theories mentioned above, there exist also sociological theories of delinquent behavior which include: the strain theory, labeling theory, and social control theory. The strain theory asserts that if an individual sets certain goals but lacks the legitimate means through which he can achieve the goals, he most likely will engage in illegitimate means of achieving the goals. The strain theory propounds five modes of adaptation that individuals may exhibit in trying to achieve their goals. These include conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. Conformity occurs when individuals agree to the set goals as well as the means of realizing the goals instituted by society. Innovation occurs when individuals accept the goals of society but not the means of achieving those goals. They, therefore, look for other accessible means of achieving those goals. Ritualism occurs when individuals discard the goals but strive towards lower set goals that are still acceptable to society. Retreatism occurs when individuals refuse both the goals and the means of achieving the goals. Rebellion is an outcome of retreatism in which individuals develop their own society with their own set goals and the means of achieving those goals (Fagan and Zimring, 2000, p.44). The labelling theory concentrates on describing individuals as either criminal/delinquent or non-criminal/non-delinquent. The theory asserts that if an individual is labelled a criminal by the justice system, s/he starts to accept that s/he is truly and actually a criminal. As a result, that individual will engage in criminal activities so as to live up to that description. The second motivating element of the labelling theory is that persons search for the kinds of responses that their actions obtain from those around them. When a person is labelled, s/he becomes a social outsider and starts to revolt, so as to match his/her identity.
The social bond theory is also referred to as the social control theory and was advocated by Travis Hirsch in the 1960s. There are a number of bonds that people create that will decide on whether or not they will engage in criminal behaviours. The first bond is an attachment, which implies that the socialization of people relies on their interest in other people. The second bond is commitment, which implies that the lack of dedication towards customs and social laws can bring about delinquent actions. The third bond is involvement. A person who takes part in positive actions would lack the time to engage in criminal behaviours. The final bond is belief. When a person resides in an area that shares similar values, he is likely to conform to the area’s laws and rules. On the other hand, when individuals live in an area in which his values conflict with the values of the area, he is likely to rebel against the laws and rules and engage in delinquent behaviours (Bonnie et al., 1997, p.31).
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Emerging theories of juvenile delinquency
Developmental theories of juvenile delinquency
Existing developmental theories of delinquency have developed from a unique sociological structure for assessing experiences of individuals over a prolonged duration of time that is frequently known as the life-course viewpoint. The life-course viewpoint analyzes human development through the life period, concentrating in particular on individuals’ growth within culturally distinct responsibilities and social movements that are age-ranked. For instance, it is usual for a child to finish his schooling, start a profession, then settle down and make his own family. The terms trajectory and pathways are utilized to explain these lasting blueprints of social development in social institutions, such as families, educational institutions and professions. Transitions are temporary variations in social responsibilities in lasting trajectories, for example, dropping out of school and divorce. The life-course is organized by a network of intertwining trajectories that normally are dependable. They are interconnected in the sense that variations in one life sphere, or pathway, can influence other spheres of life. Occasionally, these pathways are cut short by life incidents such as incarceration, or graduation from college. Off-age changes, that is, those that are not appropriate to age, for instance, becoming a parent in teenage, can create turmoil in the life span. Individual adjustments to these variations are crucial since they may create diverse trajectories. For instance, some transitions may drive people into pathways directing them to a criminal life, while others may drive people from criminal life into a life of normal conformity to society’s rules (Howell, 2003, p.43).
In the life-course viewpoint, childhood, adolescent and adult events are considered to be an incessant process of variation, depending on the outcomes of past patterns of performance and the effect of risk elements in numerous significant fields (such as the family, school, and friends). Additionally, individual features (such as intelligence and personality attributes) have an effect on how people react to pressures in these pragmatic spheres (Arnett, 1992, p.393). Research on juvenile offenders has portrayed that the onset of offence, growth, and desistance do not happen simply as functions of sequential age. To some people, pre-delinquent tendencies start in early childhood, and such individuals frequently continue to engage in crime all through their lives. To other people, the commencement of delinquent behaviours happens later in childhood or early adolescence (Compas, Hinden and Gerhardt, 1995, p.267). The life-course perspective is the foundation upon which developmental theories of juvenile delinquency have been formed. One developmental theory of juvenile delinquency is the age-graded developmental theory.
