Definition Of Juvenile Delinquents Criminology Essay

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Part I

Introductory remarks

This part is fundamental to understand juvenile delinquency as it the basics. Hence it starts with the meaning of delinquents or child in the Mauritian law. The theoretical perspective explains the causes of delinquency by great sociologists and criminologists. Finally, the gender perspective of delinquency is explaining the difference between boys and girls behavior.

2.1.1 Definition of Juvenile Delinquent

In the early Mauritian society, when a child becomes physically capable, responsibilities were given to him. Children were taught on how to be obedient to parents which was fundamental. The cultures and disciplines were preserved within the family. The trend between childhood and adulthood is adolescent which was not known. The socialization process of children was very different during the agricultural days. The children voice was not heard because they were seen helpless and dependent on their family.

Hence, the rate of juvenile was increasing as the Mauritian society is evolving. In response to the society, to hold children legally, the Juvenile Offender Act was proposed in 1985 to deal with those who disregard the law. However, the Child Protection was enacted in 1995 to protect children against any kind of ill treatments. Both acts describe juvenile and child differently, which may be confusing.

Thus, the Juvenile Offender Act 1985 (Mauritius Laws) defines, a 'juvenile' means a person under the age of 18 years and a young person is defined as a person who has attained the age of 14 is under the age of 18.Consequently, the Child Protection Act 1995(Mauritius Laws) defines, a 'child' means an unmarried person under the age of 18.The terms explained in both acts are quite confusing thus to avoid uncertainty it is important to understand that a child and a juvenile is one and the same that is a person under the age of 18.

The term juvenile delinquency comes from the book 'Society for the Prevention of Pauperism' derived from the latin word delinquere which means neglecting. The first juvenile court was recognized in United State of America state Illinois in 1899, now the term is used worldwide. According to Leober et al., (2008) delinquents are young people who commit delinquent acts before the age of 12. Hirshi (1969) defines a juvenile delinquent, as an individual who act delinquently over a long time and he consequently becomes a criminal. Bynum and Thompson (1992) claim that juvenile delinquency as a huge group of illegal behaviour acted out by youths under the legal age of majority. Hence such anti social include all the common offences against persons and property.

1.2 Theoretical Perspectives of Juvenile Delinquency

Several theoretical perspectives have been developed to explain the term juvenile delinquency. Hence, the main perspectives are the classical and the positivism, they contributed to determine the culpability and treatment of juvenile delinquent behavior (Beccaria, 1764). The classical approach explain that human beings are rational who possess free will and choice and who are responsible for their actions. That is, in order to control delinquency importance must be placed on prevention, sensitization and practicable justice On the contrary; the positivist view recommends rehabilitation and treatment for delinquents. Since delinquents cannot decide by themselves coherently, they are not fully responsible for their actions. (Jeffery, 1989).

Strain theories claim that youth have good upbringing individuals who are only influenced by delinquent behaviours when challenged with complexities and tensions. (Merton, 1938) and Cohen (1955) stated that the rejection and poverty lead to delinquent subculture. Cloward and Ohlin (1960) recommended that delinquency is a male trend, characterized by low class status and urbanism. They claimed that adolescents who are going towards delinquency blame the social system.

In his book 'Causes of Delinquency', T.Hirshi (1969) who is known as a social control theorist questions "Why do certain youths fail to violate rules?" He argues that there is a need of attachment, involvement, belief and commitment to usual behavior which show the way to delinquency. However, experimental tests on this theory have been done by other criminologists and sociologists. The study shows that the difference in delinquency is more exact when the role of peers is introduced as a supplementary variable in Hirschi's fundamental theory (Thompson et al., 1984:14). It was also revealed that the findings are more based on social learning.

Sutherland (1939) seeks to explain that the aggressive behavior of delinquents and the preventive methods are based on psychological facts such as positive and negative enhancement, punishment, destruction and imitation. On the whole, he argued that criminal or delinquent behaviors are cultured in the same manner as common behaviors are learned. (Corrections Today, 2004). Thus, Matza (1964) claims that juveniles are not engage in delinquent's acts as he refuses the existence of delinquent subculture. He insists that they move out and in for delinquency.

Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) wrote about self control theory and they stated that a person's self control influence his behavior and decide if he will violate the law and Reckless (1961) containment theory state that it is fundamental to bring light on delinquency in terms of an interaction between internal and external controls.

Labeling theory; According to sociologists and Criminologists such as Becker (1953), Lembert (1951), Shur (1965), and Braithwaite (1989) when children are labeled delinquents they tend to have similar characteristics. Some youth do not accept to be labeled as delinquents. Some labeling theorists believe that society should not discriminate with children who possess delinquent`s attitudes or behavior.

Regoli and Hewitt (2004) have developed an oppression theory where they claim that juvenile delinquency comes from a process that start from birth and continues through adolescence. They assert that children are considered to be powerless and experience oppressive approach from adults such as parents or teacher which lead them to act as delinquents

Fagan (2001) points that a child`s first contact with the world and his socialization process begins with the family, not school or religion, that teach adolescents societal moral values. Therefore, families are very important in controlling the juvenile delinquents.