The age-graded developmental theory
This theory is one of the theories that utilize the life-course perspective. It was propounded by Sampson and Laub in 1993 to elucidate the occurrence of crime and deviance throughout the life span. The major theoretical proposal of this theory is that the inclination of an individual to engage in delinquency and crime is significantly changed by his or her participation in conformist activities. Changes in later adolescent and adult behaviour are justified merely by childhood incidents. Social factors can change childhood antisocial trajectories and lessen criminal tendencies into childhood, even among grave offenders. Individual growth throughout the life course is an active process in which the interconnecting characteristic of trajectories, or pathways, as well as life-course transitions creates turning points, or variations in the life course. In childhood, the major reasons for engaging in delinquency are family dynamics for instance unpredictable, intimidating and insensitive discipline; lack of adequate supervision; and parental negligence. In adolescence, other fundamental elements become significant, such as low attachment level to school, and association with delinquent peer groups (Howell, 2003, p.46).
An important proposal of the age-graded developmental theory is that unrelenting delinquency and criminality during the life course are not influenced exclusively by individual personalities formed in childhood. Even though participation in delinquent behaviour makes it hard for young people to set up strong positive associations with conformists and the wider society, on the whole, the unanticipated outcomes of arrest and incarceration are also crucial negative contributions. These encounters with the juvenile and criminal justice systems minimize young people’s prospects of taking part in important institutional roles (such as occupations and education). For instance, apprehension and imprisonment may ignite school failure, joblessness, and weak community attachments, consecutively escalating adult crime by reducing future conventional opportunities (Howell, 2003, p.47).
Literature review: violent juvenile offenders
During the 1950s, policy makers started to question the ability of the juvenile court to effectively rehabilitate juvenile offenders. In particular, majority of them argued that the institutionalization of children and youth was unproductive and that juveniles did not have procedural protection in the arbitration process. A number of Supreme Court cases initiated in the 1960s tackled these issues, extending the due process rights to child and youth offenders, but not without considerably influencing the growing mechanisms and quantity of transfer. These cases incorporated the procedural due process rights from the adult criminal justice system into the juvenile proceedings, making certain the increasing tendency of transfer, and consecutively creating a response by majority of states to establish laws that dodged these new procedural rights to accelerate the transfer procedure (Bishop et al., 1996, p.180).
The extension of the due process rights to aggressive juvenile offenders
From its commencement the juvenile court had the power to hand over its authority and subject some juvenile offenders to trial in adult criminal courts. This decision depended on the age of the offender and the seriousness of the offence committed. However, in Kent v. United States, the Supreme Court argued that in cases where the jurisdiction of the juvenile court is surrendered due to judicial waiver, a trial with the fundamentals of the due process ought to be provided. The Kent v. United States was a case involving a sixteen-year old boy who had been condemned of burglary, robbery, and rape as an adult in criminal court. In making a decision whether or not the boy had been appropriately refuted restricted jurisdiction by the juvenile court, the Supreme Court established a structure similar to the due process for courts to reflect on when relinquishing a juvenile’s jurisdiction and permitting transfer to the criminal justice system (Bonta et al., 2002, p.323).
Whereas majority of states reassessed their waiver laws to conform to the standard presented in Kent, a big number of states put measures to conquer this bureaucratic border line and established “automatic transfer” or “legislative waiver” statutes. Indeed, in some states, district attorneys were granted the authority to carry out transfer judgments without offering the juveniles the procedural protection specified in Kent. Other states created laws that described ‘juvenile’ in a way that leave out individuals of a specific age when they were convicted of particular offences. The major purpose in Kent was to offer juveniles similar procedural rights granted to adults. The outcome – apparently unintended – was the wearing away of the rehabilitative goal of juvenile justice system. The judicial and lawmaking twist turned from not how to accord children different treatment from adults, but to accord them the same treatment as that accorded to adults. Kent destabilized the ideological presumptions of the juvenile system and instead promoted a bureaucratic and substantive union with criminal courts. A new retributive position on juvenile delinquency was transformed into diverse reactions: “purpose clauses” in some states were modified to focus on punishment as a goal; some juvenile proceedings became public; and in some jurisdictions, the age for delinquency adjudication was lowered and “determinate and/or mandatory minimum sentences were mandated for some offences,” (Corrado, Odgers and Cohen, 2000, p.201). As a result, Kent, and such-like cases united the juvenile court system with the criminal court system. The initial rehabilitative principle of the juvenile justice system led to violent execution of transfer policies and procedures, symbolizing a new retributive principle.
Emphasis on retribution and the transfer of aggressive juvenile offenders
There exists an apparent agreement among experts that public safety, particularly from violent crime, was a key issue that contributed to the rising inclination of relocating juveniles to the adult criminal court system during the 1990’s. Evidence from research studies show that the opinion of adults concerning the juvenile crime throughout this era was extremely and methodically distorted in support of over-interpreting the extent of serious juvenile crimes. Franklin Zimring, a prominent expert in juvenile delinquency, noticed that there is a universal feeling that the youth populace has an extraordinarily high portion of violent offenders, and as a result there has been a growing need for stopping the possible aggressive crimes of this population (Fagan and Zimring, 2000, p.27). Whereas there was a rise in violent juvenile crimes between the year 1985 and 1994, current tendencies demonstrate that the pace of juvenile violent crime apprehensions has incessantly fallen since 1994. In spite of the fall and level of violent crime, the panic from the 1985-1994 increase in juvenile crimes led to the discernment of a crime boom. Violent crime committed by juveniles was one of the most controversial debates of the 1990s. Many scholars who advocated for stricter punishments were of the view that the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system were unproductive (Feld, 1993, p.413).
Subsequently, majority of the Americans argued that juveniles ought to be accorded similar treatment as that given to adults, and this created demands on policymakers to establish laws that permitted the relocation of the juveniles to the criminal court system, in addition to other procedural systems that treated aggressive juvenile offenders in a manner likened to adults. Such demands led to the enactment of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002 (Grisso, 1996, p.234). The Juvenile Act wanted to enhance the liability of aggressive juvenile offenders and in fact declared that penalties charged by the juvenile justice system were ineffective. The apparent intention of the Act was to deal with violent juvenile offenders in a more disciplinary approach similar to the adult court system. A number of state laws had by now reacted punitively to the juvenile violence outbreak of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and all save for six states either extended or put into practice laws that aimed at enhancing the number of juvenile offenders relinquished to the adult criminal court. The Juvenile Act simply symbolizes the government’s codification of this tendency, preserving a universal move from a rehabilitative concentration on juvenile delinquency to a new retributive focus on the violent juvenile offenders (Katz and Bonham, 2006).
Effect of juvenile transfer to adult criminal justice system on recidivism and public safety
Evidence from research studies demonstrate that transfer of juveniles to criminal justice system does not put off violent juvenile offenders. In actual fact, numerous studies have shown that transfer in fact increases the rate of recidivism among juvenile offenders. This enhanced recidivism illustrates an inability to deter, to rehabilitate, and most importantly, an inability to shield the society from harm. Jeffrey Pagan, in his study, investigated the rates of recidivism among fifteen and sixteen-year-olds who had been convicted of robbery. He made a comparison between the recidivism rate of the juveniles tried in criminal court governed by New York’s automatic transfer laws and the juveniles tried in New Jersey’s juvenile court. Pagan found that the recidivism rate was significantly higher among the juveniles charged in the criminal court than among those charged in the juvenile justice system (Pagnanelli, 2007, p.186). Other similar studies have been conducted in other states including Florida and Minnesota and all have given similar results. Debatably, the relocation of aggressive juvenile offenders only serves to enhance their probability of re-offending and has therefore failed the intrinsic goal of transfer: that of ensuring safety and security to the general public.