The causes and conditions are found in each stage of the social structures that is social institutions, social groups, organizations, relationships and the society as a whole. The causes of delinquency are encouraged by a wide range of factors such as Economic and social factors, cultural factors, urbanization, family, media, exclusion, peer influence and delinquent identities. These social factors should be taken into consideration by parents while upbringing their children.

Gender Perspective of Juvenile Delinquents

The gender gap in delinquency is a central fact of criminology. However, despite increasing attention to the role of gender, the development of theories to explain gender differences in offending still lags far behind theories of other important issues in criminology (Karen Heimer et al., 2006). Thus, boys compared to girls show more disruptive behaviours at a young age and more serious forms of delinquency in adolescence and early adulthood (Moffitt, 2001), whereas disruptive girls emerges during childhood (Loeaber, Pardini et al., 2007).

Early statement of conduct problems prior to adolescent predicts chronic delinquency in girls as well as in boys (Loeber & Farrington, 2001). However girls disruptive behaviours tend to emerge more during adolescence. Delinquency in girls is a risk factor for suicide attempts during adolescence (Thompson et al., 2006). Adolescent girls with conduct disorder or a major depressive disorder are at risk of becoming teenage mothers thus, these young mothers often have poor parenting skills, and their offspring in turn are at heightened risk of developing externalizing problem behaviours and depression (Cassidy et al. 1996, Conseur et al.,1997). Conduct problems in girls and boys are also costly in terms of the service delivery systems. Delinquent girls in the justice system, compared to delinquent boys, have more co-morbid psychiatric disorders(Teplin et al.,2006 Wasserman et al., 2005), and require additional mental health services.

Bongers et al., 2003, Crijen, Bengi Arslan & Verhulst, (2000) claim that, "Sex differences in problem behaviours such as aggression and optional behavior were more pronounced in childhood than in adolescence. The differences between boys and girls usually decrease with age, with boys showing higher rates of aggression relative to girls at age 4, while levels of aggression were relatively similar at age 18."

According to R.Loeber, N.Wim Slot H.Van der Laan and Machteld Hoeve (2008), delinquency demonstrate that the gender ratio varies depending on the type of disruptive acts. Girls do not differ from boys in shoplifting and hitting parents, but show considerably lower involvement in theft, aggression outside the home. More boys than girls have externalizing problem behaviours. Girls, compared to boys tend to have more internalizing problem behaviours during adolescence. However, based on medical facts, girls have relatively more severe externalizing and attention problems than boys. Hence, more girls than boys have deviant behaviours that is, delinquency, aggression and at tension problems.

CRC and International Standards

The Convention on the Right of the Child imposes on states clear responsibility with respect to the management of juvenile justice and the treatment of children in custody, these responsibilities are based on the rights of children. The CRC is the first legally compulsory international instrument to deal specifically and uniquely with the rights of children. The CRC is created by international standards such as the Riyadh Guidelines, the Beijing rules and the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their liberty, which provide guidance for the achievement of the rights recognized by the CRC.

In the areas concerning children for instance juvenile justice, the children affaires should be performed in the light of four main principle of the CRC, namely the best interest of the child (article 3 ), the right to life, survival and development (article 6) , non-discrimination (article 2) and the respect the views of the child to be heard (article 12).

Prof. Doek (2008) stated that there are still some judges dealing with juvenile offenders who are not aware of the CRC and who think that the CRC does not have any importance in their practice. The same applies for the public prosecutors, policemen, probation officers and professionals working in institutions for juvenile offenders. It is also recommended that countries who signed the gratification of CRC must take serious measure to ensure that human rights and children rights are being properly recognized by the stakeholders working with juveniles, unfortunately it is the case in Mauritius.

Although the CRC has set up a number of rights of children, there remains some disconnection between the expansions of the rights based in the support of children and their visibility in development projects. Children are have rights but in real meaningful and continuous improvements in terms of their well being are not taken into consideration.

A number of international standards have been developed to prevent and fight against human trafficking. Thus, to ensure protection of children`s rights all related treaties must be ratified and efficiently implemented which is compiled the CRC, its two Optional Protocols, and CEDAW. It also includes the protection of the rights of the Child, the protection from any form of violence, exploitation and abuse.

The CRC and the Optional Protocols discussed issues child trafficking, child pornography and child prostitution. All countries in Asia have ratified the CRC and the Optional Protocol except Bhutan and Pakistan. The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime 'The Palermo Protocol' which was set up in 2000, it is the first legal instrument to provide an internationally definition on the traffic of children and adults. However the protocol has not been ratified by all countries except by India and Sri Lanka and some part of Africa. In Mauritius there a very few cases of trafficking children it is more prone in countries who have high rates of poverty where children are vulnerable.

The Riyadh Guidelines (United Nations, 1990) provide that the child who is in clash with the law has the right to be treated fairly so that he or she could be re-integrated back into society. Moreover, the Beijing Rules (United Nations, 1985) are a set of rules that also guide the concern of a responsive and restorative juvenile justice system that meets the developmental needs of children in conflict with the law. Hence, another set of rules is the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, these rules provide the need to reduce deprivation of children's liberty and emphasize the need for their social integration