Transfer to the criminal justice system has a considerable negative impact on a juvenile’s growth and may, thus, be a direct reason for high recidivism rates among relocated violent juvenile offenders in comparison to their equivalents in the juvenile system. Rather than rehabilitating, the criminal system may support recidivism. Juveniles who are imprisoned have a higher chance of learning social policies and norms that legalize dominance, abuse, and vengeance from the immediate adult criminals. The criminal system in addition may lead juveniles to feel oppressed and disgraced by the legal process, and stigmatized by their communities. A criminal sentence may also support recidivism by harshly thwarting the convicted juvenile’s future academic, occupational, and social opportunities. A young person who is convicted in a criminal court frequently feels unfairly treated, and youth with such a negative opinion towards the adjudication process are more prone to take on a “delinquent self-concept” which leads them to commit repeated crimes. Widespread interactions with juvenile delinquents in the adult criminal system show that they see the system as “duplicitous and manipulative, malevolent in intent, and indifferent to their needs,” (Pagnanelli, 2007, p.187). These responses are entirely contradictory to conformity to legal standards and emphasize an extremely strong negative impact on imprisoned juveniles which rationally leads to enhanced rates of recidivism following the transfer.
Transfer may have a very negligible restraint impact on juveniles due to their premature psychological growth which may stop them from feeling guilty. Majority of the juveniles do not identify risks or understand the possible outcomes of their deeds like the way adults do. Whereas studies are varied on whether juveniles possess the essential level of responsibility for culpability, the notion that juveniles may not have the culpability due to their psychological development is useful in examining the appropriateness of transfer (Murrie et al., 2009, p.1094). Such proof opposes any obligatory sentencing policy that fails to take into consideration the explanatory elements for instance age, offence, and the capability of responsibility for juvenile delinquents. The juvenile justice system is rife with numerous positive features that assist the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders and minimize recidivism. Lots of juvenile offenders who take part in unceasing delinquency frequently fail to establish the associations and connections that are critical to the socialization process. Offenders in the juvenile justice system are in a good position to establish positive associations with the partners who are part of their care, for instance, judges, social workers, and case workers. These associations, together with the fostering of the juvenile system’s rehabilitation procedures encourage the growth of trust, essential values, and personality in juveniles and help their successful re-assimilation into their communities.
Some people argue that due to the fact that juveniles have the lawful right to many adult decisions, they should be accorded similar treatment as that granted to adult criminals. Nevertheless, this view is a deadly fallacy. The enjoyment of juveniles of legal rights initially given to adults only does not mean that juveniles have the ability to go through a trial like adults. The utilitarian objectives of the juvenile justice system ought not to be overlooked. The occurrence of childhood is essential in socializing juveniles. It is vital that a justice system acknowledge this fact and address the numerous social and psychological shortfalls of juvenile offenders. Due to the harmful impact of transfer, as well as the increased recidivism rates following transfer, and the focus of the juvenile system on fostering and re-socialization, the juvenile justice system remains the most suitable approach to juvenile offenders – including the violent juvenile offenders – and, eventually, the most successful way of ensuring public safety and security (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005, p.133).
Application of Roper to transfer of juveniles to the criminal justice system
The abolition of legal and prosecutorial waiver would permit the justice system to reallocate its attention away from punishment towards rehabilitation of aggressive youth offenders. Whereas such strategies may be simply aspirational, acknowledgment of the huge suggestions of rule-versus-discretion law is useful in trying to restructure juvenile transfer policies. Obligatory waiver laws for instance legislative waiver laws are likely to be excessively extensive since there is lack of contemplation for explanatory factors for instance age, ability to be rehabilitated, and responsibility. Lawmaking bodies should strive to establish laws that permit personalized evaluations of individual cases. Evaluations could utilize the Roper court’s content frameworks, taking into account each juvenile’s degree of culpability, according to his level of psychological and emotional development. Transfer can be minimized by establishing a policy attempt that supports unrestricted transfer rulings over and above bright line rules, and that uses a Roper standard to evaluate if a juvenile ought to be transferred (Pagnanelli, 2007, p.192).
The case of Roper may have repercussions for prosecutorial judgment in transfer policies. To guarantee that prosecutors regard the lack of blameworthiness, emotional development, and general retributive abilities, there ought to be a legal authorization necessitating the use of these factors, plus a way of assessing a prosecutor’s ruling. In addition, Roper can direct policy to modify waiver judgment from prosecutors to the juvenile court judges. A judge works as more of an adjudicator, while a prosecutor works as an opponent. And whereas a judge’s “responsibility is to take into account everything of relevance when making a decision to transfer,” (Reppucci, 1999, p.312) a prosecutor’s duty is to pay attention on ways of increasing punishment. A prosecutor is a supporter of retribution and lacks any inducement to regard a juvenile’s lack of blameworthiness or the inability of the adult criminal justice system to discipline violent juveniles.
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The need for the Supreme Court in this case to make a decision concerning the two juveniles (the 13-year-old who was found guilty of rape and burglary and the 17-year-old who was found guilty of armed home invasion) should follow the arguments made above. First and foremost, the Supreme Court should take into consideration the age of the offenders in this case. The offenders include a 13- and a 17-year old. According to the American Constitution, the two offenders are considered to be juveniles because they have not yet attained the age of eighteen. The age of these two offenders means that they are not yet fully developed, both emotionally and psychologically. The lack of full mature development makes the offenders incapable of understanding the extent of their actions and the extent of their culpabilities. As a result, sentencing the two juvenile offenders to a life imprisonment without the possibility of a parole would be unfair and cruel and unconstitutional. Evidence supporting the lower capability and the proof of scholars concerning a child’s development process should be admitted as evidence in the court to prevent a transfer. The admission of such evidence can permit a decision to be reviewed on petition. Nevertheless, the most successful ways of applying Roper are to abolish laws that reduce the technical age of adults, abolish routine legal and prosecutorial waivers, and to use combined sentencing systems (Harris, 2007). A second point that should be taken into consideration is the possible external factors that influenced the offenders in this case to commit the offences. Many juveniles are not developed enough to make sound decisions. As a result, they are prone to peer pressure that could easily push them into engaging in the criminal activities. Most importantly, external social factors such as dysfunctional families, poverty, parental absence and lack of parental supervision could affect their emotional and psychological well-being and lead them into criminal activities.
A third point that the Supreme Court should take into consideration is the fact that imprisonment of the offenders would cut short the future of the offenders in question. At the age of 13 and 17, the two juveniles in this case are still too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. The offenders still have many years before they can complete their education and more still before they can start and excel in their professional endeavours. Imprisonment would rob off these two young offenders the opportunity to grow and develop as normal as their peers. This poses a great risk of re-offending in case the offenders are released later in life. Imprisonment in the adult facilities would also create the opportunities for the young offenders to engage and interact with hard-core criminals. Through such interactions, the young offenders would learn the tactics of harder and more serious crimes which would in turn increase their possibilities of engaging in more serious crimes later in life. Instead of imprisoning them, the juvenile offenders should be taken through the rehabilitation process of the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system would enable the offenders to establish personal rapport with the justice professionals who would in turn be in a better position to assist them on an individualized level. In addition, the goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate rather than punish offenders. Towards this end, the system seeks to find out the factors that led the offenders to commit crime. The offenders in this case would therefore be evaluated individually in order to establish the driving forces behind their delinquency. Once this is done, the juvenile justice system would then put in the most appropriate measures that would prevent the offenders from committing crimes in the future. In short, taking the offenders through the juvenile justice system would reduce their recidivism rates. This is not possible in the criminal justice system in which the main goal is to punish (Shepherd, 2008).
The Roper condemns the focus of the justice system on punishment and instead supports the rehabilitative focus of the juvenile justice system. Enhancing the efficiency of the juvenile rehabilitation system is fundamental to the successful shift of policy. One strategy is the “8% Solution” which was initiated in the Orange County, California in 1996. This program was launched after a research done by the Orange County, California probation office that found that 8% of juvenile offenders engaged in 55% of juvenile crimes over a period of three years. The program encompassed an inclusive attempt that targeted the 8% of juvenile offenders. The 8% Solution programs offers services such as mental and physical health assessments, personal and family counselling, occupational programs and placement services. A study of the 8% Solution programs carried out in 2002 portrayed extremely positive outcomes. Specifically, following a 24-month evaluation period, the Repeat Offender Prevention Program (“ROPP”) participants, in comparison to a control group, had considerably less appeals filed for new law breach. Programs such as the 8% Solution that exclusively focus on high-risk children and youth can minimize the rates of recidivism among juvenile delinquents. They can also offer a more successful approach to rehabilitation for the delinquents who have a high possibility of becoming violent juvenile offenders, and consequently reduce aggressive juvenile crimes (Pagnanelli, 2007).
In addition, a restorative strategy of juvenile justice would harmonize the move from the present retributive focus. Restoration puts emphasis on the “reparation for harm to victims and the community, increasing offender competencies, and protecting the public through processes in which offenders, victims, and the community are all active participants,” (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005, p.129). Using a structure that unswervingly provides services to victims and the communities of the victims, restorative justice programs enhance the personal growth of the youths by turning them into proficient citizens and nurturing family support through involvement, arbitration and conferencing. In a restorative justice program, crime is viewed as a deed that opposes the community and individual, rather than the state, and therefore the prevention of crime is done by the community and not by the criminal justice system. In addition, crime in restorative justice symbolizes the inability of both the sole offender and of society. Restorative justice, thus, concentrates on the future, and utilizes instruments such as dialogue and cooperation to tackle the problems within a utilitarian paradigm. This is contrary to the customary retributive approach that focuses on the history and allocates guilt and blame. Research shows that restorative justice has time and again offered “high levels of victim and offender satisfaction and perceptions of fairness, [and a] greater likelihood of restitution completion, and reduced recidivism,” (Katz and Bonham, 2006, p.189).
Restorative justice achieves the goals of the juvenile justice system which include rehabilitation, protection of the public, disciplining, and victim restoration. The values intrinsic in this strategy support the initial goals of the juvenile justice system and the underlying principle that governed Roper. An aggressive juvenile offender is a creation of his family and community and due to his under-development and lack of sound decision-making ability, the delinquent stands a better chance when rehabilitated. Likewise, the community is better restored and protected when all partners of the community are keenly involved in the justice and restoration process. Not unpredictably, a number of the most triumphant juvenile rehabilitation programs in the United States include the ones that incorporate frameworks built on a restorative justice approach. The effectiveness of the juvenile justice system can also be enhanced through family treatment since the family is the primary socializing agent and greatly contributes to a child’s developmental process. More research studies should therefore be carried out on the influence of family treatment programs on the prevention of juvenile crimes and the rehabilitation of current juvenile offenders (Pagnanelli, 2007).
The treatment of juveniles like adults is an unproductive way of minimizing juvenile delinquency and ensuring security and safety to the larger society. This is because of the reduced blameworthiness of juveniles which makes them unworthy of the punishments that are meted out against adult criminals. The transfer of juveniles to the criminal justice system also increases the recidivism rates among the juveniles by teaching them the criminal tactics and denying them opportunities for personal development. The restorative justice approach is the best and most effective means of dealing with juvenile delinquents. This approach deals with delinquency from its roots and with the help of the local community rather than the state. In the case of the 13- and 17-year olds, it would be best for the Supreme Court not to hand over the life imprisonment sentence to the offenders. Instead, the court should take the offenders through the juvenile justice system where they would be successfully rehabilitated.
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